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17th August 2010
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Ray LaMontagne & Pariah Dogs - God Willin'

Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs
God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise

I recently recorded & mixed the new Ray LaMontagne record God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise. This is a posting for anyone who’s interested in how we made the record.

PERSONNEL:

Produced by Ray LaMontagne
Recorded & Mixed by Ryan Freeland
Mastered by Bob Ludwig

Ray LaMontagne: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica
Jay Bellerose: Drums & Percussion
Jennifer Condos: Bass
Eric Heywood: Electric & Acoustic Guitar, Pedal Steel
Greg Leisz: Electric & Acoustic Guitar, Banjo, Pedal Steel, Lap Steel, Electric Baritone Guitar, Acoustic Resonator Steel Guitar, Mandola
Patrick Warren: Keyboards
Ryan Freeland: Accordion

Recorded at Ray’s house in Massachusetts with Stampede Origin Remote Studio March 15-28, 2010

Mixed at Stampede Origin Studio, Palms, California April 5-15, 2010

Mastered at Gateway Mastering, Portland, Maine May 17, 2010

DETAILS:

My equipment was shipped from Los Angeles to Massachusetts a week before the session was to start. I needed to ship my entire studio including speakers, amps, headphone distribution, mic stands, everything. We were setting up in the great room of Ray’s house - which had once been a barn but was beautifully renovated – and except for some baffles I would need to bring everything I required to turn it into a recording studio.
I set up the day before the band arrived, feeling out the room and deciding where to put everyone. We went for a setup that facilitated band communication and vibe over technical & isolation considerations. It was one long room with extremely high ceilings, plaster walls, and wooden bookshelves at both ends. I setup at one end of the room with Jay’s drums on the opposite end. Ray sat in the middle facing Jay with Eric on his left, Greg on his right, and Jen sitting on the floor by the drums. We had some baffles to put in front of Ray and built a little fort of packing blankets around the drums. There was a little space under the stairs where we put the amps. For those interested I mixed the record with Ray’s perspective – so Eric is always panned left and Greg is always panned right.

TECHNICAL TRACKING SETUP:

Kick: AKG D12 > Neve 1272 > Distressor
Snare: SM57 top, Oktava 012 bottom > Neve 1272 > Urei 1178
Toms: Beyerdynamic M160 > api 512 > Urei LA-12
OH: Royer 122 > Avedis MA5 > Shadow Hills MC
Room: RCA 77dx

Bass: Radial J48 DI > HV-3 > Smart C1

Acoustics: Oktava 012 & Mojave MA-200 > Drawmer 1968
Electrics: SM57 & Fathead > Ampex MX-10 > LCA-2B

Ray Acoustic: Neumann U67 > Avedis MA5 > Retro 176
Ray Vocal: Neumann M49 > Avedis MA5 > Retro 176

RECORDING:

We would start each day with a big breakfast at the local restaurant. After breakfast we would get to the house and Ray would play everyone the song for the first time. They would work out there parts and I would adjust the setup and levels for that particular song. The band learns quickly so there’s not a lot of time before take 1 happens - and that might be the magic take. It puts a lot of pressure on the recording process and it’s extremely challenging to make sure you don’t miss anything. I never want some technical problem on my end to ruin a great performance. Ray and the band gave their all on every take and I didn’t want to miss a single moment.
They would do a few takes of the song and then we would listen. At this point I’ve already started making decisions and working the mix to give a solid presentation of how I hear the song sonically. This is one of the great advantages of having your own mobile setup: I’ve got everything I need to get the mix up and running so I can monitor through the chain and know what I’m working with. By doing this I combine the recording & mixing processes by making mix choices while I’m recording. If I know there’s something I’m going to want during the mix I can make the adjustment during recording - be it with mic placement, mic selection, compressor settings, whatever. I don’t think of recording & mixing as separate things – it’s all part of one process.

After picking a master take I would edit in whatever fixes were necessary. Then we would start the second song for the day before finishing and having dinner. That’s how week 1 went – breakfast, 2 songs recorded, dinner. So after the first five days we had the basics for the entire record. The second week we did overdubs, technical fixes, and rough mixing. While we recorded the basic tracks live for I would not consider it a live record. We did overdubs, fixes, edits, same as any record I’ve made. We all worked very hard to make it a great studio record. At the end of the process we all sat and listened to the entire record and Ray said it turned out exactly like he had hoped. Once Ray said he liked something he never changed his position. That sort of decisiveness and security makes it so much easier for the rest of us. There was no second guessing – we all liked it and that was good enough for us.

