Ryan Freeland mixes Joe Henry’s productions and others in his Stampede Origin studio.
Whether tracking happens in his four-room Stampede Origin studio or he mixes tracks that were recorded elsewhere, engineer Ryan Freeland (www.ryanfreeland.com) is all about live performance. “It's almost all I do,” he says. “For an engineer, that's the most fun because you've got five or six musicians in a room, and day one, take one, everybody is playing live and it might be a master. You're under extreme pressure to make sure you record it properly; it puts me to the test, and I love that.”
Freeland tests well, apparently. His first job out of college was at House of Blues in Memphis. First gig as a second for this engineer/piano player: a Jerry Lee Lewis session. Then he moved to L.A. to become Bob Clearmountain's second engineer. Freeland learned from the master mixer, and in off-hours he built up his gear and freelance clients.
“Bob gave me one of his early Pro Tools systems when he upgraded,” Freeland says. “Once I went independent, I started spending every dime I had on gear. I lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Westwood, and I made a lot of great records in that apartment. We did Aimee Mann records there.”
Later, Freeland moved to West L.A. and set up shop in his living room. A year ago, he built out a guest house on his property to accommodate a large control room and three additional tracking spaces. “I designed and installed everything myself,” he says. “The drywall, the electrical, the patchbay — some jobs were more fun than others!”
Now, Freeland has a permanent home for his Pro Tools HD Accel-based rig; his racks of vintage mic pre's, compressors and effects; and his carefully chosen mic collection. Projects he's completed in the new rooms include mixing Mann's @#%*!
Smilers, as well as releases for locals Miss Willy Brown, Gaby Moreno and Kristy Hanson. He can also mobilize his gear. He's been working with acclaimed producer Joe Henry for six years, and they often track in Henry's home studio. For example, Rodney Crowell's latest, Sex and Gasoline, was recorded in Henry's Garfield House studio and then mixed at Stampede Origin.
“Joe's studio is the bottom floor of his home in South Pasadena,” Freeland says. “I roll all my stuff into his space, but he's got a lot of equipment there, as well. The combination of what he has and what I have is pretty lethal!” It also helps that both Henry and Freeland use ProAc Studio 100 monitors.
“I record the way I want things to sound,” Freeland explains. “So the playback everyone was hearing on Rodney's record was the vibe everyone was getting in the studio, and the vibe we wanted for the final product. I would do roughs at the end of the session, and the mix part at my place was basically a touch-up of the rough. The important thing is the recording has to work at its core. If it's not working during tracking, you've got to fix that during tracking. The real fun is when you capture the vibe. It could go out the door that day. You could take the rough and it would be a pretty good representation of what I was going for — as long as Gavin Lurssen masters it!
“I'm one of those guys who was always into the way records sounded,” Freeland continues. “I had a reel-to-reel in my basement from age 12, and when I went to Interlochen Arts Academy for high school, I took the bed out of my dorm room to make more room for equipment. Now I've got a proper studio. It's nice not to sleep in the middle of my studio anymore.”