ProductionAbout Kenny White
There aren’t many places I love to be more than in the recording studio. I’ve grown to love the joys of live playing and the immediate interaction with the audience. However, these two means of expression require completely different tool sets and mind sets. In the visual world, I would compare these with movie making vs theater performances. They really are nothing alike. For me, when writing a song, I almost immediately hear the arrangement that I feel would not only benefit the song, but would be required to present it as a complete thought. Up to that point it is an unfinished work.
After shows, I’m sometimes asked for “stripped down” version of songs which causes me to be both flattered and disappointed. I’m pleased that one would be anxious to want to recapture the immediacy of the concert they’ve just witnessed. Yet, to revert to the film comparison and certainly NOT to make a comparison with F.F. Coppola, it strikes me no differently than asking to have a copy of the actors reciting the lines to The Godfather, without any of the lush cinematography, without any of the crucial soundtrack, and without any of the elements that make it the classic that it is. As one who, while growing up, used to hide the radio under his pillow and never wanted to go even 10 minutes without listening to music…I don’t remember ONE time when I thought, “Gee, I wonder what this song would sound like without all those instruments on it!”
I’m not saying that the desire isn’t a valid one, I’m just saying that, in my mind and heart, it feels more honest to present the song in the way I intended it to be heard. That I perform these songs by myself at all, is a matter of pragmatic necessity. I would love love LOVE to be playing with a band, night after night.
The top-shelf studios have been dwindling for years; their air supply cut off by the now prevalent home recording. But to experience a beautifully equipped and maintained studio, with its dazzling microphone collection and instrument selection, is something every musician should experience. The first time i heard a voice or a note retain its innate quality as it passed through a high-end mixing console, is a moment I’ll always cherish. It hooked me. Granted, the ‘need for speed’ has lowered that bar and we have become satisfied with sonic mediocrity; music compressed to within an inch of its life! Compression, for those unfamiliar, is like audio Prozac…in that it lowers the peaks and raises the lows, alleviating most dynamic subtlety and allowing it to compete for ear space on the radio. Yet I still believe that, if given the option, most of us would notice the enormous difference in sound and depth and choose the better version, just as often as we choose the finest and most innovative TVs for our homes.
For a studio, I picked Sear Sound for the making of Long List of Priors. I had worked on a couple of Peter Wolf albums at Sear and the results were unrivaled. I always loved getting lost in soundscapes…from back in the early rock ‘n’ roll world (Beach Boys, Beatles, Moody Blues, Dead, Psychedelic, Prog Rock, etc.) This is why I could never be satisfied recording and mixing my own albums. I want people who are as dedicated to the art of recording as I am to my craft. And who have spent as many hours doing it! Sear was the perfect place to record. This is a studio that gave birth to many classic records from Bjork to Bowie, Patti Smith to Steely Dan, Lou Reed to John Lennon, (who recorded part of his final, Double Fantasy album here.) I hope people will agree that…even if they hate all the songs, that the album really does sound great!!
I get asked to produce other people’s records far more often than I accept. It’s not for lack of desire, but more due to lack of priority. I’m SO proud of the 4 albums I produced with Peter Wolf, as I am of Holly Palmer’s debut, and the various songs I worked on with Marc Cohn and Shawn Colvin. The bulk of that work came before I was so fully committed to my own recording and performance. And it’s just very tough for me to put that on the back burner for a lengthy amount of time. If I accept a project to produce, I know that nothing besides that project will get any of my attention until the day it is complete. And so, regretfully, I’m not able to accept some of the very entertaining offers. As I said earlier, there really is no place I’d rather be, than in a studio, creating a landscape of sound behind a great song.
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