Working With A Legend

            10 years ago while attending Music History class at Full Sail University, I was introduced to Buddy Guy. Not personally of course, the 4-hour lecture that day was on the Blues, a genre of music that whether aware of it or not has influenced nearly any and everything we listen to today.

            Not even a month later Buddy happened to be headlining a free show downtown Orlando that I attended with some friends of mine at the suggestion of our professor. We were not disappointed.

            I vividly remember during his second song, Buddy walking out into the crowd, mid guitar solo sporting charisma most could only dream of.  He made his way to the back of the venue; building tension with every note he played until he was out of sight. However, the music never stopped. My friends and I were hanging out along the barricade, stage right trying to figure out where he had gone. Suddenly he appeared and it didn’t take me long to realize that he was heading right towards me. I went to the barricade hoping to catch a glimpse. What I got was so much more.

            Guy walked right up to the barricade 2 feet away, looked me in the eye with the most infectious smile I’ve ever seen on a human being and proceeded to melt my face. I held my hands in the air as he released the tension of the solo he’d been building for the previous 10 minutes.  Right in that moment there was an unexplainable energy in the air between one legend and a kid who was just hoping to one day be able to make a living recording music. I would never forget that.

            Fast forward 10 years and I get a text from his Producer Tom Hambridge asking if I’m available to record Buddy’s vocals for 4 days at Blackbird. I’m thinking, “Let me check my calendar” (hashtag sarcasm.)

            We had 4 days to record vocals on 18 songs and do 1 guitar overdub. We were done in 2 and a half. To paint the picture of how amazing this man is, at 80 years young he woke up at 3 AM to catch a flight that morning to be at the studio by 10:30 and sing 5 songs without eating a bite. Midway through that first day as we ordered in lunch and he insisted that we all go ahead and eat while he sat on the couch just relaxing and waiting for us to finish. THIS IS A MAN THAT IS AND WAS IDOLIZED BY KEITH RICHARDS, ERIC CLAPTON, JIMI HENDRIX, AND STEVIE RAY VAUGHN AND HE IS MORE THAN HAPPY TO WAIT ON US TO EAT LUNCH!!?? Name one artist in this day and age that would be that humble and relaxed. 

            Shortly into the session on the second day he was in the booth with Tom when John McBride the owner of Blackbird walks in to tell us that NBC is bringing the Stanley Cup by the studio and if we wanted a picture with it that it was totally cool (The Preds were in the finals and they were filming a segment for the pregame.) I’m thinking “Yeah I want a picture with the Stanley Cup!”

            It was a madhouse outside the studio as people from all over town were there to catch a glimpse. Tom and Buddy’s manager Max went over to check out the festivities and snag a pic when all of the sudden I realized it was just Buddy and I. I quickly weighed my options, get a pictue with the Stanley Cup or have a one on one conversation with Buddy Guy. Um @!#$ the Stanley Cup!!!

            I knew that this was going to be my only chance to tell him about the time he had played to me 10 years prior. As finished I my story, I saw that same ear to ear smile as he looked at the ground as modest as he could be and said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”  I could tell that it really meant something to him. It damn sure meant something to me.

            This is a man that said to me “When I was coming up you couldn’t hear the guitar over the Horns and other instruments.” To put it into perspective this is one of the 3 or 4 guys that took a new instrument that was invented early in his lifetime and turned it into something that you could not imagine any form of music without today. That will NEVER happen again. Before there was Jimi there was Buddy. Before there was SRV there was Buddy. Before there was Clapton there was Buddy. Before there were the Stones, there was Buddy. The man is my hero’s hero.

            I’ve been blessed to work with hundreds of talented artists, songwriters, and musicians in my career. I don’t see how this will ever be topped, and that’s ok with me. If you get a chance to see him in concert, do yourself a favor and go. You will be seeing a living, breathing part of American History.

5 Plug-Ins I Absolutely Can't Live Without

In the crazy world of mixing music, there are a ton of variables that determine the final outcome of the product. How was everything recorded? What type of Interface/converters/clock are you using? How are you setting up and routing your mix? One of the most important factors however are the tools you use to get there. The more experienced you get, the more you begin to find your go to tools for certain situations. You are almost always going to encounter a fork in the road at some point in the mix where something is just not quite sounding how you are envisioning it. This can hinder the creative aspect and greatly stall your progress. Below are 5 of my favorite Plug-Ins I use to avoid hindrances and keep my mix moving forward.

WAVES H COMP - Are there better compressor plug-ins available? Sure there are. However I have yet to find a better compressor for Side Chaining. If you need your kick drum to cut through a track, bounce with the bass on a Dance/EDM track, or make sure a 909 type kick doesn't get drowned out by an 808, then the H-Comp will get the job done in an amazingly musical way. The interface is super easy to use. With big knobs and the orange back panel it's easy to get around in which keeps one from guessing. One of my favorite plugs in the entire Waves catalog.

UAD EMT 140 - Honestly I could probably do this entire article using only UA Plugs but since everyone reading this might not have an Apollo or UAD card I'm only going to include a couple. The EMT 140 is easily the most lush Reverb plug-in I've ever heard. The depth is unbelievable. Having a Two band EQ, High Pass Filter, along with 3 different Plates to choose from it really allows you to shape the ambience you are wanting your mix to have. While some mixers may prefer verbs with Hall, Room, and various other spaces, the 140 gets the job done for me in almost every situation. 

SOUNDTOYS DECAPITATOR - I could do an entire post on the different ways I use the Decapitator. The best way I can describe this is the ultimate tone shaper. If anything is a little thin or "in the box" sounding try blending this directly on the track or using a send to an instance of Decapitator and blending the dry and wet signal will definitely yield you positive results in most cases. 

UAD AMPEX ATR-102 - My self proclaimed secret sauce. In a visual sense, say your sound is the size of a quarter. Put this on a track or group of tracks and they will be the size of the moon. I consider this a tone shaper like the Decapitator. While the former adds "hair" to a track giving it more personality, this actually makes each sound larger than life. A lot of the tape emulators I've tried are glorified distortion boxes, this is the closet thing I have heard to sounding like real analog tape. I absolutely HAVE to have this plug in to mix.

METRIC HALO MULTI-BAND EXPANDER - When I purchased the Metric Halo Production bundle 3 years ago, admittedly I had absolutely no idea what an Expander was or how use it. Hum and Buzz can be the worst nightmare of a mixer especially on an electric guitar track. This allows you to remove this extraneous noise while maintaining the majority of the original tone. The Expander only serves one purpose for me but I wanted to include it on this list as MH makes amazing stuff and having their entire Production Bundle in your arsenal is would greatly benefit your plug-in library.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to drop me a line at zach@redarmorproductions.com