Music: Al and Shelby—Together Again

Nov 10, 2010 3:59 PM, By Tom Kenny


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Shelby Lynne and Al Schmitt backstage 
at McCabe’s in Los Angeles

Shelby Lynne and Al Schmitt backstage at McCabe’s in Los Angeles

In August “Editor’s Note,” Mix wrote about Shelby Lynne and her love of analog recording, the sound of which permeates her recent, excellent trifecta of Just a Little Lovin’ (the Dusty Springfield tribute produced by Phil Ramone), Tears, Lies and Alibis, and Merry Christmas, her first holiday record, released last month. She performed at Yoshi’s in San Francisco on the night of our interview, then a few nights later was at McCabe’s in L.A., where she took this photograph with her mixer on the three discs, Al Schmitt. She’s a huge fan of Schmitt, saying at the time that she “just sends him the reels of tape and he sends me back CD refs. I don’t have to be there because I know Al is just the best.” Not surprisingly, Schmitt is a huge fan of hers.

“What gets me the most about Shelby is her writing ability,” Schmitt says. “It’s just so real. The silver trailer—she has this love for real things, real feelings, and it’s there in her songs. But that’s who she is as a person, too. Real, warm, honest. I told her down here at McCabe’s that she should do a live album, just her and John Jackson on guitars, because the way she connects with her audience through her voice, her guitar and her emotions is just so honest.”

Schmitt has mixed the past three Lynne projects in his home away from home, Capitol Studio C, on the 72-input VRQ. Lynne records to Studer 24-track at 15 ips, with guitar and vocals mostly done at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., then sends the ATR tape reel to Schmitt. He transfers it to Pro Tools, then mixes to a half-inch ATR analog machine. At the time of our August interview, she took pride in being an analog girl in a digital age, and she joked about not knowing what to do with more than 24 tracks; she preferred to commit to her decisions at the time of tracking.

“That’s her middle name: analog,” Schmitt jokes. “Through and through. On this Christmas record, she didn’t even run out to 24 tracks; a couple were only eight to 10. But she uses great microphones and a great tape machine. It’s just her, her guitar, the Studer and her dog Junior. [Ed. Note: She sings into a Telefunken 251 and puts a Neumann KM81 on her guitar, then to her new favorite mic pre, a Karl Diehl NPNG, to her Mackie 24-channel board and straight to the Studer. Those tracks usually make it through to the record.]

“I think we did a couple of overdubs on this last Christmas record,” Schmitt recalls, “but not for anything in the performance. When we did the Dusty record, and that is a wonderful record, there were no overdubs, no pasting, no tuning. Very pure. There are very few artists today who can make a record the way she makes a record.”

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