Mixing Airport Girl came along in a very curious way. That fiend and bassman, Ben Baxtorrison, had recorded some tracks, acoustic if you will, by a very talented singer called Natalie Betts. But being a fiend and a scoundrel (in reality becoming a dad and some other ‘busy’ stuff) he hadn’t mixed the tracks. So he bunged one my way, escorted by a rough guide mix.
The track was recorded well but I didn’t like the ‘room’. So I began by constructing a room that I could put the whole band into. A space, intimate and soulful for them to breath in. Then came the vocal. Natalie has a very soulful voice. Round and fine with a body deep enough to lose yourself in. I wanted to bring this out but make it sound modern too. The SSL E Channel came along just in time. I cut a tiny bit of lower mid, not too much or that beautiful roundness would have been filed flat and we couldn’t possibly have that. A pinch of top, maybe 1 to 1.5db, just for sheen and sparkle. The vocal had been compressed to tape (I say tape as a force of habit and to show my age but this recording went nowhere near tape), but I wanted character, a little bit of grit for the syllables to grind up against. The CL1B was too smooth, sounded great, but more smoothness was not what I needed. The blue stripe CLA 1176 sat right on the button. I wasn’t really compressing too much, just enough to get the grit.
Acoustic guitar and upright bass needed to fit around the focus of the vocal. Acoustic had body and neck mics so I panned and balanced so that it sat either side of the vocal. A touch of the room I had created and no compression (after trying an LA2A), an SSL G eq and I was happy. The upright bass also had body and neck mics. Both were panned dead centre and I cut all the bottom out of the neck mic and all the top from the body mic. I added a touch of R-Bass to the body mic, just a touch mind, it’s not a drum and bass song, and the two mics gelled together to give me all the high slides and squeaks along with all the rootness of the bottom. Lovely. I also put a touch of the room reverb only on the neck mic.
The percussion I panned hard left and hard right. A touch of compression evened it out a bit but I really needed to keep the transients, so careful with the attack and release… careful…. careful…….until just right. You’ll know when it’s right. All the instruments were now dancing superbly around the vocal. Slow that comp attack up to preserve your transients.
I sent all the backing vocals (lovely harmonies) to a stereo bus and treated them all with an overall compression and EQ, the SSL E again. This time I did go for the CL1B though, just to keep them under control a bit. Added a bit of panning tremolo to one set of the backing vocals which gave them some interesting movement and I was about done.
The room worked out really well and the band sat nicely in it. Remember, you can always EQ your reverb returns, and I did, quite drastically. It all took about 6 hours and Ben was pleased with the result. There was very little automation.
The focus of this song was clearly the vocal but it is a great song so I needed to let it all be heard. Ben has 3 more of her songs that are not quite finished. I will be mixing those 3 so that Natalie can have a 4 track EP. Hopefully my good friend Jon Callender will master the tracks, he will be getting 48k, 24bit wav files with at least 3db of headroom so that he can do his stuff. I’ve never met Natalie, I hope she likes what I have done.