Photo: Shelby Duncan
Artist/songwriter A.J. Croce’s latest comprises a dozen songs, made in pairs with six different producers: Allen Toussaint, Mitchell Froom, Kevin Killen, Tony Berg, Greg Cohen, and the late Cowboy Jack Clement in one of his last sessions.
The Toussaint-produced tracks, “Rollin’ On” and “Tarnished and Shining,” were tracked by engineer Lu Rojas in Toussaint’s personal studio in New Orleans. “He has a little compound of three homes, connected by the backyard,” Rojas says. “The middle one is the ‘music home.’”
Toussaint’s studio, which had to be refurbished after Katrina, contains the great artist/producer/composer’s 7-foot Steinway grand, as well as a Korg Oasis keyboard where he writes music and charts, and his studio gear: a Pro Tools HD rig with C24 controller, and a collection of microphones, including Earthworks’ piano-miking system and many from Audix, with which Toussaint has an endorsement deal.
“He doesn’t have much in terms of preamps or plug-ins, so I bring some of my outboard gear with me and a few extra mics,” says Rojas, who captured most of the instruments live (horns and vocals were done on a separate session).
Key to the sound of these tracks is that Steinway, where Rojas supplemented the mounted Earthworks system with his own Mike Joly Hulk 990 mics; those all went through Rojas’ Lindell mic pre’s. “I placed the Mike Jolys outside the center of the piano,” he says. “That gave us a little more ambience.
“The great thing about working with Allen is, he wants the artist to be happy. He kept checking to be sure A.J. liked the way everything was progressing. He has definite ideas, but when another musician comes up with something he finds interesting, he tells them, ‘No, go ahead and do that; forget what I told you to do.’ He’s a very gracious person.”