Focusrite has announced the release of a video series documenting the production of the new single “Over Everything” from Nashville-based artist Ashley Monroe, known for her solo work and as a member of Pistol Annies alongside Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley.
Producer and tracking engineer Gena Johnson, mix engineer F. Reid Shippen and mastering engineer Pete Lyman are each interviewed in the video series, which recounts the technical and artistic steps involved in the song’s completion. Focusrite technology was used throughout the process, including the initial tracking session at Nashville’s RCA Studio A, stereo and immersive Dolby Atmos mixes at Shippen’s Robot Lemon mix room, and masters at Lyman’s room at Infrasonic Sound.
Monroe presented the song as a bare-bones worktape to Johnson, who recognized the tune’s country vibe and was eager to explore different possibilities for the itss eventual sound. Several top studio players from Nashville community were assembled for the session, and after charting the song’s structure and undertaking some communal pre-production, they got to work tracking.
“RCA Studio A is one of the most historic studios, not only in Nashville but in the world,” says Johnson. “I love the history in that room. If the walls could talk! It has housed some of the greatest musicians and most legendary records, from Dolly Parton – ‘I Will Always Love You’ and ‘Jolene’ recorded in the same three-hour session – to Chris Stapleton’s latest album. It’s my absolute favorite studio.”
The technical aspects of the tracking session’s signal path were considered by Johnson: “Ashley has a very naturally country voice, and so I didn’t want something that was going to be really bright. I chose a [Neumann M] 269 [vintage tube microphone], and then I went into a Neve 1073 [preamp] and then to a Fairchild 660 [compressor]. I definitely have a soft spot for analog. I love working on a real console. I love hands on faders. I love being able to EQ something right there very quickly and get the result you want.”
These analog elements require a bridge to the digital realm out of the studio’s 32-channel, 24-bus API Legacy AXS console, with Focusrite chosen for the assignment. Johnson: “We used the Focusrite Red 16Line as our main interface. We had 16 channels of audio running directly into Pro Tools.”
After an intensive pre-mix process by Johnson with the artist, the session files were handed off to Shippen for mixing in both stereo and an immersive Dolby Atmos version. “Gena did an amazing job with the song,” Shippen notes. “I don’t know what she did wrangling the musicians around, but what ended up coming across my desk was this super cool, vibey song.”
He generally works closely with his engineer Brandon Heath to organize all of the elements in a session before the mix process starts. “The idea is to get things ready at the beginning so I can walk in, hit play, and just mix, and not worry about any of the technical stuff,” Shippen remarks. “One of the challenges when you’re mixing is making sure all the phase relationships between all the drums and samples and everything line up, so when the kick drum hits, or the chorus comes in, it really feels good.”
Shippen continues, “For this particular song, I mixed it with a Focusrite Red 16Line and the RedNet R1 desktop remote. I’m kind of blown away at the functionality of the Focusrite stuff. The Red 16Line sounds good and has incredible headroom. There are a lot of interfaces out there, where it’s not that they have bad conversion, it’s just that the analog can’t handle the headroom, so things get clipped and things get weird, but the Focusrite can take anything I throw at it, which is great.”
The shift to a Dante setup has helped simplify his workflow. Previously he was often juggling a number of different formats and disparate outboard gear speaking different languages, but now with Dante, “it’s one cable. Done. Amazing.” Mixing this track, Shippen also took advantage of the Hitmaker Expansion plugin bundle, which comes standard with the Red 16Line and other Focusrite Pro interfaces. Specifically, he used the Red 2 and 3 plugin suite to address vocals, equalizing the track and adding compression where needed.
For much more, access the videos in a playlist here.