Soul singer/keyboardist Josh Hoyer and band capture the essence of live performance on their new album by recording direct-to-disc in Welcome to 1979 Studio (Nashville). “They learned of our ability to do direct-to-disc, and it’s tailor-made for a band like Josh’s,” says studio owner/engineer Chris Mara.
Typical live recording issues—balancing isolation with vibe and sightlines—arose, but Mara’s greatest challenge involved live-mixing Hoyer’s keys. “He had a multi-keyboard with a B3 patch to change from B-3 to Wurly, but they dropped that at a gig the day before. I said, ‘I have a real B-3 and Wurlitzer. That’s even better.‘ What I didn’t think of was, I don’t know these songs, and he will do a verse on the Wurly and reach over for a lick on the B-3 while singing, and vice versa.
“We had to set up two vocal mics, and I watched him like a hawk with my fingers on the faders for the vocal mics; I couldn’t just mute them, I had to crossfade them. Later, I commented to Cameron Henry who cuts our lacquers and was running the lathe, ‘I’m a better engineer this evening than I was this morning!’”
Mara EQ’d his two vocal mics (a Bill Bradley U 47 and a Miktek CV4) similarly, and kept the recording chain identical after the mics with both bused to an Avalon 737 compressor and dbx 160 limiter. As whole album sides were cut to lacquers, the engineer used Pro Tools as a reference so the lacquers could remain untouched.
“It was fun watching the band listen,” Mara recalls. “In most sessions, everyone’s listening to themselves, but on this they’re listening to the whole thing, complimenting each other’s playing and listening as a band.”