Scavone was awesome about uploading our bounces—basically, the very raw recordings—to DropBox so that we could go back and listen to them, zero effects and not mixed at all. On some songs, the guitars may be super-loud; on others it may be the vocals or bass, etc. It was great to be able to make sure we liked what was done in the studio after we left. You can easily become burned out while in the studio and not initially notice parts that didn’t come out so well. And, as I stated earlier, you damn well better be happy with what you record, because once you send it out to the public, there is no turning back—like a permanent tattoo. This was also when we could go home and practice doing things to overdub, and it’s when Mike came up with a lot of the guitar parts he ended up recording.
Mixing is much more intricate and takes a lot of time. Scavone felt like he could mix down roughly two songs a day. Producers and engineers are what make an album great. I mean, the band has to write a damn good song, but a producer makes those songs GREAT. And let me say again that we struck pure gold with our producers, and now it was Scavone’s time to really shine. And shine he did. Scavone felt it would be most efficient if we allowed him to do his magic alone, and then once we’d heard it we could request any changes. I talked to him about some bands that I wanted him to keep in mind while he was mixing because they were major influences on me and the rest of the band. It turned out that almost all that I told him were on the list that he had created. From there he would go listen to those bands just to get into the mindset of where we were going with this: Tedeschi Trucks, Government Mule, The Allman Brothers, The Black Crowes, Little Feat, and Marcus King, just to name a few.
I thought I’d be the most picky of the bunch with Chip a close second, but let me tell you, Trey Walker may have the best ear I have ever heard out of a drummer. There is just no way this album would sound the way it does without his input. We went back and forth with Scavone on several versions to create the best recording we could. There was nothing really major that we needed to tweak, but there were definitely some things we wanted to change. I asked Scavone to come over to my place and listen to the mixes on my system. I did that mainly because I own an audio/video company and have speakers all over my house, even though I don’t have anything close to what you’ll find in most studios. I felt like it would give him a fresh outlook as well to listen in a 5.1 surround room, through 8.5 inch speakers, through 6 inch speakers, and through outdoor box speakers, which he liked the most.
From there I was able to sit with him and discuss what I was hearing and not hearing and how to best tackle it, which I think he found really helpful. I told the guys I was willing to give one more full day in the studio to Scavone, and they needed to send me ALL changes they wanted in an email or Google doc. They all sent their ideas to me and we shared our thoughts with Scavone the next day. I told the guys we didn’t have a $250,000 budget so they better get right with the next mix, because I was ready to move on to mastering. I knew we could nitpick this damn thing to death and I didn’t want that. However, Scavone did let us know that we didn’t want to have to fix shit in the mastering process, so it behooved us all to get this as close to perfect as we could then. Well, let me tell you, we didn’t have to work too hard to get right with it, because what Scovone delivered was EVERYTHING we’d asked for.
Mastering is the final step of audio post-production and this is a pretty good definition:
“The purpose of mastering is to balance the sonic elements of a stereo mix and optimize playback across all systems and media formats. Traditionally, mastering is done using tools like equalization, compression, limiting, and stereo enhancement.”
Earlier in the process I’d asked Scavone whom he had in mind for mastering. He said he had a few people he used depending on the type of band, but after hearing us he felt Dave Harris at Studio B Mastering would be a perfect fit. I’d had a horrible experience with the mastering on the first album I did, so I was a bit worried about whom we chose, however by this time ALL of my trust was in Scavone because there wasn’t a single time this man steered us the wrong way. He sent an email and copied Dave for an introduction. It turned out that Trey knew him but they hadn’t spoken in years. I put Trey and Dave in touch and asked Trey whether he was comfortable handling this part of the process. He is the most recorded member of the band and has the best ear, and I believed he knew exactly what we all wanted it to sound like.
Trey and Dave did not disappoint. When we got the mastered version we were all floored and couldn’t have been happier. The album was FINISHED and it turned out WAY better than any of us could have imagined when we walked into the studio for the first time with roughly 10 rehearsals and only two shows under our belt. I’m not saying we’re going to win a Grammy but we all agreed it was the best thing we had EVER done musically.