Photo from Calvin's Fall 2015 Sampler.
You came up over and over again in the interview that we did with Julien.
Julien and I grew up together playing music. I had done demos with her, prior to working at Ardent. We were working out of another studio called The Grove. I was her engineer at Ardent as well.
Where's The Grove?
The Grove is out in the suburbs of Memphis. It's a smaller studio. Julien was living out in the suburbs at the time, so we would meet out there and cut ideas for the record. We probably cut 20 or 25 songs over the course of the six months leading up to the Ardent session.
Did you know they were demos that you were making?
At first. Then, as we were building them, the idea grew that they were already coming together more than we'd anticipated. A few of those tracks from the demoing process actually made it onto the final album, mostly guitar tracks. I know on "Happy to Be Here," those were the guitar tracks from the demo.
What credits do you have, aside from this?
Primarily I'm a local engineer in Memphis. Julien would be my biggest credit.
Do you work at Ardent often?
Yeah, I've done a lot of engineering there in the past. A year ago I took a gig as the head engineer at a studio in town called Young Avenue Sound. Since doing the Julien record, I've had an influx of local people wanting to work with me, which has been awesome.
Because Turn Out the Lights is so sparse, I feel like we can probably get a pretty encompassing look at what you did, if you don't mind.
It was a very simple set up, as far as signal chain goes. For vocals, it was a vintage [Neumann] U 67 into a Spectra Sonics preamp that was pulled from the original console at Stax. We ran into that pre with a [Urei]1176 compressor. That was her chain for all the vocals.
Did you print to tape, or go straight to digital?
Straight to digital. For guitars, we had a [Shure SM]57, and I had a Neumann M 249 around three-feet away from her guitar cab. We were running Spectra Sonics pres on her guitar as well. Then strings were on the Neumann M 249, and we ran that through the Neve VR pres. At Ardent, we had the Neve VR console, so we used those pres for a lot of the auxiliary instrumentation. They sound great – I love that console. I think we cut a few auxiliary guitar parts through the Neve, but the primary guitar parts were through the Spectras.
All the guitar was just the Neumann and the 57?
That was the main guitar sound. We cut everything in the live room of Ardent Studio A; I had Earthworks mics set up in the room for the grand piano. We used PZM mics for close mics for the piano, and then the Earthworks as the far left and right piano sound. We used those same room mics to capture some of the guitar. There was guitar bleed in some of those, as well as her vocal. We purposefully used the room vocal sound underneath her close vocal on some parts.
Was she doing guitar first to a click, or were you doing live takes?
We did it differently on different songs. I wish I could tell you the exact song, but I know there was at least one where we cut guitar and vocals together. But the majority of it was cutting a guitar to a click, and then going out and tracking the vocals after the fact.
That's the advantage to doing demos first. You already know exactly how the song goes when you get in there.
Like I said, we'd worked closely on it for a while, so by the time we got to Ardent it was a pretty exact process. We knew what BPM we were working with, and we knew where the verses and choruses were. We could move on to making the sonics...