Ryan specializes in recording and mixing bands in a variety of genres including rock, folk, jazz, r&b, and pop.
Ryan Colton is a musician, singer/songwriter, recording/mix engineer, and producer living in Richmond, VA. He has been playing and writing music in some capacity since he was 11 years old. Ryan has been recording and mixing bands as well as his own music since he was 18 and hold a certification in Music Recording Technology from JSRCC. He interned at PK Studios in Richmond, VA from 1999-2000 and worked with a variety of clients. He co-owned and operated Spilling Sounds Productions, a small project studio in Richmond’s West End from 2000-2004 and recorded several local and regional bands encompassing genres such as rock, metal, punk, singer/songwriter, gospel, folk, and bluegrass. Ryan loves helping to shape the musical ideas of his clients into well-crafted songs.
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Interview with Distilled Sounds Productions
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Macbook Pro Line 6 Helix UAD Quad-Core Apollo Twin Sony MDR-7506 Headphones AKG C414
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Polished but organic.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Primarily rock, but I have also worked on projects involving folk, hip-hop, and jazz genres.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: My ears. Listen first, take action second. Just because I have all these great plugins doesn't mean I have to use them. If the song has been well recorded it's just a matter of getting the balance of the instruments/vocals right. What ever the artist is trying to convey with their song, I want that to stand out to the listener.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: My vast musical knowledge and ability to
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: When mixing I typically pull up the session and give the song a couple listens through while I setup an initial mix to basically set the balance up. By the 2nd pass I want to make sure that I can hear everything that has been recorded so that I can start making decisions as to where I want the mix to go. After that I usually start with drums and bass, setting up the eq, compression, and balance between the kit and the bass so that the rhythm section sounds cohesive. Then I'll work on the other instruments (guitars, keys, etc.). Vocals come last and at that point I'll start looking at what automation points I may need to put in to make parts come in and out of the mix more seamlessly.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: My mixing setup consists of a Mac Mini running Apple Logic Pro X. I use a Universal Audio Apollo for my audio interface with Yamaha NS10M and JBL speakers for monitoring. I primarily mix in-the-box using a variety of plugins including Softube Console 1, UAD, and Slate Digital. My mobile recording setup consists of a Presonus Studiolive 16.4.2Ai Console. I use Apple Logic Pro X on a Macbook Pro and have a Radial 500 Series lunchbox loaded with various mic pres and compressors that I can use in tandem with the Presonus rig. My mic locker includes a variety of standards from AKG, Shure, Rode, Audix, and Cascade microphones.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Mixing and remote recording of bands. I have nice acoustically treated home studio setup for mixing and overdub applications. I also have a separate setup where I can provide multi-channel recording capabilities remotely.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I grew up in the 80s and 90s, so producer/engineers like Terry Date, Brendan O'Brien, and Rick Rubin have always been big influences on how I like songs to sound. Of course I was also way into bands like The Beatles and Pink Floyd so George Martin and Alan Parsons are also influences as well. I like big drum sounds with kick and snare that cut through, vocals pushed slightly up front, with guitar, bass, keys and other instruments panned to give the mix width and depth.
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: My last big project was mixing a local band called Downbeat Switch's last EP. They are a great band that mix rock, funk, and reggae together. All the band members are incredible musicians and they write really catchy songs with great hooks. I had consulted with them on their first album a few years ago which they had recorded and mixed themselves. Though the sound of that record was good, I thought that my mixing skills could take it to the next level and give them a little more of a polished sound. They were incredibly happy with the mixes I did and have thrown me a lot more business locally because of my association with them.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: When recording live instruments, mic placement is everything. Even if you're using inexpensive mics, you can get pro results by moving the mic around and listening to the instrument in order to find the sweet spot. The better something is mic'd during tracking, the easier it is to get it to fit in the mix.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I would love to work with Dave Grohl. He's just so passionate about music in general; I think it would be cool working with someone who's that focused yet still has a sense of humor and humbleness when it comes to making music.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I've been recording and mixing for 22 years. I went to school for recording technology and interned at a local recording studio in Richmond, VA. My day job is working for a specialty acoustical materials supplier, but recording and playing music has and will always be my #1 passion.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: As much as I love analog, we live in a time where digital has come so far in that it is almost indistinguishable from analog. I've still got a 1/2" tape machine that I'll use for mixdowns by request, but honestly feel that I get better results by keeping everything in-the-box.