10 Questions With Grammy Winner Chad Carlson - Producer & Audio Engineer

(AbbiR | Posted 2010-03-23)

10 Questions With Grammy Winner Chad Carlson - Producer & Audio Engineer

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 affordably now.

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 prepping mixes.

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 GOOD SONG.

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:


About Abbi

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.

Abbi Roth

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