5 Things I Learnt Working on Eleanor Brown’s Album. / by Simeon Smith

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I worked on this album with Eleanor recently. Now it’s out and you may have listened to it, I thought I’d write a process piece about how it got made.


  1. Coffee is good. Mate is good. Coffee then mate is how jobs get done. We were working on a pretty tight timescale, so started each day with coffee, mid-afternoon we’d switch to mate as it’s a bit less jitter-inducing when you start working into the night.
  2. Recording with Nige is about as good as life gets. I’m in this folk band with Nige called Captain Cat and the Sailors. Nige plays whistles and bodhran and didgeridoo, and generally makes everything sound better. Eleanor had him play on a couple of tracks, and it’s the first time I’ve recorded with him. He was just amazing in the studio. Once he’d left, his calm aura stuck around for the rest of the week.
  3. If your vocalist won’t stop moving around, make them sit on the floor. When you have a vocalist that really, really means it, sometimes they get passionate, and move around while singing. Recording it can be tricky, but the worst part is that when people move a lot their voice wobbles with every movement, and you can kind of hear it. Eleanor recorded some vocals standing up, and for some vocals she was relegated to the floor, sitting cross legged. 
  4. Djembe’s aren’t a bitch to record, if you have someone that knows how to play one and a tea tray. Yup. A tea tray. Usually percussion and hand drums are my worst nightmare, but I’ve found this is due to two factors. Firstly, most people that play percussion, aren’t that good. Luckily Eleanor isn’t most people. Secondly, it never quite sounds the same when you play it back as when you’re in the room, especially in most studio rooms which, like mine, are pretty dead. I sat the Djembe on a metal tray and caught the reflections with a second mic. It made for a much brighter and more realistic sound. 
  5. You can do a lot with what you’ve got, but sometimes you just need the right tool. Halfway through this album I upgraded my studio monitors, and boy that made a difference. I also acquired some lovely Nugen software just before the mix down. I’d love to tell you that you can get great results with any gear, and true, there are some amazing albums that have been recorded using crap equipment. That said, if there’s one lesson I’ve learnt from working in Andy’s studio (who has a beautiful array of plug-ins) is that nice gear really makes a difference in sound quality. There’s a lot of skill goes into great production, but there’s also a lot of knowing the right tool for the job. 

Photos shot to expired film on my Lomo LC-A. 

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