Joe “Guido” Welsh produces music for Wal-Mart in Guidotoons.
In 1998, composer/producer/engineer Joe “Guido” Welsh relocated to Nashville from Kansas City, Mo., in search of a larger talent pool for the corporate-event music that he produces for Wal-Mart, which has been his steady gig for the past 16 years. In addition to creating upbeat, three-minute theme songs for the discount mega-retailer, Welsh works on songwriting demos and other side projects. His band, Thelonious Moog, creates quirky analog synth arrangements of Thelonious Monk tunes and other jazz standards.
After establishing a solid foothold in the city, Welsh created Guidotoons (www.guidotoons.com), a full-service project studio equipped with a solid complement of digital and analog recording equipment, as well as an enviable array of vintage and modern instruments, such as a Moog Theremin and Voyagers, Dave Smith Instruments Prophet ’08, Clavia Nord Electro 2 and Nord C1 Combo Organ, a Harmonium and a Manikin Memotron.
Because Welsh works steadily for his corporate client and didn’t want or need to compete with Nashville’s sea of commercial recording facilities, he kept his business in-house — literally. The dining room in his Brentwood, Tenn., home contains a Yamaha grand piano, Hammond B3 organ and Wurlitzer electric piano. The back bedrooms serve as iso booths and amp closets, and the living room, a spacious 21×22-foot area with 16-foot vaulted ceilings, makes a comfortable live room. “My assistant, Trey Call, and I can set up in the morning for a session, and by the time my wife gets home from work it’s a living room again,” says Welsh.
Welsh’s recording spaces sound good as-is. “I haven’t found a room in town that I like cutting drums in as well as my great room,” says Welsh. “I couldn’t have built something that sounds this good.” The control room is located in a converted “bonus room” above the garage, which Welsh had retrofitted with 703 Fiberglas for isolation and bass traps in the walls. Tielines connect the control room to the other rooms in the house.
The contents of Welsh’s control room have changed during the past few years, mainly in response to industry demand. An API DSM 24 workstation monitor rack, with an extra API 8200 8-channel summing mixer for 32 total inputs, and a Pro Tools HD3 Accel system running on a Mac G5 with Intel processor have taken the place of the Trident Series 80 console, Otari MTR-90 II 24-track machine and an iZ RADAR 24 he formerly used. “I miss the 2-inch, I miss the old Trident, but I don’t miss the maintenance,” Welsh says. “I like the speed at which I can work now, and I’m getting great results.”
Welsh records primarily through the API system and Pro Tools, often using a fair amount of outboard effects, including Neve 1073 EQs, Manley ELOP and Variable Mu limiters, a Manley dual-mono Tube Direct Interface, a Universal Audio 2-610 tube preamp, API 500 Series mic pre’s and EQs, and the Moog Moogerfooger Series effects modules. He’s also grown fond of Universal Audio UAD-1 plug-ins, the Waves Gold Bundle (especially MaxxBass), Focusrite Forte Suite, Stephen Massey plug-ins, Eventide Clockworks Legacy bundle and the Bomb Factory Platinum Pack, among others. “I still use the outboard equipment, but find myself going to plug-ins more often than not,” Welsh adds. “They’ve come a long way, and I finally just had to say, ‘Uncle!’”
A self-professed “ribbon mic nut,” Welsh owns an impressive collection of RCA and Royer ribbons, as well as other mics from Neumann, Shure, Sennheiser and Audio-Technica, along with T.H.E. BS-3D Binaural Sphere. He listens through a pair of Klein + Hummel O 300 D near-field monitors.
Although Welsh has built a well-appointed studio with a laid-back atmosphere, musicians who come to Guidotoons — including top Nashville session players such as Richard Bennett, Dan Dugmore and Kim Keyes; songwriters Judson Spence and Doug Kahan; and multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke — are drawn in by the impressive instrument collection, which includes Gibson guitars from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s; 1960s-era Slingerland and Ludwig drum kits; and the previously mentioned synth collection. “The players like to joke that the money’s better the less they have to bring,” Welsh says with a laugh.
Welsh says that he is currently devoting more time to his songwriting demos. “I’m hoping my music, which was left-of-center eight years ago, is now what people are looking for,” he says. He also plans to continue composing motivational pop/rock tunes for Wal-Mart. “Wal-Mart has been really loyal to me, and I’ve been really loyal to them,” he says. “And working with them allows me to do all this other cool stuff. I’ve been really lucky.”
Heather Johnson is a Mix contributing editor.