Once my gear got back to my studio in Los Angeles I started final mixing and sent reference disks to Ray because his Internet connection out there in the woods was way too slow. It’s funny how slow overnight delivery seems these days. I’m used to getting feedback the same day – not waiting 24 hours for FedEx.

Another side note: One of Ray’s main sources for listening are those Bose noise-canceling headphones. The sound pretty good but can do some strange things the mixer needs to be away of and have now been added to my list of mix check references.

Once everything was approved it went off to Bob Ludwig who did a beautiful mastering job.

TECHNICAL MIXING SETUP:

Digidesign HD3 accel
Apogee DA-16x
api 8200A & api8200 16 channel summing mixer
api 5500 equalizer
Maselec MLA-3 Multiband Compressor
Smart C1 compressor
Apogee Trak 2 AD converter

RANDOM THOUGHTS:

I know this seems like a quick process to some who are accustomed to spending much more time making a record. But great records have been made in a single day start to finish. Three weeks always feels like a good pace to me – you get to make sure everything is solid but you don’t spend so long on it that you start changing things just because you have the time. And I’m not sure how much you can accomplish spending an entire day on a drum sound – I would loose focus, the drummer would loose focus, and the sound needs to change from song to song anyway. What does the perfect kick drum sound like anyway? For me it’s that drummer, playing that drum, in that room, with that mic, on that day. If it’s getting the job done we’re good.

A lot of the pace comes from making decisions right in the moment. If something isn’t working you need to figure it out right away – then you can discover if it’s a sonic thing or a performance thing. If you leave too many things unresolved you end up with a lot to deal with by the end. If you get the basics solid right away then everything you build on top will make sense. And if you’re already building the mix from the beginning of the process you can make some pretty informed sonic decisions during the overdub process. If a sound needs to be darker, brighter, up an octave, or a different inversion – it all becomes obvious if you’ve already got the mix working.

Recording with all of the musicians in one room creates a variety of sonic challenges but the advantages far out way the disadvantage. The bleed gives you a lot of space around the instruments and the musicians play great when they share the same space. You would also be surprised at how much you can get away with in terms of editing. Even with the bleed I was able to fix up any issues with few limitations. I’m by no means a purest about this. I love making records where everyone is isolated as well. I’m just saying it’s fine to work in whatever way is best for the artist and the record. If I shoved Ray in a corner and walled him up with sound isolation he would not have liked it and I don’t think the record would have been as good. So you deal with the technical stuff and don’t let that get in the way of the musicians making a great record.

This was one of the most enjoyable recording projects I’ve been involved with. Not only because the music is so amazing but also because of all of the people involved.

I had a number of people express interest in this particular recording so I thought I’d put up this post. Feel free to ask me any questions if you’re interested.

Thanks,
Ryan Freeland

Attached Thumbnails
Ray LaMontagne & Pariah Dogs - God Willin'-main.jpg   Ray LaMontagne & Pariah Dogs - God Willin'-back.jpg   Ray LaMontagne & Pariah Dogs - God Willin'-band.jpg  
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17th August 2010
Old 17th August 2010
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Thank you!

Ryan,
Thank you for the fantastic report! The record sounds great and has a wonderful atmosphere. Good job thumbsup
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17th August 2010
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Ryan, I've heard a couple of tracks from the new record. They sound fantastic. thumbsup
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17th August 2010
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The in the moment decision making really does highlight the overall vibe of these recordings! There is a nice intimacy that Ray brings so well that is greatly accented by the space it was recorded in. Vibe all over it - great sounding record - made the right way. Amazing job
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17th August 2010
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Wow, "Beg Steal or Borrow" is playing on the radio as I come upon this post. Very cool to read this...just an excellent sounding song. Lots of Buffalo Springfield/Neil Young in the instrumentation, a little John Hartford ("Joseph's Dream") in the melody. Great song.

Thanks for the detailed recording info! Ray's got the goods.


That Bob Ludwig did a pretty good job too...that kid just might have a future in the business.
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17th August 2010
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Thanks for sharing this awesome thread Ryan....now i have to hear the record!
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17th August 2010
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Nice.

Thank you.
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18th August 2010
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Ryan,

How very inspiring! Thanks for sharing this... and thanks for a great-sounding record, from what I've heard of it.

Fab
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18th August 2010
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Ryan, it sounds fantastic! While I prefer the songs on his previous album, the sounds on this one are purely sublime, thank you for your insight. Does Ray have the thing for gramophone horns Congrats and it sounds great!
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18th August 2010
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Thanks Ryan, one of my favorite artists by far. Can't wait to listen to the album.
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18th August 2010
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I was just raving about this album in the music forum.. thanks Ryan!

Love it.
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18th August 2010
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Niiice!

