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Point-to-Point 5: Vanessa Peters - The Burn The Truth The Lies Reverb & Delay Plugins
Old 27th July 2012
Here for the gear

Point-to-Point 5: Vanessa Peters - The Burn The Truth The Lies

Hi all,

It's been a while since my ProRec days, and I miss writing. I thought I'd share a little bit about my latest (decent) project, and invite some Q&A.

The album is "The Burn The Truth The Lies" by Vanessa Peters, an unsigned but fairly popular singer/songwriter. She did a Kickstarter that raised enough money to get into a decent studio for a few days of tracking, and as the producer I got to have a say in the selection of the studio.

Vanessa writes straightforward singer/songwriter music that reflects her roots in classic pop, rock, and Americana / folk. "Sounds-like" artists would include Aimee Mann, Sarah Harmer, and Kathleen Edwards. Like these artists, Vanessa has a clear, understated voice and songs with clever lyrics and strong, hooky melodies. The words and melodies are definitely the focal point of her music.

I mixed her previous record - the 2009 "Sweetheart, Keep Your Chin Up" - which had strong Americana influences (fiddle, banjo, mandolin, tack piano, etc.). It has great songs and performances but I felt that I failed that record by keeping too much in the mix. It got cluttered. This time, I wanted to make a record that bucked the "bright, loud, and cluttered" trend and instead make one that was round, warm, and mostly simple & straightforward. I wanted to "hear the band playing together." It's definitely not minimalistic, but I took a stern view of every added track. About 75% of the record was cut as a band. Virtually all of the parts are first- or second-take.

The songs were arranged in the studio as a band. Not every band can work like that, but this wasn't your ordinary band. On guitar was Grammy-winning Joe Reyes who has his own excellent solo project, plays in the cool and quirky indie-rock band Buttercup, and backs killer songwriters like Salim Nourallah. Joe is an idea factory. On bass was Jason Garner - best known for his work as the drummer in the Polyphonic Spree and The Paper Chase - but he's a slick bassist in his own right with a great sense of groove. The Apples In Stereo drummer John Dufilho hit the skins - you may also know John from his recent project John Singer Sergeant or as the writer/singer in The Deathray Davies. I love John's "less is more" Keltner-like drumming. Buffi Jacobs (Polyphonic Spree) played cello on a couple of songs. Yours truly played keys.

Given the type of record I wanted to make, the Texas Treefort seemed like a great place to track the band. Stepping into the place was like stepping into a dreamland of vintage gear. For example they have 12 channels of Gates preamps, at least 6 channels of V72s, a bunch of John Hardy / Jensens / Manleys, a pile of 1073s and 1081s, a Fairchild 670, etc. etc.. Lovely like-new U47s, 251s, U67, U69, and even an M50. Piles of ribbons. A great modded Neve board. 24 and 16 track 2". A bunch of **** too esoteric for me to remember what it was. And on and on and on.

I needed a drool cup.

We hired the house engineer, Jim Vollentine, to record it, and he indeed delivered with amazing sounds he coaxed from his knowledge of the multitudinous possible signal chains. Jim's a badass engineer with a badass attitude and he totally delivered on the kinds of tones we wanted. Tracks were cut to Pro Tools HD at 24/96.

We used the Treefort to cut pretty much all the rhythm tracks, and then took the tracks back to my studio for overdubs and vocals. 7 of the songs are presented almost entirely "as-tracked" together at Treefort. Two of them needed drum recuts and extra overdubs. And as the album progressed, a couple other songs matured and we ended up cutting them entirely at my studio. I only have a few pieces of fancy gear (a pair of BA 1073s, an ELOP, a Manley 60db pre, and a True P8) and a few decent mics (M147, ELAM 251, GT MD2a) and a MOTU 24i/o - nothing at all like the Treefort (at the Treefort there are a few dozen pieces of gear that cost more than my entire studio, soup-to-nuts).

Mixing was performed at my studio. I mixed the record entirely ITB using Sonar (still my day-to-day DAW). We had the opportunity to mix some of the songs at the Treefort, but the test mixes didn't quite work out, and in the end, the budget forced us to stay in the box. Plus we figured "if it sounds good, it IS good" and just ran with that. Plugs are almost all Waves and IK Multimedia. The nifty ValhallaRoom made quite a few appearances. I'd be happy to do a detailed rundown if that's interesting to anyone. I could also post some raw tracks if anyone wants to hear some A/B comparisons between what was tracked and how it arrived in the mix.

I invite everyone to listen to the record. Vanessa has generously agreed to price the record at $0.35 exclusively to Gearslutz readers (lossless FLAC) as part of this case study (it is not possible on Bandcamp to give the record away using an unlimited free download code, and $0.35 seems like a more-than-fair price).

So please, do check it out. Here's how. Go to the Bandcamp page and use discount code tbtttl at checkout. BOOM! All yours.

Rather than write exhaustively about the recording, I'd prefer to turn this into more of a Q&A. What songs sound best to you? Do you hear something you like and wonder how we did it? Want to deep-dive about signal chains on particular parts / songs? Is there something that bothers / annoys you that you want to point out? Let it fly!

Also - I'm really curious to do an informal experiment - can you pick out which 2 of the 11 songs were tracked entirely at my studio? I was very pleased at my ability to approximate the tones we got at the Treefort with the small amount of boutique gear I have. Can you tell the difference?

Last edited by riprowan; 27th July 2012 at 05:06 PM.. Reason: missing link
Old 27th July 2012
Here for the gear

By the way, if I posted this in the wrong forum, apologies - hopefully if that's the case, it can be moved.
Old 27th July 2012
Gear Head
gregkat's Avatar
Rip, Just wanted to tell you I always enjoyed your articles on ProRec. Great source of information in the pre-slutz days!
Old 28th July 2012
Here for the gear

Thanks Greg! Good to be here!
Old 30th July 2012
Here for the gear

Hey all - I used to do these "Point to Point" song dissections on ProRec and they were wildly popular, so I was a bit surprised that literally nobody here was in the least bit interested to tear one of these songs apart.

That's *totally* OK - if it's not interesting, it's not interesting. On the other hand, if it would help for me to do something differently in order to make it interesting / useful, please let me know. I always enjoyed tearing a mix down to the nuts in public, and think it would be fun to do it again.

So if this is a *yawn* - cool, but if it's a good idea that I'm just doing wrong please, let me know.

Peace! - R
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