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Volume 1, Number 6, September 2003
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Analog Dialog: Come Away With Jay Newland
Norah Jones’ Engineer Talks About Music and UA

Jay Newland
Tricks of the masters. Wouldn’t you like to know recording secrets of the Grammy winning Engineer Jay Newland? Or find out what trick he stole from legendary Engineer Andy Johns? I’ll get to that, but first let’s talk about the music…

“I think it was a breath of fresh air for people. It was just the right thing at the right time. She sings great. She doesn’t over sing, she doesn’t over play. She’s very genuine; and she’s very genuine with her band. You could really feel the magic in the session, we knew we had something.” Jay Newland is talking about Norah Jones. Her debut album, “Come Away with Me” won a staggering 5 Grammys—including Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Jay Newland, as engineer, went on stage to receive Best Engineered Album Non Classical, his second Grammy.

“The LA-2A for me is sort of a default that I always go to. It always works great.”

Newland is quite humble about winning over such idols at Al Schmidt and Elliot Scheiner. “Al and Elliot are two guys that I’ve always admired and listened to their records for enjoyment, listened to their production thinking wow, how did they do that. It was thrilling and shocking at the same time.”

Jay comes to engineering as a musician, having studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. He landed in New York and got a job delivering tapes for a jingle company, Howard Schwartz Recording. He worked his way up the ladder from there. Newland’s credits are impeccable; he worked with some of the finest Latin, Jazz and Blues musicians in New York including Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny (another Grammy), Junior Wells, Etta James, Lucky Petersen and more.

Newland owns two 1176s, two LA-3As and a 6176 which he came to pick up at the factory when he was in California on vacation. “Everybody was so nice, really great people. Here’s gear that’s for making records that’s made in the states by really cool people. How great is that? You walk around the office and there are surfboards and bicycles. I’m sure that the vibe of the people building this stuff and thinking this stuff up is part of the reason it works so well. It’s simple, time-tested stuff.”

The single from the Norah Jones record “Come Away With Me” was actually a demo track that was cut in a small live room at Sorcerer Sound, with the entire band live. It was recorded with a Neumann M49 Mic thru a Manley pre amp and Vari-Mu compressor limiter. Newland used LA-2A compression very subtly on the vocal in the mix. “The LA-2A for me is sort of a default that I always go to. It always works great. I’m just getting into using the 1176 more for more of that in your face vocals. For the jazz stuff, the transparency of the LA-2A is sometimes nicer.”

This was Newland’s first project with producer Arif Mardin. “What an unbelievably great guy, I learned so much from him about the essential elements. It’s not about bells and whistles; it’s about getting to the core of what it is we have. “ They’ll be going back in the studio with Norah in October.

Newland prefers to record to analog tape if the budget allows it. At home he sometimes uses Pro Tools but mixes on a vintage Neve broadcast console and always uses his LA-3s and 1176s to “add a little of the color before it hits the digital.”

Newland has a special technique he likes to use when recording drums. “I’ll always place one big mike, like a U47 (Neumann) or a ribbon mic such as a Coles or Royer, five or six feet in front of the drum. I try to get whole drum set to sound good thru that mic and then put it thru an 1176. That’s the secret weapon track. The 1176 compresses and makes it sound bigger and more present and a lot more exciting without having to crush it. I just it give a healthy 3-5db compression and turn up the gain a little bit – it sounds great! If I have that mono track, where the whole drum kit sounds balanced, then I can build a decent drum sound with whatever else I have.

Or yeah, and what’s the technique that Newland stole from Andy Johns? Well he didn’t really steal it, it was published in the April Webzine and Newland recently tried it on a session in Paris. “Putting two 1176s in series and cranking up the gain on one and this distortion thing happens. We did this on bass track and it made the song, it was great!”

--Interview by Marsha Vdovin

More Info:
Grammy Awards
Norah Jones: Come Away With Me
Sorcerer Sound

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