Go Behind The Scenes with Jill Barber In The Studio


What was your pre-production like on this project?

Jill: Our production approach was always to make decisions about how to best serve the song regardless of style or genre. If the song shines then the production shines. We also did a lot of pre-production workshopping sessions with the band before we entered the studio.

How did you choose the studio? 

Jill: I recorded my last album Chansons at Noble Street Studio in the heart of Parkdale, Toronto, so there is a comfort and confidence there. The facilities are excellent, comfortable and the staff are pros.  Justin Bieber had been in to record a track the day before us.  Not that that had in bearing on our decision.  But I did request to use the same pop shield as him just for fun.


What kind of sound were you looking for and how did you achieve it? 

From producer Drew Jurecka: In terms of arrangement, our goal was to find a sound that felt classic, and yet simultaneously new and original.  We struggled a lot with instrumentation, harmony and feel to make this come together.

As for recording, I always try to use a microphone choice and placement that sounds the most like I envision the instrument to sound in my mind as it relates to the song. Sometimes that means close-mic’ing a violin with a vintage tube mic (such as the saturated strings in “Lucky in Love”) and sometimes it means using modern mics and more conventional mic techniques to accurately reproduce the sound without as much coloration.

Producer and mixing engineer Les Cooper: It was a fun challenge to find a way to make the material feel larger-than-life and enveloping and still retain a sense of natural space and dynamics.  From a mixing perspective, I really leaned away from using compression or EQ. Those tools are, of course, used but are used extremely sparsely.   The focus was on arrangement and position in space, whether that was through panning, use of reverb/delay, or volume.   I worked hard to keep the sounds as natural as possible. The Bricasti M7 Reverb was essential in creating this sound.  It has an uncanny ability to simulate real spaces while staying out of the way.   Aside from the Bricasti, most ambience is achieved through the use of room mics and short delays.  The Moog 500 series delays played an important role in these mixes, too.


How does it compare to your last release in terms of style and the creative process?

Jill: My last record was a French covers record, and I worked closely with a vocal coach to master my pronunciation. Whereas Fool’s Gold is an original record, so the goal was mainly to sell the emotion in each song, which for me is a challenge in studio. It helped to work with producers who are also bandmates.  They know what I am capable of live and tried to bring some of that energy into the studio environment.

Les: My hope is that every album that an artist does represents how he/she is seeing and hearing things at that point in time.  We spent a lot of time having conversations about this well before the actual pre-production or recording process began.  The most essential stage was the writing process, of course, but things really started to take shape when we had a real band in the room with everyone throwing ideas into the pool.

Did you use any special gear or recording techniques on this one?

Drew: We had some fun playing with mic placement, some great vintage Neumanns, modern ribbon mics and other toys.

Les: A lot of room mics were featured on this recording.  A lot of credit should go to the fantastic staff at Noble Street and to our engineer, L Stu Young.

What was your philosophy on live, full-band takes versus individual tracking?

Drew: Almost all of the bed tracks were recorded live at Noble.  The rest of the parts (additional guitar, sidemen, strings, horns, vocals) were all tracked individually or in small groups as overdubs.  This was less of a philosophical and more of a logistical consideration, though there is something fun about having the freedom to play around with bed tracks and try various arrangement options before deciding on a direction. Tracking gives you that freedom, though at the danger of losing the excitement and vibe of a big session with all of the players in the same room.

What did you try to accomplish in the studio that you’re not able to do live?

Drew: Breadth of arrangement.  When we perform live, we’re limited to the smaller touring band.  Studio albums are our chance to go nuts and fully flesh out the songs. Sometimes that means full strings, horns, vibes, and a partridge in a pear tree. Sometimes it’s just solo partridge.  Either way, it’s nice to feel the freedom to make decisions on whatever scope we feel serves the material best.

Any funny stories from the session that you’ll be telling for a while? 

Jill: My infant son was six months old while I was recording this record so I was nursing him a lot throughout the recording process. Sometimes the whole band could hear the sloppy sucking noises of him suckling in the vocal booth through their headphones and wonder where the noise was coming from. We needed a breastfeeding mute button.


How did you handle final mixing and mastering? 

Les:  Mixing was more about arrangement than gear.   I kept the use of compression and EQ to a minimum where possible.   Everything is mixed LCR (left, center, right) and through the use of room mics, the Bricasti M7 and analog delay with the Moog 500 series, I did my best to create a natural sounding space that felt like everybody was in the same room.

What are your release plans?

Jill: Fool’s Gold came out in the States on August 26th.  It was released earlier in Canada on June 24th. It will also be available in vinyl.

LISTEN NOW at jillbarber.com and follow on Twitter @jillbarber.

Artist: Jill Barber
Album: Fool’s Gold
Recording Studios: Noble Street Studio/Small Dog Sound, Toronto, ON
Record Label: Outside Music
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Produced by: Les Cooper and Drew Jurecka
Engineered by: L. Stu Young and Drew Jurecka
Mastered by: Gavin Lurssen

-Klaus Heyne modified Neumann U67 on vocals, through a Crane Song Falcon compressor and BAE 1073 pre.
-Vintage Neumann KM54 microphones on violins and guitar.
-Bricasti M7 Reverb was essential to the sound and creating realistic sounding spaces for mix.

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