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Sam Means

Building ‘10 Songs’

Singer/songwriter Sam Means built his latest album, 10 Songs, piece by piece with producer/engineer/musician Steve McDonald, in McDonald’s studio/rehearsal room The Whiskey Kitchen (L.A.). “I usually do things as live as possible. When I work with a band, I let things bleed, and everything’s live except for the vocal,” says McDonald, who plays bass with Off! and Redd Kross. “But with Sam, who’s a solo artist, we did it all overdub-style because everyone he plays with is spread all over the country.”

Means’ main instruments on the album were his Wurlitzers, a Yamaha upright piano that lives in McDonald’s studio, and a vintage Hohner Clavinet. “The main chain that we used on keyboards started with a Wunder Audio CM7 microphone, which is like a U 47 clone,” McDonald says. “It has a really nice sound that’s not overly hyped-up on the high end like a lot of mics—just a good, well-priced, large-diaphragm condenser, and it gives some of the same sound qualities that we love on things that were recorded with U 47s.

“And then I have some 500 Series pre’s,” McDonald adds. “I have a 512C that is sort of my main preamp, but then I’ve also made a bunch of 500 Series stuff from kits from Classic API and Hairball Audio. So there’s a lot of DIY involved, and we just built up his singer/songwriter sound the best we could.”