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Jillian Speer’s ‘Daggers & Suede’

The urban-meets-singer/songwriter sound of Jillian Speer’s wonderful new EP gives the singer’s soulful songs just the right edge, and it all starts with her guitar.

“That’s really the foundation,” says producer/engineer Keith “Qmillion” Lewis (Robert Glasper, Seun Kuti). “We would always start by recording that, and then build everything around it. That way, no matter what we do with the production, her core comes through.”

Next steps were tracking Qmillion’s bass parts, drums (that pop, big-time) by Chris Dave (Adele, D’Angelo), and electric guitars by Tim Stewart (Lady Gaga, Jesse J). The musicians tracked in the former Ocean Way Studio A (now United), and then the sessions began moving between Westlake Studios and Qmillion’s personal studio, to capture Speer’s vocals and other overdubs, and nail down mixes. “We cut her vocals through a [Neumann] U 67 and an Avalon 737 [mic preamp], to keep it consistent between Westlake and what I have at my house. I don’t EQ much at all going to Pro Tools,” Qmillion says.

During final mixing at home, Qmillion layered on some plug-in processing, as well as the vocal effects that help make this release more aggressive than your typical singer/songwriter record. “I like the LA-2A and some of the other UAD stuff: the Pultecs, the [Neve] 1084, the [EMT] 140 and 250 for reverb. And then with the effects, I used some Roland Space Echo, or sometimes I would go out to my analog gear and then back into those digital effects,” he says.

“Jillian’s voice has a very rich and deep sound to it that she likes to sing most of her stuff in, but when she gets up high and starts to belt, it’s super powerful.  As a producer, it was my goal to help her not to be afraid of that big voice, as well as make sure that the songs that she writes in her lower register still come across like a big lead.”