When Warren Haynes played “Save Me” for co-producer/mixer Gordie Johnson for the first time in a small rehearsal space in Manhattan, they knew they were on to something. Haynes first album in 18 years, Man in Motion (Stax Records), which he co-produced, was recorded live to 2-inch tape at Willie Nelson’s studio, Pedernales, outside of Austin. “I work out of that room so much I keep a toothbrush there,” says Johnson. “Warren and I share a love of vintage gear and Willie’s studio is a treasure chest. We have a 24-channel Neve and 48-channel SSL G+ side-by-side in the control room, every fat vintage compressor you can name and the loveliest selection of microphones I’ve ever seen.”
Inspired by the soul records he listened to as a kid, Haynes enlisted NOLA heavyweights Ian Neville, George Porter Jr. and Ruthie Foster, among others, tracking live in the studio. “Working with musicians of this skill level, you would be foolish not to record live,” Johnson says. “Recording live off the floor to an analog medium puts the ‘heat’ on the band. All of Warren’s solos went down on the bed track; even his guide vocals became the take to beat.” They used 14-inch reels of 2-inch Quantegy 456 tape at 15 ips to minimize the changing of reels during takes.
Adds Haynes on the process: “We had a blast. We learned the songs in the studio, and when it felt like we were ready, we would start rolling tape. We were able to track all the songs in about six days, which is great when working with musicians of this caliber.”