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The Masters Behind the Mix: A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse Into Music Making With Producer/Engineer Dave Cobb

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The Masters Behind the Mix: A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse Into Music Making With Producer/Engineer Dave Cobb
By Ebonie Smith

Ever wonder how your favorite songs are made? Ever wonder what happens between the time it takes your favorite artist to record a song and the time it plays on your radio? The process of making music is a specialized art, and there are a many amazing technicians working behind the scenes to help engineer the hits we all love and enjoy.

We recently sat down with Grammy Award-nominated record producer Dave Cobb for a conversation. We talked about country music, his latest album projects with Anderson East and Sturgill Simpson, and much more. Though based in Nashville, Tennessee, he is one of many producers and engineers who has dropped by the new Atlantic Records studio to record and work with artists. Check out some of the highlights from our conversation.

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a producer and work with artists?

I’d always been messing around with studio stuff at the house… with 4-track [recorders] and things like that. Everytime my bands recorded, I’d record them. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I’d learn [more] every time I tried it... I wound up recording a couple of friends’ bands, and they got record deals. So that’s when it kind of hit. I didn’t like touring. I didn’t like being away from home. I loved the studio the best. As far as being in a band, [the studio] was always my favorite part [of the experience]. I think it hit when I was 27: This is what my calling is to be in the studio.

You recently recorded at the new Atlantic Records Studios in New York City. How was that experience? 

Atlantic Studios is where it all started. On early recordings, they used to push the desks out of the way and record after hours. Now Atlantic has a proper studio in the middle of the office, and it’s amazing the history of a studio existing inside Atlantic Records. Originally you had CreamAretha Franklin and Ray Charles recording at Atlantic Studios. The history is kind of unparalleled. So it was very cool and honoring to be part of the new Atlantic Studio. 

Care to share some of the technical tricks of the trade that you used while working in the Atlantic Studios? 

Historically New York, Los Angeles and the South all had a different sound. Chicago [also] had a different sound… In New York City they were using elevator shafts or stairwells for reverb. LA was using bathrooms. I thought we kind of paid… homage to the history in the recording by using the hallway as an echo chamber. That was fun and pretty unorthodox… putting a speaker on one side [of the hallway] and a microphone on the other side to re-amp the sounds [we recorded].

Do you prefer bouncing around to various studios? 

Yes, I do. I wish it was the 80s where the budgets were gigantic… when we all had money to blow and travel all around and work in different places. I wish it were like that still. 

You used to learn about music production by studying liner notes from albums and pictures from studio sessions to figure out how your favorite producers achieved their sounds. Tell us a little bit about that process and what you learned. 

When I was a kid in Atlanta, I’d run errands from one studio to another. I used to go to Southern Track [Recording] Studio… Brendan O'Brien was camped out there. I was a big fan of him. I would peek in the room and see what he [was working on]. I’d have no idea why he did things how he did. I’d just have this mental picture of how he had things set up. I’d get to a place where I could experiment like that. 

I was always reading books, looking online and trying to see pictures of other people’s sessions. I’d try the same thing. The more you do it, you start to figure it out… It’s the same when you listen to a record, and you try to learn guitar by hearing somebody else’s guitar licks. That’s the same thing I was doing with record making… I’m still learning all the time… I don’t think I’ve ever made a record the same way twice. I don’t think I’ve ever set up microphones the same way twice. It wouldn’t be fun if I walked in the studio and everything was already miked up and sounding exactly the same.

You’ve worked quite a bit with Atlantic Records artist Sturgill Simpson. How did this relationship form? 

I was out of town at a concert, and I met him through Shooter Jennings… [Shooter] was like, “This guy is the best country singer in Nashville.” I was sitting with Shooter, and [Sturgill] came and said “hello.” So, I set up a meeting with him about a week later, and he played me some songs. The rest is history. We made two records together… High Top Mountain and Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

From just that one meeting, I heard him sing, and [it] kind of stopped me in my tracks. You just don’t hear voices like that everyday. I’m always attracted to singers, and he had the most authentic country voice I’d heard. We just hit it off…

You’ve also worked extensively with Anderson East, another amazing Atlantic Records artist. What has it been like collaborating with him?

Anderson… He’s just one of those classic talents. He’s got that kind of voice that I love… that Otis Redding, Rod Stewart, Sam Cooke… just that thick, raspy kind of big voice. And that was the thing that really got me with him. He’s [also] very charismatic. He’s got all the ingredients. He’s a great performer… got the songwriting talent… The kind of music he’s into is my favorite. My favorite music of all is soul music. It’s really cool to have an excuse to go and make those kind of records. It’s fun. It’s really rewarding and different for me.

