10 Questions With Grammy Winner Chad Carlson - Producer & Audio Engineer
(AbbiR | Posted 2010-03-23)
Chad Carlson is a producer and audio engineer based out of Nashville,
TN, where he works with the top players and musicians in the industry.
He moved to Nashville in 2002, where after a successful internship, he
found work at the world famous Sound Emporium Studios. There he
quickly became an assistant engineer on such projects as the motion
picture soundtrack, "Cold Mountain" with Nicole Kidman and "Walk The
Line," the Johnny Cash biography. Chad soon began lead engineering for
Garth Fundis, a well respected Nashville producer of such acts as
Trisha Yearwood, Sugarland, Don Williams, and Keith Whitley, etc.
Chad now works out of the top studios in Nashville, as well as his own
studio, Hippo Sound on the infamous music row. Chad's discography of
producing, engineering, and mixing includes many artists, including
Trisha Yearwood, Teri Clark, Alison Krauss, Point of Grace, Buddy
Jewell, SHeDaisy, Sugarland, Chris Isaak, Bridgette Tatum, Matraca
Berg, Angie Broberg, Rachel Proctor, George Canyon, John Waite, The
Gibson Brothers, Janis Ian, and even 'Hannah Montana: The Movie.' Chad
also works with award-winning producer Nathan Chapman on many projects
including Taylor Swift on Big Machine records. And to top it all off,
Chad just received TWO Grammys! "Album of the Year" and "Country Album
of the Year" for Taylor Swift's "Fearless." Congratulations, Chad!
Chad also does demo recordings for many great songwriters in town such
as Jeff Steele, Lori McKenna, Kristen Hall (formerly with Sugarland),
Danny Myrick, Randy Houser, Josh Turner, Keith Anderson, Liz Rose, Al
Anderson, Josh Turner, Mary Gauthier, Stephanie Chapman, Danny Myrick,
Kip Raines, Craig Wiseman, Tom Hambridge, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Dipiero,
and many more.
In addition to his professional life, Chad is happily married to his
wife, Amanda, with whom he has two beautiful children.
1) What projects are you working on right now? Anything you're
especially excited about?
I'm currently working on engineering Taylor Swift's third album, and
also engineering Jewel's new album, which is set to release in May
2010 on Big Machine Records. I'm also producing and engineering Roch
Voisine, who is an artist on Sony France/Canada
(http://www.rochvoisine.com/), and also producing and engineering an
artist named Sarah Marince (http://www.myspace.com/sarahmarince).
2) What is your preferred typical studio set up or what you work with
on a daily basis?
When I'm tracking a band, I prefer Starstruck studio, Blackbird "D,"
or Sound Emporium studio, depending on the project and intended sound
of the project. As far as vocals or mixing, I have a overdub/mix
studio on Music Row called Hippo Sound where I do most of my work.
It's so convenient for everyone and I can make my mixes work there.
It's not on a true analog console but most of my clients can't afford
mixing on the big desks anymore, so we have to make it work more
3) If someone is just getting into engineering, what would you advise
them to invest in primarily? Any equipment that you absolutely can't
stand or don't see a purpose for investing into your rig?
The first thing I'd buy is a Pro Tools rig or a similar DAW. Here in
Nashville, there are so many ways to make money as an engineer.
Usually it starts with doing edits for a producer, tuning vocals, or
What NOT to buy. Big control surfaces such as Control 24s, ICONs.
Seems silly to me, if you are mixing in the box and you want to have a
fader to ride, buy a Presonus FaderPort for $100. Sure, it doesn't
look as cool as having a console in front of you, but the mix will
sound the same.
4) If you could defy the impossible, what piece of equipment
would you invent to make your life in the studio significantly easier?
Dream big here! We have Autotune, plug ins that ride faders for you
now, quantizing, playlists, undo, tempo manipulation, unlimited
tracks. What do I want to make my studio life easier? How about a
5) We've all heard horror stories about computers crashing and not
having anything backed up. How important is backing up your
information? Has this nightmare ever happened to you?
Vital. I have
multiple backups daily. When I'm tracking a band, I backup after
every song. No nightmare stories, sorry! Well, not sorry.
6) Is recording in Nashville different than recording anywhere else?
Have you discovered any trends in recording techniques that are
specific to recording in Nashville?
I think the assistant engineer in Nashville takes on a much more
active role in general. Nashville seems to be a faster paced
recording environment with (on average) 5-8 people recording at one
time during a tracking session here. It's a blast for the engineer
because it's fun to record a bunch of people at once and see them
feeding off each other.
7) And the question we're all dying to know... How great has your
experience been to record with Miss Swift?
Great! I love Taylor. I started working on her song demos when she
was 15 years old when she was writing for a publisher named Jody
Williams. I've seen her grow every time we've worked together.
She's also open to think outside the box and really try new things.
On the second album "Fearless," Nathan Chapman, her producer (who also
plays a bunch of instruments on her records) wanted to play piano on
this song called, "You're Not Sorry." We didn't have a lot of piano
on the record and I wanted to try something unique-sounding to keep it
interesting, so I had four microphones on the piano. Once they went
through mic pre's I split the signal back to a leslie organ speaker
with the slightest bit of chorale on the speaker and put mics on the
leslie to get the sound you hear on that song. It's stuff like that
you wouldn't normally try on a country music record, but she loved it.
8) Has your career as an engineer given you an advantage to your
transition into producing? For example, your expertise with equipment,
effects, etc. If it has, how so?
Absolutely. I've learned production by engineering for some great
producers. I've seen their styles and ways of working. I've also
learned what works for me. I think what has led me to production
mostly is that I come from a musical background, not so much a
technical background. I need to produce, it challenges me to look at
the big picture, not just what the kick drum sounds like or if the
guitar is out of tune.
9) Any tips on getting to the next level in the music business?
Make yourself invaluable with whatever talents you have.
10) And for the signature last question, if it is not gear that makes
music important to you, what is it about music that draws you to make
it such a significant part of your life?
It was this or roofing. I tried roofing. I don't like to sweat.
For more information about Chad or Chad Carlson audio services, please visit his website here:
Abbi Roth is a touring and session bass player, singer, and songwriter
based in Nashville, TN. She has played for, recorded, and toured with
numerous acts. Most recently, she was on tour with Bo Bice from
American Idol this past summer, playing bass and singing background
vocals. Currently, Abbi also writes for Bass Frontiers Magazine. She
is a proud endorser of EBS bass equipment, Dean Markeley strings, and
Gayle Winde Design guitar straps.