It's a great sounding record.. and there's a great feel to the performance of the thing. I already like this better than his last record.. and I own all of Ray's recordings to this point. They're all good.. but I almost immediately felt that this one had a special quality to it when first listening.

Great work.. and thanks for posting.

I'll probably have questions after I listen to the record a bit more.

I have this habit of purchasing records that play well on vinyl... and I've already ordered this one on vinyl. Totally excited to check that out!

Seriously, this has got to be one of my favorite posts of all time here at the slutz.. thanks again!
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18th August 2010
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First post to tell you that I love this album. Love your work on it!
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18th August 2010
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Thanks for posting, Ryan.

Can you tell me a bit about your playback set-up while tracking? It seems you got sounds fast and ran with it, always good. Did you use reference/comparative CD's or other sources to compare with what you heard in phones and/or rely on what you knew 'works' in a given situation? Did you check stuff with your speakers? What brand is seen in the pic and did you use a sub when listening back to the tracks at Ray's?

Thanks for indulging us.

More pics if you have them, por favor!
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19th August 2010
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A great read, thanks!
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19th August 2010
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Wow, the album sounds great!

Let's see, now I just need to get a Neumann M49, Avedis MA5, Retro 176...............

Oh yeah, there's the whole talent thing......Damn
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19th August 2010
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I agree with other posts, record sounds good. I mean it's not pristine so to speak, but it works just perfect with the songs and you can feel the vibe when you are listening. I love the steel guitar. M49 is great for vocals.
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19th August 2010
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I had just been thinking about what a great sounding record this is.
(I smell a Grammy.)
Ray is so damn good too.
Whoever says music is dead needs to buy this.

Thank you so much for taking the time to post this!
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19th August 2010
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Thanks Ryan! I'll be picking up this album post-haste!
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19th August 2010
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Just finished listening to the album! Great job and thanks for posting.
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19th August 2010
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Answers & Thanks!

Hello All!

Thanks for all of the positive feedback – It really means a lot to me to know people are enjoying this record.

I’ll answer a couple of questions/comments:

Exgato: “Can you tell me a bit about your playback set-up while tracking? It seems you got sounds fast and ran with it, always good. Did you use reference/comparative CD's or other sources to compare with what you heard in phones and/or rely on what you knew 'works' in a given situation? Did you check stuff with your speakers? What brand is seen in the pic and did you use a sub when listening back to the tracks at Ray's?”

I only brought my ProAc Studio 100s to Ray’s. At my place I mix with the ProAc’s as my primary along with NS-10 & ATC50 for the smaller and bigger sides of sounds. I have a sub I also brought because Jen really likes to hear that bottom end. I don’t normally run a sub with the ProAcs.

After I got my main rig setup I played a lot of stuff I’m familiar with through the speakers to get used to the room. I also printed roughs every day, listened back at the hotel, and compared to a bunch of other stuff, which is always informative.

Obviously while tracking I’m working with headphones. I’ve used Sennheiser HD650s for many years. They sound pretty good – not too hyped, and not too fatiguing. You switch back and forth a lot when you’re recording with headphones and then listening to playback with the speakers. If you do this enough times you get pretty familiar with how the two things relate so you know what you’re doing. It’s important not to get the headphone volume too loud – which is always tempting.

Yotonic: “The album does sound amazing, but I wonder who chose the M49? I really prefer Ray's voice through the SM7 as on Trouble, it has a smoother more gutsy sound than the LDC. His voice is so lush and the M49 like a lot of LDCs adds a subtle brittleness to it, more presence than it needs sonically.”

Well obviously it was my choice to use the M49. I also love the SM7 - which I actually recorded simultaneously with the M49 (see pic). For a little while I had a blend of the two but in the end went with my M49 because it just felt like it had more depth and worked better with the vibe of this band & recording.

I agree that Ray sounds amazing on the SM7 and “Trouble” is a really cool sounding record. It’s just that for this record we were going for a different thing.

I will also say that some of that edge you’re talking about happened in mastering. I was originally worried about it but Ray & Jay both loved it. I have a tendency to like things a little dark & round and I appreciated that Ludwig made the record jump out a little more on the top end.

It’s that classic sonic debate = one person’s round & smooth is another person’s dark & murky.

Thanks again for the feedback.
Let me know if you have any other questions!
Ryan

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19th August 2010
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More Pics

More Pics
Attached Thumbnails
Ray LaMontagne & Pariah Dogs - God Willin'-mics.jpg   Ray LaMontagne & Pariah Dogs - God Willin'-mics-2.jpg   Ray LaMontagne & Pariah Dogs - God Willin'-chairs.jpg  
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19th August 2010
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Great Lp and thanks for your contribution here !

