by J Raleigh Jones
The impact of Covid 19 has devastated the music industry in Nashville. Artists were confined to performing at home on social media. Everything was shut down. Artists and songwriters outside the Nashville area had no way to record their songs with that famous Nashville Sound. Many artists from around the world come to Nashville every year to record but that was not possible this year for everyone's safety.
However Tom Harding, a record producer who is also a TV show producer for the new Nashville Country Television Network, has found a way to get things done. Tom is an accomplished producer for label and independent artists alike. In fact Tom has an award winning indie artist with 11 number ones in a row. That artist is Dennis Ledbetter. Tom has access to hit songwriters and musicians who have played on hit records. In addition, his pricing is reasonable. Tom has written the following article on how he does it.
Recently, Kris Cummins (Coming Down With Something), contacted me and asked if there was anyway we could make a new record. I asked myself, “How do you do that while maintaining safe social distance?” Kris lives in Australia, and there was no way he felt comfortable jumping on an airplane and flying 19 hours during these challenging times.
Kris and I exchanged a few calls and worked out a game plan. We would start with one song (Shore Drive) and see if this venture was feasible. Kris went into a local studio and recorded a scratch guitar and a perfect vocal along with a click track which would allow us to be able to overdub to anything he did. It was just him and an engineer with glass separating them maintaining social distance. The engineer did an excellent job recording everything and uploaded his files using a Dropbox folder I had created for the song. When I downloaded the files, I listened to the song several times and started laying out a road map of what would need to be added. I decided the first thing I wanted to do was lay guitar tracks down.
Since I wanted to have as few of people in the studio at a time, I wanted to book someone that not only played killer electric but also great acoustic. To me that was a no brainer. I called Chris Leuzinger who is famous for every electric guitar solo on every Garth Brooks record you’ve ever heard. Chris had also played on Kris’s previous record, so I was sure it was a great fit. Once I hit record, the magic began! Chris laid down acoustic guitar first establishing a nice big rhythm bed, then he pulled out all the stops adding multiple electric passes and another of his signature solos that only Chris Leuzinger can do. I was engineering and producing, keeping the process to two people separated by glass, always maintaining safe social distance.
When the guitars were done, I called a drummer friend, Jeremiah Bivins, who has a studio in his house and gets good solid drum sounds. After hearing what Chris had done on guitar, I decided the song should start with a simple drum loop and then have the drums build as the song progressed. Jeremiah first sent me the loop he had worked on for the beginning, and it was nothing short of perfect. He laid down four to five different performances, making a new playlist each time, allowing me to go through and pick the best parts.
Guitars and drums done, we needed bass. I emailed my friend, Mike Joyce, who said, “send me a two-track mix, I’ll send you a bass part.” Mike and his band had just won a Grammy Award, so I felt doubly blessed to get him. Mike Dropboxed me a bass part the next day. It was perfect, just what the song needed, big low end but staying out of everyone’s way.
When it came time for keyboards, Kris told me Tim McDonald who lived in Nashville had written the song and was dying to play on the record. Tim being a well-known song writer had his own studio and was able to add his keyboards from the comfort of his own home.
That left just background vocals and mixing. I called my buddy, TW Hale, to come over and listen to see what background parts needed to be added. Two hours later we had some very inspiring vocals that complimented Kris’s vocal perfectly. We had done all this with never having more than two people in a room at a time and always able to maintain a safe distance. This worked out just the way I had hoped, and I am now wrapping up on the final song of Kris’s record.
Now and the Future
Another well known and respected producer in Nashville that has been doing on line recordings from around the world for a number of years is Curt Ryle, who was the first producer ever featured in Nashville Country Music Magazine. Ryle has been recording with famous musicians and singers and independents from around the globe for a number of years, providing the Nashville sound. Curt Ryle has also recently been working with the Steam Whistle Records artists due to the travel restrictions imposed by COVID 19.
This ability to record with A players and artists world wide is likely not going to go away when the pandemic is under control . It truly may become a new normal opening up the ability of stars and independents alike to access the best of the best from around the world, with the final product being produced by such notable and talented producers such as Tom Harding and Curt Ryle.