Friday, August 7, 2020
Dave Carlock - A Day In The Life
Originally Posted: 08-16-2013 8:12 PM
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When I decided to move back to my hometown in the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph area, I understood that most of my music work would come from other cities nationally, and even internationally. Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate to have artists send me their records to mix remotely at my studio in the Benton Harbor Arts District. Having the technology to do real time streaming “from the console” pretty much took off my leash and enabled me to move from LA and return to be nearer family.

I’m still asked to travel to engineer for artists on the West Coast and enjoy the change of scenery, but when producing a record, I typically do it at my place and it’s been a lot of fun hosting artists and songwriters like rock artists Ms/Chivus (Liverpool, England), Kate Sherrard (central Iowa), or Marilyn Evans (Maryland).

I also regularly produce songs remotely for long distance songwriters, using vocalists and musicians in the region. Who I hire for the job depends on their ability, experience, their relationship with me, and if the budget exists to pay higher fees for a “name” artist. While working on a couple tracks for a country songwriter in Florida, I heard the demo of a touring country singer currently living in Nashville--she sounded perfect for one of the songs. Her voice was airy, soulful, a little raspy, and she sounded like a pro. A singer with her level of ability usually makes my job much easier and more fun, let me tell you.

A regional club was going to be featuring that singer the following weekend, whose name is Justine Blazer, so I contacted her and asked if she’d consider doing a session with me while she was in town. She agreed and plans were made to have her come by the studio the afternoon before her show. The only complication was that she found out the club booked her hotel ian hour away in South Bend, IN which completely shot our window of time for recording and she had to cancel. She offered to come back the next week when she would be passing though Michigan again, playing in a little town called Mendon.

As the date approached, she realized that the logistic of getting to me from Mendon and going back wouldn’t work, it was just far enough away. But I had a great feeling about her voice and I wasn’t about to be foiled, so I hatched a plan to move the mountain to her—I intended to pack up the core of my recording studio and convert her hotel room in the middle of Michigan into a temporary recording studio to cut her vocal. This is pretty unusual, but wouldn’t you expect “unusual” of me by now, Faithful Readers? Yes. Of course you would.

As a producer, I go with my instincts. When I hear someone great, and I have the chance to work with them, I take it. A chef who cares about cooking would explore every opportunity to have the highest quality of fresh ingredients, and using the best possible vocalists is a big part of a producer’s job. I prefer to only work with great ones.

So I started packing up my gear early this past Saturday morning with one of my engineer training students, and we hit the road after making lists and checking them twice. Forgetting just one critical cable could spell disaster when it’s time to set up in the hotel, and in mobile recording there can be no room for error. With my car packed full of my uncompromising equipment choices, I set out on my uncompromising journey to track a great country singer on the song she was right for on behalf of my songwriter client from Florida.

Justine arranged for me to arrive early and sign the band into the hotel so I could have a little set up time in advance of her arrival. There was no time to waste as she had only about 90 minutes to do the track before getting herself ready for soundcheck.

The hotel room was a suite with a second bed in the living room, which was great fortune. When we arrived I surprised my student by telling him that I was going to tear apart the living room. The living room was open wide to the hard surfaced kitchen and the bright reflective sound coming back from there was way too much for the recording. Maybe a White Stripes vocal, but not a pop/country vocal…

While my student set up the Mac Pro, 192 & API mic pres to my instructions on the perfectly low-sitting bedroom dresser, I began to pull the living room bed apart, standing the mattress and box springs up tall on their end, creating a v-shaped, makeshift vocal booth with my U47 tube mic in the center. Next, I wheeled the luggage cart behind the mic, and draped its high hanging pole with the stripped bedding to further block out early reflections. In about a half hour between the two of us, the studio was up and operational with a great sounding, though somewhat odd looking, vocal space ready for Justine.

Once she arrived, we cut the track in a little over an hour and she sounded as great as I knew she would. Next thing, we were breaking down again and packing up. Justine & I talked while I sorted out the living room and then the most unusual thing happened. I realized I was actually making a bed. Very few women have ever seen me do that, let me tell you!

As I handled her payment and we snapped a photo, she told me, “You know I don’t think anyone’s ever been as determined to get me to do their session as you were!”

All in a day’s work ma’am.

Dave Carlock
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