Digital Discourse: Kathie Talbot's American Success Story
Many of us are slaving away at day jobs and spending nights and weekends making music. The idea of creative fulfillment seems like an unreachable dream. Kathie Talbot is someone who reached the dream. She makes a living as composer in LA doing mainly commercials and film trailers. And she does it all in the computer with a minimal amount of gear - one of which, of course is the Universal Audio UAD-1.
Kathie's work has an incredible sense of rhythm and timing and she has a way with the sixty seconds. A friend has suggested that her experience as a theater actress has given her an innate ability to bring a beginning, middle and end to her pieces.
Kathie definitely has music in her blood, a childhood in Puerto Rico is apparent in her mastery of Latin Jazz and Bossa Nova grooves. One of her aunts was a famous Latin club singer in LA in the forties. But despite this, Kathie pursued a career as an actress in musical theater for years. At one point in the mid-nineties she had dance single that was hit of the week in Billboard. She started singing for composers and music houses in LA.
"I was so intrigued by the equipment. I liked the smell of the studio. I hated feeling like a hired hand and I remember this one composer saying 'wow, you're a good hang.' I wouldn't interfere, I would just hang out and watch the process. I was really tired of writing music with other people and dealing with their demons. I wanted to move forward."
"My favorite processor is the LA-2A. It is especially beautiful on vocals and drums - especially kicks. I love using it on vocals because it creates a combination of warmth and an illusion of the vocal popping out."
Move forward she did-- In '98 despite the fact that she had never used a computer, Kathie saved up and bought her first Mac. Such a success story! She is now a sought after working composer in LA.
"How I made the transition was interesting, I was singing for different people and I started asking them if I could do a demo on spec for various commercials. People just started giving me shots and eventually I started getting hired as a composer. The funny thing is that they think of my singing as a secondary thing. It's turned around. I think I've enjoyed this more than anything I've ever done in my entire life. If I could do it over, I would have started out composing."
Kathie's current set-up is Apple G5, dual 2.0 mg computer loaded with Logic Audio, Propellerheads' Reason, Ableton Live and the Universal Audio UAD-1 card. She used to mix on a Yamaha O1V but now she mixes everything within Logic. She has two sets of monitors, the V8s from KRK and Studiophiles from M-Audio.
"I use the KRK's and Studiophiles in tandem and separately. The Studiophiles are a bit more "high end" sounding and the KRK's have more warmth. The Studiophiles are generally the best test for music that would be used in television and film. Those mediums often cancel out bass, therefore the Studiophiles are a good gauge."
"My favorite processor is the LA-2A. It is especially beautiful on vocals and drums - especially kicks. I love using it on vocals because it creates a combination of warmth and an illusion of the vocal popping out. I also love the compressor/gate on a vocal - it gives a very interesting sibyls."
Kathie gave us some insight on how she used the UAD-1 on one of her projects. This song "MY LIFE" is part of a project she's currently working on with Clarence Clemons (sax player in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band). Known as a rock and roller, she's trying to bring an electronic/ambient/groove with his hooks and deep, resonate speaking voice.
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"The UAD-1 processors are implemented as I'm working to create a sound. Other live players were involved on this track and because they came in for their sessions at separate times, this was an interesting challenge to contend with since I work mostly alone and usually vocals only. The violinist, Athena, had a very consistent sound so I used some REAL VERB PRO on her. The settings on this were "Big Ambience" for the overall, a combination of "Big Cement Room" and "Sparkling Hall", the materials window are a combination of the air and hardwood floor settings and I used the A-frame style for shaping. I also stretched the timing factor on the bottom window to give it a touch more of the spacey feel. REAL VERB PRO is also on Clarence's sax with completely different settings. I wanted a combination of intimacy and space so the morphing window has him in a jazz club with a touch of slapback, the overall is the "Jazz Club" preset as well, the shape is a combination of mostly fan and some cube effect, the materials window is 52% seats and 48% drapes, and then again for a touch of the spacey feel, the bottom timing window is -3.6 db, 4.8 ms, 0.0 db, 12 ms and 3.5s, so it's stretched out just a tad for him. The LA2A was used on the main keys sound, Logic Audio's EVP88 on the compressor settings moving the gain up a tad to "pop" out the sonics. The EX-1 was used on some of
the peripheral violin parts and what I did there was concentrate on some of the high end area because my room seemed to create a resonance that brought out a bass like sonic on that instrument and although I love "mistakes", this was one that wasn't working for me. The LA2A is probably my favorite, although all of these UAD-1 sonic enhancers are wonderful. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to create such a high end sound with this product and look forward to years of creating with the tools of the masters at Universal Audio."
Check out more of Kathie's work at