Nashville-based engineer/producer Chris Grainger has been collaborating with Kyle Andrews on his albums for nearly a decade, and the pair have developed a workflow that yields joyous, synth-driven pop anchored by Andrews’ expressive voice. Grainger works out of his personal studio, Undertow, where he and Andrews turn homemade demos into final tracks.
“In the past, Kyle played everything himself, and then we’d do some arranging and programming together, but with this record, he wanted to mix and match organic process with the computer synthesis that he does,” Grainger says.
Both Grainger and Andrews have Pro Tools rigs with Universal Audio interfaces. “Kyle and I both use UA stuff a ton,” says Grainger. “I also have the 2192 for my HD rig; I use those converters for overdubs and mixing. We also both use the 6176 [analog strip], and Kyle loves the tape machine and 1176 plug-ins to record through. I also lean on my Neves and APIs for drum tracking and guitars.”
Whereas most of the songs on Brighter Than the Sun fall into the synth-pop category, Andrews had a hit a few years ago with “You Always Make Me Smile.” Encouraged to write a similar track for Brighter, he and Neil Mason (co-writer on “Make Me Smile”) created “Way to Wonder,” a romantic confection of bright synths and acoustic strumming.
“Then we set about making a bridge between ‘Way to Wonder’ and the other songs on this record,” Grainger says.
That meant adding electronic sounds to “Way to Wonder,” and mixing more acoustic elements into other tracks. “When we recorded drums earlier, we’d tracked some one-hits that we could fly into other songs,” Grainger explains. “From the beginning, we were spreading colors through all the songs so that pieces would match up across the board.”