“Jon is really coming into his own as a songwriter,” says musician/producer Mitchell Froom. “That’s when a producer gets happy—when you get to work at a really good time in an artist’s life musically,” Froom has helped loads of artists during great creative periods; Crowded House, Randy Newman, and Elvis Costello are examples. Recently, Froom and his go-to engineer, David Boucher, hosted sessions for musician/songwriter Jon Regen’s new release, Stop Time (Motéma).
Regen’s warmth and style on this album are most reminiscent of ’70s Randy Newman plus New Orleans jazz, with the occasional cool synth atmosphere added by Froom. “We began a dialogue that involved a lot of preproduction before we went into the studio,” Regen explains. “I cut demos to a click into the Apogee Symphony system in my apartment in New York City, and sent them to Mitchell, and he’d add chords, rhythm ideas.”
Froom’s private studio, affectionately dubbed “House of Nuts” for Regen’s album, houses the producer’s vast collection of keyboards and synths, a Yamaha C6 grand piano, and extensive studio gear.
Basic tracking went down live with Regen singing and playing piano accompanied by drummer Pete Thomas and bass player Davey Faragher from Costello’s band, The Imposters. “Before they came in, I made up rough arrangements with fake bass, drums, and organ, so they could hear the general feeling I was after,” Froom says. “When they came in, it was just what I was hoping for—as if Jon had this incredible live band that really knew him.”
All isolation rooms at House of Nuts have plate-glass doors, giving the musicians excellent sight lines. “If you look right down the strings of the piano from the player’s position, you see right into the booth that holds the drum set,” says Boucher, a recent Grammy winner for his engineering work on the Frozen soundtrack. “So they were just locked together, Jon and Pete.”
Boucher recorded and mixed everything with Apogee’s Symphony I/O system to Pro Tools HD. An essential element of the drum sound was the use of “more distant overheads—Shure 300 ribbons,” Boucher says. “They make the drums sound like they are in a bigger room. The booth is quite small, but these mics take manipulation well, and you can design an imaginary room that works for the song.”
Boucher captured Faragher’s bass with a Tonecraft 363 tube DI. “It’s modeled on the front end of an Ampeg B15 amp,” Boucher says.
On the piano, a pair of KM254 microphones fed into one of Boucher’s favorite flea market finds: “I use these German broadcast mic pre’s called EAB 3E1m’s; my tech found them at the Rose Bowl swap meet. They’re full channel strips with dual parallel transformer-based outputs. They’ve got some mild EQ on them, and big old faders so you can get your gain settings just right.”
Regen’s vocal mic was a Neumann U47 with its own history: “I had always wanted to own one, but they’re expensive,” Regen says. “[Producer] John Porter had a U47 that he had used at Cello Recorders in L.A., and then in his studio in New Orleans. It had come out of John Lennon’s studio in Tittenhurst Park [Berkshire, UK]. When John [Porter] sold some of his studio gear and moved back to England, he let me buy the John Lennon mic. I brought it out to L.A. and Mitchell liked the way it sounded; we ended up using it on every tune.
“The great thing about working with Mitchell is he’s very opinionated, but in a kind way,” Regen continues. “When I think about the incredible elegance and beauty of the recording’s he’s made, I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with him. I’m extremely proud of this album, and Mitchell’s involvement is a huge reason why.”