Relationships, Trevor Lawrence Jr.’s new album, is perfectly named, featuring many of the A-list drummer/writer/ arranger/producer’s friends. Another relationship that played into production involved microphones and preamps from Manley.
His guests on the new album include Terrance Martin, Kenneth Crouch, Nicholas Payton, Maurice Brown, LeAnn Rimes, Kamasi Washington, and Nico Segal (Donnie Trumpet). During his career, he has also worked with Dr. Dre, Herbie Hancock, Eminem, Bruno Mars, Mike Elizondo, Rimes, and many other greats.
Family relationships have also influenced his career. Both parents were original members of Stevie Wonder’s Wonderlove band; his mother performed with the Supremes; his father has a long list of major credits as a saxophonist, producer, writer, and arranger; his grandfather was a member of the Dixie Hummingbirds; and his aunt sang with Stevie Wonder and Patti LaBelle.
“My father produced “I’m So Excited” for the Pointer Sisters and countless other big American classic records, so I saw production my whole life,” he concurs.
It was one of Lawrence’s musical relationships that led to his relationship with Manley mics and preamps. “I played on LeAnn Rimes’ album Remnants, and that’s when I saw the Manley chain,” he recalls.
“We cut most of the album as takes, so I played on pretty much the entire album except for one song. She sings through a Manley Reference Cardioid mic going through a Manley CORE Reference channel strip. We were cutting at Village and at Capitol, and then I cut maybe three or four songs at my place. I didn’t cut vocals but that chain was so amazing on vocals, I knew it would be amazing on drum overheads.
“That’s my philosophy: just as with cooking, where you’re not supposed to use wine you wouldn’t drink, I don’t use overheads on drums that I wouldn’t use for vocals.”
Lawrence had discovered a combination that he has used extensively ever since. “That was the chain,” he confirms. “I got a set of Reference mics for my drums, and I use them as overheads through two COREs.”
That was just the start, though. “I loved that so much I went and got a Manley FORCE four-channel mic preamp because anything you put in there just sounds amazing,” he continues. “I used the FORCE for percussion bed-I used it on so much stuff. The overheads are always the CORE and Reference where I want stereo detail. I use that setup on a lot of records; it’s what I use. I used the Reference mics on my whole album, everything I’ve cut in here for the last year-and a lot of stuff has come through here, so its real, man. I’ve really used them.”
Although he frequently records in commercial studios, Lawrence does a lot of work in his own 3 Pillars studio, including projects sent to him specifically to add drums. “I’m booked a lot,” he notes, “so it’s easier for some people to just send tracks to me because I can go in, do the drum tracks at my leisure, and get it back to them quickly, instead of booking studio time.” Some projects, like LeAnn Rimes’ Remnant album, involve sessions both at 3 Pillars and in bigger studios.
For that approach to work, drums cut at 3 Pillars sound need to every bit as good as those captured at the commercial facilities. “My studio is a converted garage but converted the right way with the right gear,” Lawrence declares. “I feel good that if you go through and listen to the Remnants album, you can’t tell what was cut here and what was cut at Village. That’s because the main challenge of the drums is the overheads, and I fell in love with this whole Manley chain.”
In addition to his love of Manley gear, Lawrence appreciates his relationship with Manley Labs and its owner. “EveAnna Manley is so nice, so great, and I know she’s serious about her products,” he says. “The association between me and Manley is only going to get better. I want to get a Manley Massive Passive EQ next. This stuff is rock solid.”