Photo by Danny Clinch
Ben Harper’s engineer, Sheldon Gomberg, shares more details about the making of Get Up!.
How did you start working with Ben Harper?
I had worked on Rickie Lee Jones’ album Balm in Gilead and I met Peter Wark who’s one of her managers. Peter is also Joseph Arthur’s manager, and he brought Joseph to me to do a record, and that ended up being Fistful of Mercy, which was Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison along with Joseph. That was a few years ago, and that’s when I met Ben and started working with him, and we got along great.
What was your general approach to miking these sessions?We treated it like miking the room. Ben and I both said, “I want to go for minimal miking.” So, we ended up using three room mics: a mono, and a stereo pair, but I also wanted to put spot mics on everything just in case I needed reinforcement, which of course we ended up using a bit.
What did you and Ben discuss in terms of that off-mic vocal approach?For the most part we were going for some distance so we would get a roomy sound. A lot of times we would place a second mic at a distance in the room just to pick up an ambience, and it really captured it. It sounds like those old blues records.
Can you describe the layout of the room and where the musicians were situated?There aren’t really any real corners in the room, per se, but the drums [Jordan Richardson] were back in the “corner,” and the bass [Jesse Ingalls] was off to the left [if you're facing the drums], and the guitar [Jason Mozersky] was to the right. Ben was sort of in the center, in the front, facing the band. Charlie was in a little booth for some isolation, though I don't think the door was closed. He was out in front of everybody and he could be looking at everybody.
What was it like working with Charlie Musselwhite?
Awesome. He’s a really nice guy, and he’s really funny. He’s really quick with the one-liners. He’s got the greatest attitude: Whatever happens, he just kinda rolls with it. As far as how he is as a musician, he’s fantastic. There’s that legendary sound. There he is. It was really great.
And working with Ben Harper?
Ben is the greatest to work with. We’re very simpatico. We have the same kind of sensibilities, which is nice, and that makes it fun for me, and easy for us to work together. He doesn’t overanalyze things. When it feels good, it is good. When it’s not right, it gets extra attention. But, hey, Ben always gets it right! He knows what he wants, but is also open to things. He graciously humors my two cents when I offer it . . . though he’s probably just patiently waiting for me to run out of pocket change, so he can get back to the business at hand!