  • Ever wonder how your favorite songs are made? Ever wonder what happens between the time it takes your favorite artist to record a song and the time it plays on your radio?
    All Access
Ebonie Smith's picture
on September 16, 2015 - 10:43am

Ever wonder how your favorite songs are made? Ever wonder what happens between the time it takes your favorite artist to record a song and the time it plays on your radio? The process of making music is a specialized art, and there are a many amazing technicians working behind the scenes to help engineer the hits we all love and enjoy.

We recently sat down with Grammy Award-nominated record producer Dave Cobb for a conversation. We talked about country music, his latest album projects with Anderson East and Sturgill Simpson, and much more. Though based in Nashville, Tennessee, he is one of many producers and engineers who has dropped by the new Atlantic Records studio to record and work with artists. Check out some of the highlights from our conversation.

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a producer and work with artists?

I’d always been messing around with studio stuff at the house… with 4-track [recorders] and things like that. Everytime my bands recorded, I’d record them. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I’d learn [more] every time I tried it... I wound up recording a couple of friends’ bands, and they got record deals. So that’s when it kind of hit. I didn’t like touring. I didn’t like being away from home. I loved the studio the best. As far as being in a band, [the studio] was always my favorite part [of the experience]. I think it hit when I was 27: This is what my calling is to be in the studio.

You recently recorded at the new Atlantic Records Studios in New York City. How was that experience? 

Atlantic Studios is where it all started. On early recordings, they used to push the desks out of the way and record after hours. Now Atlantic has a proper studio in the middle of the office, and it’s amazing the history of a studio existing inside Atlantic Records. Originally you had CreamAretha Franklin and Ray Charles recording at Atlantic Studios. The history is kind of unparalleled. So it was very cool and honoring to be part of the new Atlantic Studio. 

Care to share some of the technical tricks of the trade that you used while working in the Atlantic Studios? 

Historically New York, Los Angeles and the South all had a different sound. Chicago [also] had a different sound… In New York City they were using elevator shafts or stairwells for reverb. LA was using bathrooms. I thought we kind of paid… homage to the history in the recording by using the hallway as an echo chamber. That was fun and pretty unorthodox… putting a speaker on one side [of the hallway] and a microphone on the other side to re-amp the sounds [we recorded].

Do you prefer bouncing around to various studios? 

Yes, I do. I wish it was the 80s where the budgets were gigantic… when we all had money to blow and travel all around and work in different places. I wish it were like that still. 

You used to learn about music production by studying liner notes from albums and pictures from studio sessions to figure out how your favorite producers achieved their sounds. Tell us a little bit about that process and what you learned. 

When I was a kid in Atlanta, I’d run errands from one studio to another. I used to go to Southern Track [Recording] Studio… Brendan O'Brien was camped out there. I was a big fan of him. I would peek in the room and see what he [was working on]. I’d have no idea why he did things how he did. I’d just have this mental picture of how he had things set up. I’d get to a place where I could experiment like that. 

I was always reading books, looking online and trying to see pictures of other people’s sessions. I’d try the same thing. The more you do it, you start to figure it out… It’s the same when you listen to a record, and you try to learn guitar by hearing somebody else’s guitar licks. That’s the same thing I was doing with record making… I’m still learning all the time… I don’t think I’ve ever made a record the same way twice. I don’t think I’ve ever set up microphones the same way twice. It wouldn’t be fun if I walked in the studio and everything was already miked up and sounding exactly the same.

You’ve worked quite a bit with Atlantic Records artist Sturgill Simpson. How did this relationship form? 

I was out of town at a concert, and I met him through Shooter Jennings… [Shooter] was like, “This guy is the best country singer in Nashville.” I was sitting with Shooter, and [Sturgill] came and said “hello.” So, I set up a meeting with him about a week later, and he played me some songs. The rest is history. We made two records together… High Top Mountain and Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

From just that one meeting, I heard him sing, and [it] kind of stopped me in my tracks. You just don’t hear voices like that everyday. I’m always attracted to singers, and he had the most authentic country voice I’d heard. We just hit it off…

You’ve also worked extensively with Anderson East, another amazing Atlantic Records artist. What has it been like collaborating with him?

Anderson… He’s just one of those classic talents. He’s got that kind of voice that I love… that Otis Redding, Rod Stewart, Sam Cooke… just that thick, raspy kind of big voice. And that was the thing that really got me with him. He’s [also] very charismatic. He’s got all the ingredients. He’s a great performer… got the songwriting talent… The kind of music he’s into is my favorite. My favorite music of all is soul music. It’s really cool to have an excuse to go and make those kind of records. It’s fun. It’s really rewarding and different for me.

Post Media: 
Artist: 
Sturgill Simpson
Anderson East
Short Title: 
Masters Behind the Mix - Part IV
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