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Melissa Etheridge

You couldn't turn on a radio in the mid-'90s without hearing Melissa Etheridge's distinctive, evocative rock-folk vocal. Last fall, Etheridge took over NRG Studios in Los Angeles, bringing in a crack band and producer/engineer Ross Hogarth to record her new album, Lucky, set for release February 10 on Island/Def Jam.

You couldn’t turn on a radio in the mid-’90s without hearing MelissaEtheridge’s distinctive, evocative rock-folk vocal. And while hersubsequent projects haven’t approached the commercial success of YesI Am, she remains a critic’s favorite. Last fall, she took over NRGStudios in Los Angeles, bringing in a crack band and producer/engineerRoss Hogarth to record her new album, Lucky, set for releaseFebruary 10 on Island/Def Jam.

“Ross has a wonderfully relaxed attitude and creates anatmosphere that truly allows the musicians to expand and relax intotheir best performances,” Etheridge says. “They don’t feelrushed, they don’t feel pressured. It’s very much ‘let the goodthings come naturally.’”

On the day Mix stopped by, Etheridge was tracking the sparseballad “Meet Me In the Dark” on vocals and piano, with PaulBushnell on bass and Brian MacLeod on drums. Etheridge and Hogarth madefull use of NRG’s facilities, tracking drums on the Neve 8068 inStudio A, vocals and overdubs on Studio B’s Neve 8078, and mixingthrough the SSL 9000 J into Pro Tools|HD in Studio C. The song wastracked live, with no overdubs, except for a cello track recordedlater. Guitarist Blues Saraceno, who played on most of the album save“Meet Me…,” was in the studio that day working on thesong “Will You Still Love Me” with Etheridge.

For “Meet Me In the Dark,” Etheridge’s piano wasmiked with a pair of matched vintage tube AKG C-12s through a modified(discrete) Neve 33609 stereo compressor and API 550A EQs. Vocals wentthrough a vintage tube Telefunken ELAM 251 into a Chandler LimitedLTD-1 Neve-like module and a UREI LA-3. “The Telefunken gave us abeautiful, silky sound for her overall performances,” saysHogarth.

Guitarist Blues Saraceno and Brian MacLeod develop ideas for“Will You Still Love Me.” “Melissa and Blues’electric guitars were all basically recorded the same,” saysHogarth. “We used old vintage combo amps, recorded using Royer121 and Royer 122 ribbon mics, supplemented with a Shure 57 and aSennheiser 421.”

Tracking drummer Brian MacLeod: On snare, Hogarth taped two micstogether for phase coherency. “I always use a Shure SM57 or Beta56L and then for the crack a condenser like an AKG 451, 452 or460,” he says. For this track, hi-hat was a Shure SM 81, tomswere AKG 414s, and a Shure Beta 52 (“for the smack”) andElectro-Voice ND868 (“for the low-end punch”) were used onthe kick. DPA 4011s were used on overheads. Hogarth miked the room withmatched Neumann U67s on the outside combined with a stereo Royer ribbonin the center of the room, and for effect placed a Shure Green Bulletradio mic over the drummer’s shoulder. “I use this mic asfeed to a filter bank with an ADSR that creates a loop or sample-likesound that can either be used inside the kit like a loop or choppedlater and used as a loop,” says Hogarth. He shares one moretrick: “On the outside of the kick drum, for a long time I haveused an NS-10 woofer taped to a mic stand as a reversetransducer.”

Some of Hogarth’s favorite gear: Sherman Filter bank(“can peel the paint off a wall or even cause erosion of thePacific coastline”), Manley ELOP Compressor, SPL TransientDesigner 4 (“tremendous on mixdown on drums”), Chandler EMIType stereo compressor (“the best new piece I have”) andtwo Chandler LTD 1 Neve-like mic pre/EQs. Rack gear is flanked bypictures of Betty Boop and Hogarth’s son, Brady Todd.

Paul Bushnell’s bass rig includes an Eclair Audio Evil TwinTube DI, which is routed to a pedal board full of favorite effects.“After the pedal board, I split the signal to another DI forsignal pre-bass amp with Paul’s effects,” says Hogarth.“The other signal goes to Paul’s bass amplifier, an oldAmpeg SVT. The bass cabinet is recorded with a blend of a Neumann FET47 and a BLUE Mouse mic. I use separate tracks for each signal,blending the mics to one for a bass amp track.”

Etheridge runs down a song with Hogarth and the band. “My lastalbum was just me in the studio, but this one is much more acollaboration with the musicians and with Ross,” Etheridge says.“The guys and girls who worked on it are just the finest talentedmusicians in this town.”

Hogarth on working with Etheridge: “I feel that Melissa iscommitted to making a difference and a contribution to her fans, and ina larger sense to the world as a whole. I believe this comes through inher heartfelt honesty as a person, in her writing and in her deliveryof the song. It was my job to keep this in mind and not lose sight ofthis in the arrangements, tracking, choice of sounds and basically inthe overall vision.”

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