Steve Jordan Q&A


Steve Jordan has had home studio setups since the days of reel-to-reel, but now works with a Pro Tools system.

© Banks

Steve Jordan has had a lengthy and successful career. He currently plays with John Mayer (he was the musical director for his recent tour), and he has performed with Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Robert Cray, Stevie Wonder, Keith Richards, and the Saturday Night Live Band, among many others. As a producer, Jordan has also worked with Mayer, as well as Cray, Buddy Guy, Herbie Hancock, and more. Jordan is a devotee of recording, and he is equally comfortable in the commercial studio or in his home setup. In addition to his outside projects, Jordan and his wife, singer/songwriter/guitarist Meegan Voss, have their own band, The Verbs. I spoke to Jordan recently about his interest in production and recording.

Is your career pretty split between producing and playing, or is it more producing these days?
Most of the time when I''m producing, I''m usually playing on the project—about 80 to 90 percent of the time.

Creatively, do you enjoy producing more?
I love producing. I''ll always enjoy working in the recording studio. Meegan and I have a recording studio in our home. We set up recording studios anywhere we stay for any length of time. If we''re in a place more than a week, we''re setting up a studio.

A laptop-based environment?
Yes. Ever since I was a teenager, I just loved the art of recording. I''ve been into recording since basically the reel-to-reel days. Even when I was a little kid and I took a reel-to-reel tape that I recorded in the first band that I was in down to Manhattan and had it pressed into a lacquer. I started really getting into engineering when the TEAC 4-track cassette machine came out. I had a couple of them, and I ran them in tandem, bounced from machine to machine, and really got into it.

I got some pretty good sounds, and that''s when I really started experimenting recording myself, becoming an engineer, as opposed to being dependent. I knew that to be independent, I was going to have to learn how to get a sound, especially my sound when I wanted to have a more open drum sound. And it was right at the time when everything was really isolated and dead and everything like that. The sound that I liked was kind of different from the norm, so I knew that I would have to try to learn how to do it myself to convey what I was trying to get across.

I guess you probably worked your way through the various types of recorders as technology was changing: ADATs or DA-88s, and then into a DAW.
Exactly. I hung with the ADATs awhile. And I loved the first crop of ADATs rather than the newer ADATs; I thought they sounded better.

The 16-bit ones?

What DAW do you use?
I just use [Digidesign] Pro Tools now. I made that decision years ago—that was what was going to have to happen. I''d love to still work on 2-inch analog tape, but times have changed. [Laughs.]

When you''re traveling and you have your portable system going, do you have an HD system or LE?
I have Pro Tools in my laptop. Depending on where I am, if I can get a little HD thing happening, I will. If not, it''s just LE. And I grab some mic pres.

Mics and mic pres are the key to getting a good sound, don''t you think?
Absolutely. My thing is that I''ve never been all-digital, never. I''ve always gone through tubes before I hit digital to ensure the sound that I wanted to achieve. That''s always been the thing; it''s your chain.

What kind of drum-miking setup do you typically use for your kit?
It varies. Anything from a close-mike thing to kind of a Glyn Johns kind of thing. So I can go from three mics to whatever.

When you do the three-mic setup, would that be one on the kick and two overhead?
That''s one way of doing it, and then there''s the triangle thing, where there''s one out in front, and one close to the floor tom at a certain angle, and one behind. There are various things; it really depends on the room.

Mike Levine is EM''s editor and senior media producer.