I'm interested in your mixing process.

Do you stem out to 16 channels on API from your Apogees via outboard then mix back to
apogees ?
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19th August 2010
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Excellent info Ryan thanks for sharing. thumbsup
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19th August 2010
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Hey Ryan, thanks for taking the time to document this and share. Love it! thumbsup
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19th August 2010
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Hey Mr. Freeland,

What is Ray's primary acoustic, and what model of pedal steel and tuning? (e9 I guess?)
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20th August 2010
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Hey Ryan - I love the single. Thanks so much for sharing all the info on how you guys made the record. Wish all the music I liked came with a few pages from the producer/engineer.

Great to see actual photos of all the most important gear involved, too. What kind of dog is that?
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20th August 2010
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Forgive the novice question, but is that a pretty standard placement of the vocal mic (M49)? Was there a specific reason you placed the mic below and facing up to Ray?

Thanks,
Aaron
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23rd August 2010
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More answers

Hello All!
Thanks again for the nice feedback.
Here’s more answers – let me know if I’ve missed anyone.


Jack P: I'm interested in your mixing process. Do you stem out to 16 channels on API from your Apogees via outboard then mix back to apogees?

Yes that’s basically it. I split 16 outputs out of ProTools from my Apogee DA-16x into my api 8200 & 8200A. My usual split out is 1. Kick center, 2. Snare center, 3. & 4. Drums stereo, 5. Bass center, 6. LV center, 7. & 8. Backing Vocals stereo (obviously none on this record) 9.& 10. Guitars stereo, 11. & 12. Keys stereo, 13. & 14. Extra (I usually run these faders 3db hotter so if I need more gain - I can get it without distorting the ProTools output), 15. & 16. Reverbs & Effects.
For this record I had the api 5500 eq, the Maselec MLA-3, and the Smart C1 on the 2 bus. I use the Maselec to smooth out sibilance or other harshness on the top end & control the bottom and then the C1 gives me just a little bit of overall compression love (very slow attack, pretty fast release)
I do all my fader rides in ProTools and print back into ProTools through my Apogee Trak 2. I tone everything out and make notes of the setting inside the session so recalls are pretty easy.


Teddy Ray: What is Ray's primary acoustic, and what model of pedal steel and tuning?

Hey Teddy, first of all thanks for all the great feedback. I really appreciate it.
Ray plays modern Martin acoustic guitars – I’m not sure the model numbers. He had 3 of them (as you can see in the photo) and used them for slightly different reasons. He liked different ones for different songs.
I’m personally not a huge fan of Martin guitars for recording. They seem to be great for singer/songwriters to play (Loudon Wainwright III also plays Martins) but I don’t particularly love recording them. Guitars that are a little deader and smaller to the ear seem to record better - like Aimee Mann & Joe Henry on their Gibson’s.
I don’t know about the pedal steel tuning – you would need to ask Eric & Greg.


Peacock: Did the band track to a click track?

Nope – no click track for this record. I think the only reason to use a click track is if you’re going for that strict vibe or you want to use loops. When you have a live band all playing together a click track can really destroy the vibe. It’s just distracting because people start focusing on the click and not how the band feels. I don’t see the point of everyone playing live to something that’s not going to be part of the final record.
Obviously if you’re going to do loops or track one instrument at a time then the click track is your friend.
I sort of feel like it should be one or the other – no click & go for live feel – or use click and make sure every track locks to the grid (or pretty close). For some reason the in-between doesn’t work for me. If you’ve got a live band and they all play to a click the vibe feels off. If you want a live band to lock to a grid I would have the drummer play some sort of groovy part, loop that, and then have everyone play to the loop and not just a clicking noise. I’ve also done this with simple guitar loops.
We used a lot of clicks & loops on this Tanita Tikaram record I just finished and with Paul Bryan. It was a lot of fun to make loops out of Jay Bellerose and do a different thing than just live takes.


Teachingking: Forgive the novice question, but is that a pretty standard placement of the vocal mic (M49)? Was there a specific reason you placed the mic below and facing up to Ray?

I point the microphone up to take advantage of the M49 cardiod polar pattern rear axis rejection. I get less acoustic guitar in the vocal mic and I have more control. I also used the smaller reflexion filter in between the vocal & guitar mics for even more separation.
I’ve been doing it for years with Aimee Mann and it works pretty well. You don’t get total isolation but you get more a little more control between the vocal & acoustic guitar.
Singers that play guitar tend to look down at the fret board so it actually ends up being pretty good mic placement for the vocal to have the mic facing up.


Thanks again everyone.
Let me know if you have any other questions,
Ryan
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24th August 2010
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This great stuff. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with Ray and the band.
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