Music: Nellie McKay

Oct 6, 2010 5:36 PM, By Barbara Schultz



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Home Sweet Mobile Home was mixed in Pro Tools on both coasts—by MP Kuo at Lofish, and Tony Maserati at RNC Productions and the Boom Boom Room (both in North Hollywood).

Kuo says her mixing philosophy is always to “listen first a couple of times as an audience would listen, get to know the song and think about how I would enjoy the song. A song might sound like it should be very intimate, or it might need a lot of layers if it’s more surreal-sounding. What I love about mixing with Nellie is she’s so talented and there’s so many things going on that are so intricate; every time you listen, there will be something surprising that you didn’t hear the first time.”

“There’s a delicacy that’s needed in the approach to working on this,” Maserati observes, “because that’s in Nellie’s personality and the way she makes music and arranges music. She feels it out, and she needs to be into it. There’s no formula. There’s no roadmap. Well, there is a roadmap, but it’s hand-written.

“[For] many vocalists, if you can get one thing out of them that sounds like it’s got character, that’s a lot,” Maserati continues. “But Nellie is able to change character for a different perspective on a lyric, which is quite wonderful and is the mark of a great artist.”

Maserati and Kuo both augmented Pro Tools with racks of outboard gear. In Maserati’s case, he used the equipment that came with him when he moved from upstate New York to the L.A. area earlier this year: Neve EQ, an SSL X-Logic rack, Chandler Zener, GML parametric EQ, Universal Audio 1176, various plug-ins, etc. “I have the best of both worlds,” Maserati says. “I have plenty of analog outboard gear that I’ve had for 20-plus years, and I have all the plug-ins and digital gear I need, as well.”

On McKay’s vocals, Maserati used a light hand: “Primarily, the things I had to use were compression, EQ and combinations of those. I’ve got a Thermionic Culture Vulture box, which I used to sort of thicken or enrich the harmonic quality of her vocal or a particular instrument. She wasn’t the kind of person who was looking for a maximized vocal way up in the mix with the perfect amount of delay and reverb on it.”

“I try to get her voice very nice, pure, light and airy,” Kuo says. “We have a lot of vocal tracks on some songs, so I’m trying to build the instruments around her that might not be in her vocal frequency to support, to make a fuller mix.”

“Tony described this album, when we were first approaching it, as a ‘sonic landscape,’” McKay says. “He said, ‘You know, whatever you decide to do, whoever you decide to work with, it’s all part of the sonic landscape,’ and I love that.”

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