Willie Nelson: New Album, Big Changes for Country Legend

Mar 1, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix, By Barbara Schultz


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Willie Nelson

Since 1995, engineer Steve Chadie has been working on Willie Nelson’s (and other) projects at Pedernales Studio, 30 miles outside of Austin. Nelson’s latest, Let’s Face the Music and Dance, is a sweet, fresh interpretation of traditional pop songs, including “Walking My Baby Back Home,” “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love,” and of course the romantic title track, written by Irving Berlin and introduced by Fred Astaire in 1936.

“He loves to play these classic old-time tunes,” Chadie says of the material, which is mostly played in a spare, folk-leaning jazz style—warm and beautiful, with Nelson’s voice up front.

Chadie captures Nelson’s sessions in largely the same fashion he’s used for almost two decades: “They’re all primarily in the same room, except Bobbie [Nelson, Willie’s sister] is in the piano room. Willie is in the room with Mickey [Raphael, harmonica] and Kevin, the upright bass player, so I baffle them off and try not to worry too much about leakage. Things sound too sterile to me when they’re completely isolated and in-your-face anyway, so, I try to get a little space [between instruments and mics]. With the piano especially, I like to move the mics back and get a natural sound. You don’t listen to a piano with your ear up against the strings.”

On Nelson’s vocal, Chadie says, “I run a U47 into the Neve [console] and then run that directly out of the preamp into a TubeTech compressor; then I go into Pro Tools. I don’t EQ it; there’s no need. [Butch Carr] might EQ it when he mixes, but I was trained that rather than use EQ during recording, to move things in the room, and that’s been the winning combination with Willie.”

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