RSR EP002 - Vance Powell
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Vance Powell is a Grammy award winning producer, engineer and mixer from Joplin, MO. who’s impressive list of credits include Keb’ Mo’, Jars of Clay, Jack White (Third Man Records), Buddy Guy, Kings Of Leon, Sturgill Simpson, and local Nashville artists such as Jeff The Brotherhood, Moon Taxi and Bobby Bare Jr. He made his start in live sound, touring with local Missouri bands as a front-of-house engineer and in 2002 John McBride asked him to run Blackbird Studio. Vance is now also co-owner of Sputnik Sound.
Vance was introduced to electronics early in his childhood, as his grandfather was an electrical engineer and miner. He later attended electronic school while in high school. This helped him to land a job as a second audio engineer in a local studio – Massey Studios – in Missouri where he worked for $5/hour learning and teaching himself the arts of mixing, and other tools of the trade like tape duplication (i.e. mastering). This marked the beginning of his successful career as an audio mix engineer.
Auratone Monitors are speakers designed to listen to mono mixes. Yamaha NS10’s later became the replacement for Auratone reference monitors.
“…I use NS10s (Yamaha) because they sound cool… and they will translate well in any situation.” –Vance Powell
“It’s all about your reference… It doesn’t matter what your speakers are,” says Powell. “I have definitely made changes to a mix based on a mono iPhone speaker.
When asked how one is able to hear the bass on a mono iPhone speaker he says simply “turn the bass off and then back on.”
Q: What is the best advice you have for someone just starting out?
A: You have to be fearless to make it in this business. If you are a person who is afraid of change, or afraid of failing, or afraid of losing your house… you’re normal, but if you are afraid and act upon it because you are afraid, you’re not going to last.
Q: What was a time where you feel you hit a real point of failure or a time you felt like giving up that turned out to be a valuable learning experience for you.
A: A year after I moved to Nashville, I did my first session and I had no idea what these people were wanting or doing. In some ways that was an interesting failure but I’ve been very lucky in that I don’t have anything I can really point out and say, “that was a disaster.”
Q: I definitely know you for working with a lot of artists that like to push the boundaries and really get to the heart of what makes something great. You want to tell us a little bit about that?
A: Obviously, I’ve spent 8 years working with Jack white and that’s been an incredibly eye-opening thing because he’s pretty amazing. He’s probably the most talented person I’ve ever been around. He’s one my favorite drummers…ever. He’s my favorite keyboard player, pianist and organist. He’s the easiest artist I’ve ever had to get a guitar sound for. It doesn’t matter what amp he plays, it doesn’t matter what guitar, it doesn’t matter how old the strings are it doesn’t matter what microphone you put in front of it, it sounds just like him. It’s all in his hands. He’s an amazing vocalist.
Q: What is a tip about the process of recording that you learned while working with artists like Jack White?
A: Learn to be fast. I think anybody learning this business should do live sound. Live sound teaches you a bunch of things. You have to put a mix together in a very short period of time. You don’t have all day. You have one song to put a killer 48-channel mix together; otherwise you’re going to lose people.
Q: If you were dropped into a strange city and you were going to start out in recording or live sound, what advice would you have for someone who’s willing to take on that challenge?
A: If you want to record, the first thing you need to do is purchase some way to record such as a laptop and an interface or port-a-studio. Then go find a band that you are willing to do what ever it takes to help them out. That means cart their gear around, do live sound for them, or record demos in your basement. Get yourself 4 good microphones. You can pretty much record a band with 4 or 5 good microphones. Don’t let the technology get in the way of creativity. I have a rule for my own productions and that is: my entire record has to fit inside 32 tracks. Don’t be afraid to make a decision; that’s the number one thing I’d say to anyone first starting out.
Twitter - @Vancalot
Credits - Allmusic.com
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