Steve Martin and Edie Brickell: Roots Music’s Odd Couple

May 1, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix, By Blair Jackson


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Brickell, Martin and Asher in The Living Room.

Brickell, Martin and Asher in The Living Room.

“I think Peter was a little surprised when he got here, because he assumed I had a separate control room and studio,” Filipetti says, “but it’s all in one large area, with a two-story wood-beam A-frame ceiling, stone walls, a fireplace and some furniture. It was built in 1890, and it’s really one of the best-sounding rooms I’ve ever been in. The house is on a couple of acres, with lots of trees, a reservoir—we’re out in the country and it’s a wonderful place to record.

“Steve was in here in the control room area with Peter and me, playing banjo, and in the study right off this room, we had Edie singing to the track live. I had three mics on Steve—two on his banjo and one in the room.” Filipetti used an Audio-Technica AT4080 ribbon “slightly above the banjo, picking up the resonance of the head, and a B&K 4006—which are now called DPAs—nearer to the strings.” The room mic was a Sanken CO-100K. For a banjo mic pre he used a Neve 1064.

Brickell’s vocal chain mostly consisted of a new Telefunken 251 into a Neve 1064 or 1084 pre, “probably going through an LA-2A or a Summit compressor, very, very lightly touched,” Filipetti says.

As for the flow of the sessions, Filipetti says, “We did multiple performances of the songs. There was no click—Steve would provide a tempo and then we’d do a few takes—two or three tracks a day; just run through them and do them until Steve was happy with what we got. Then in the evening, Peter and I would sit here and edit the takes together. But Edie’s vocals were so spectacular you just didn’t want to lose certain lines, and usually we didn’t do more than two or three takes on her.”

Armed with what he calls “perfect vocal and banjo takes,” Asher then went to L.A. for the overdub sessions, which were mostly engineered by Nathaniel Kunkel at Village Recorder and East West. Asher “cast” each song and brought in the players as needed. “I’d say, ‘Okay, we need a keyboard player for one day, I need a straightforward bass player for one day, I need Esperanza Spalding for one evening.’ I had very specific ideas for the role each overdub was supposed to play.” Other notable musicians included guitarist Waddy Wachtel, keyboardist Matt Rollings, bassist Ian Walker and the singing Webb Sisters. Asher also played many different parts.

A couple of tracks featuring the Steep Canyon Rangers were cut at Kung Fu Bakery in Portland, Ore. with Bob Stark engineering, and Andrew Dudman handled some string recording at Abbey Road. Kunkel mixed the album in the Village’s Studio F “entirely in the box on their ICON,” he says. “I relied heavily on my UAD-2 cards—all the reverbs and effects were from that. I also used the Massenburg Design Works equalizer pretty heavily, and I’ve been using a dynamic parametric equalizer made by Wholegrain Digital; that one’s a game-changer.

“It was surprisingly easy when it came time to mix it. Frank’s recordings were stellar, and because Peter’s arrangements were correctly done, there weren’t a lot of extra parts to deal with in the mix. It was very straightforward.

“We sent the mixes to Steve and Edie. I would do live streams for her, and there were some mix-approval sessions where Steve came to the studio and I would stream to Edie, and we’d be on a conference call and we would work through issues they had, and they would talk together about where the mix was going. So they were very involved all the way through, as was Peter. It was a real collaboration at every stage.”

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