Engineer/producer Ryan Freeland (Bonnie Raitt, Ray LaMontagne, Carolina Chocolate Drops) is mixing an upcoming album for the Barr Brothers, an alt-rock band led by Brad and Andrew Barr. The project began at Mixart Studios, in the Barrs’ adoptive home of Montreal. Freeland packed a suitcase full of mics (Beyerdynamic M160s, Royer 122s, Neumann M49) and traveled from his home base in Southern California up to Canada.
“I like to have a lot of gear up and running,” Freeland says. “I used just about every piece of equipment they had or could borrow. Once you are set up, you can move quickly from song to song without pausing. The Barr Brothers are multi-instrumentalists; you never know who’s going to grab which instrument for any given song. I like to be prepared for all possibilities”
Working in Mixart’s Studio A, Freeland and the band put drums, bass, piano, organ, and pump organ in the main room, and a vocal- and acoustic guitar-recording setup in an adjacent booth. (Lead vocals were tracked through a Neumann U47 into a Neve 1073 and then a Summit TLA-100, into Pro Tools 10, while the acoustic was captured via a Neumann U67.) There was also a harp, which sat in the control room with Freeland; amps were miked up in the studio kitchen.
“I used baffles, blankets, and mic placement to get isolation when I needed it. I really like bleed between instruments as long as it’s pleasant and not creatively limiting,” says Freeland. He recorded the band live, and now he’s mixing and editing on the hybrid Pro Tools/analog outboard rig in his personal studio, Stampede Origin (ryanfreeland.com), while the band continues recording overdubs and reviewing takes in Montreal.
“A lot of what makes the Barr Brothers extraordinary are their arrangements and instrumentation,” Freeland says. “They start with a great song and approach the performance of that song in beautiful and unique ways. It can be tricky to mix, because the smallest shifts can have a profound effect on whether the mix is working or not. You need to focus on exactly how all of the parts interact and how to best get the song across.”