Studio Vlog #002 | Recording an EP for Matthew Shepherd
The second episode of my "Studio VLog" is up online now! This week featuring some shots from a weekend in London Fields recording an EP for my good friend Matt Shepherd.
I worked on Matts debut album from late 2017 to early 2018, which was self released last year to a great reception! We put a lot of work into that record and we both are very proud of the end result. We had drums, bass, keys, organs, synthesis, banjo, extra percussion and electric guitar on the record alongside Matt's acoustic guitar. When Matt asked me to work on this next batch of songs however, he asked if we could strip everything back to bare bones, he was looking for much more of a "my guitar and my voice" vibe, as if you were listening to him playing the songs in-front of you in the same room.
For this reason alone, we decided to record everything in the same room together. This brought about some minor changes to the recording setup I'm used to for acoustic guitar, but it ultimately created a sound we were both very happy with!
So first up, I decided to bypass using external pre amps and give the studios Universal Audio Apollo Twin a go. I'm really considering picking one up soon and thought it best to keep things all in one place, instead of patching things all over the gaff. I was a bit concerned at first, although I'd heard so many great things about the UAD digital pre-amp emulations I guess the "Valve Snob" in me was still moaning from the back of mind about it. Boy, was that voice in my head wrong or what.
I used the UAD emulations of Neve 1073 pre-amps for all of the audio we recorded (as that's the pre I know best from hardware) and I couldn't tell the difference, at all. I was worried that I wasn't going to get the same kind of harmonic distortion by driving things subtly, but I'm convinced it pretty much sounded better.
For Matt's guitar, I set up the vintage AKG 414 mic that Dan at the studio had kindly let me use. What I actually really enjoyed about being in the same room as the artist (and therefore not being able to monitor on speakers) was that when setting up the mics, I was monitoring on my Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro headphones (which I know extremely well) and so could move things about until it sounded best in my cans. I set it up about halfway up the neck, where I felt it gave a nice the top end a nice "shine" without it sounding brittle.
Matt tends to write songs with a capo quite high up, so I wanted a second mic on the guitar to give it some bottom end. I decided to use an SM7B, favouring it's mid range ability over that of another condenser mic (if I had another vintage 414, that would have been a different story) and again using my ears to position it best. I ended up settling for a position just below the bottom left of the guitars body, so there was no "boom" due to the SM7Bs lo frequency roll off but a nice amount of lo-mid range.
I then rolled some top end off of this mic with the Neve 1073 eq on the Apollo, and compressed the signal using the LA2A emulation which also sounded great.
When I took a step back to look at how I'd set up the mics it looked pretty damn weird, but it sounded really cool! Haha. It sounded really close and intimate, which is exactly what Matt was going for!
For vocals, we went super chilled and recorded everything with the SM7B. I was going to try and use both to get a combination of both mics qualities... but the SM7B sounded so good on it's own and it allowed Matt to literally record the vocals for the whole EP sitting on the sofa, so we thought what the hell.
I boosted some top end with the 1073 eq and compressed lightly with the LA2A and I was so happy with the results, I'm very much considering grabbing an Apollo now!
All in all, we had a great weekend making a really personal, intimate sounding record in a rather uncommon way for the both of us. It pushed us outside of how we are used to making records together and I think the results we got are tremendous, I cannot wait to mix it. Definitely going to try it again for acoustic based records!
If you want to make a record with me, please get in touch!
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