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Stories behind tracking Butch Walker’s “Letters”- Joan

Joan-

Joan was tracked in one take at Butch Walker’s Ruby Red Room in Atlanta. We used a stereo mic setup on the piano, I think it was 2 414s but I’m not 100% sure as it was a while ago. The vocal was a u47 I believe, and yes there was vocal bleed in the piano mics and vice versa. That was part of the beauty of it all.

At the end of the day of band tracking I talked to Butch about doing one of the stripped down tunes. He was completely game and chilled out for a while and got the headspace for that tune while we did the setup for tracking.

About 20 minutes later, Butch came in, we double checked levels very quickly and he performed Joan. One take, no punches tuning or edits. You can hear plenty of mildly out of tune notes if that’s what you’re listening for. I was floored as was Russ-t Cobb who was running Pro-Tools. It’s beautiful when music happens this way, just pure and performed.
I think we tried to find reasons to do it again, but decided against it.

A couple days later, from a recommendation from Ed Roland (Collective Soul) A young violinist named Bobby Yang came by to sort of “Audition” to play on the record. Butch and I were a bit high on our horses and expecting the worst from Bobby Yang.

Bobby shows up and pulls his violin out. I don’t know if Butch or I said “Show us what you got kid”….but it was something like that. He played us Van Halen’s “Eruption” and we were a bit floored. Now what to do with this genius.

We played him Joan and told him we were thinking of a string quartet kind of vibe. Bobby was like “Sure”…..He listened a few times, and wrote some notation and we started building the quartet. Realize, there is no click and the tempo is very freeform.

I think it took Bobby about an hour to track the whole thing. Completely amazing that we had done this beautiful track in such a short time and ease. We used Bobby on a few other tracks on the album that I will Blog later.

Recording “Letters” with Butch Walker

Recording Butch Walker Letters

The best records you make as a Music Producer are always the easiest to make. Butch Walker’s “Letters” was one such record.

“Letters” started with me getting out of the house and visiting my friend Butch In Little 5 Points in Atlanta. I went to drink Wine and hang out with Butch. Then he played me the demo to the song “Mixtape” and we decided a good way to spend the weekend would be to drink wine and do this song.

Butch had a ton of awesome gear setup already in his tiny guesthouse. We cut the first version of Mixtape tracking the drums in the little 8 by 8 bedroom in his guest house. We later re-recorded the drums at Belmont studio in Nashville. I played keys, some background vocals and percussion while Butch was his awesome self being Butch. We weren’t thinking about record sales or a deal, we were just having fun……so of course Sony picked it up.

Jim Ebert & Butch Walker

By the time the deal was done and all was well with the world, Butch had built a small studio in Little 5 points (I believe) and we commenced to making the record. We tracked everything 1n 9 or 10 days and mixed it in about the same amount of time. No over-thinking, no drama, just making music. No vocal tuning, a bit of drum editing on loop based songs but not much on anything else. Vocals were usually one or two takes with a couple of punches. We were just aiming at the soul of the song and perfection would be a bonus.

The players involved were perfect for the project. For me, Kenny Cresswell playing drums was amazing on that record. Great feel and great sense of humor playing and personality wise. This record was recorded so fast, we we’re a little bummed and surprised when it was done. Thinking we had just made the next greatest record ever, we were a bit bummed when Sony said they had no Idea what to do with it.

I thought, (like I had thought so many times before with records I had been involved with, but much stronger with “Letters”) just market it you dumb-asses . That never happened.

There is a core audience that loves this record, and as a producer I have gotten more work production work out of this record than any other. If you don’t have “Letters” you should get it… Jim

 
 

Music Producer Jim Ebert – Recording “Letters” with Butch Walker