[For those of you who don’t know already about the talented New Orleans based jazz pianist David Torkanowsky, you are about to. Lucky for us, New Orleans is just an hour drive to the Southeast of Baton Rouge (where PreSonus is based out of).
We’re honored to have our relationship with David: not only is he a true master improvising musician from the city where Jazz was born, he is also in tune with the latest 21st century audio technology that helps artists actualize and share their sound to audiences world-wide.
Without any further ado, we’ll let him take it from here…]
I’m David Torkanowsky and I’ve been lucky to have grown up in New Orleans under the tutelage of Ellis Marsalis, Danny Barker, James Black, Al Hirt and other Smithsonian-level greats… too many to mention.
I’ve also toured and recorded with artists as different as Al Hirt and Al Jarreau, Boney James, and Joe Henderson. I’ve been M.D. for the great vocalist Dianne Reeves.
The touring and performance economic model for all musicians, regardless of genre, has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many artists, myself included, have navigated a sudden and steep learning curve regarding our social media presence. New Orleans has always tended toward the organic and away from the technical aspects of playing music, which I love… but that paradigm has proven to be a headwind as we move toward our new reality.
Posted by PreSonus Audio Electronics on Thursday, May 28, 2020
So, I’ve been producing, directing and playing in livestreams from The Bayou Bar at The Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans for the past month, with artists such as: Ivan Neville, Nigel Hall, The Tin Men, Zachary Richard, Meschiya Lake, Sasha Masakowski, Jason Marsalis, Herlin Riley, Davell Crawford, and jazz great Cyrille Aimée.
Many cats are teaching online, and many more are performing live. These live performances have completely replaced the in-person delivery of our art. Although, in many respects, it will never duplicate the transformative experience of being in the same space. The only way we can minimize this disparity is by presenting this content in the best possible way. Primarily, it has to sound good! Most of the streams that I’ve seen, some with world-class artists, don’t really touch me because they sound less than average. A solo acoustic instrument can sound just okay through an iPhone mic, but it’s never truly impactful. Add any other instruments, and you can just forget about it.
I’ve gotten a massive amount of feedback (the good kind!) from the listening public about how amazing these artists are sounding on these social media live broadcasts, and there’s one reason:
The PreSonus StudioLive 32SC. Their newest Series III S line of consoles are exactly what the doctor ordered to mix streamed performances. I’m using the 32SC, the powerful and compact member of the Series III family. The Fat Channel technology makes tweaking the impact of a particular instrument intuitive and fast. The EQ, Compression and digital FX are all super usable. It’s a game-changer. It’s one serious piece of gear!
[Incidentally, from now until Aug 31, 2020, anybody who buys a qualifying StudioLive Mixer will get a pair of Eris E7 monitors for free!]
[Jakubu Griffin is truly one of Las Vegas and NYC’s most versatile drummers. Son of trombonist Dick Griffin (who played with the legendary Rahsaan Roland Kirk), he has been surrounded by music from an early age. Growing up with many musical instruments and influences around him, he was always drawn to percussion and can remember playing the drums as early as age 3 or 4. He started studying classical piano at age 5, and later added the trumpet.
Jakubu has performed and led groups all over the world. While living in Las Vegas in the early 2000s, He was featured in David Cassidy and Sheena Easton’s “At The Copa” at the Rio Resort. After that, he was musical contractor and drummer on a show featuring Chaka Khan, Peabo Bryson, and Melissa Manchester called Signed, Sealed, Delivered: a Celebration of Stevie Wonder’s Music at the Venetian Resort.
Griffin has also been a musical director for Kings Productions, as well as Norwegian and Premier cruise lines. Back in the NYC area where he grew up, he has performed and recorded with award winning jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas, Ryko/Warner recording artist Matt White, and Broadway stars Tracie Thoms (Rent, Case) and Shoshana Bean (Wicked). Jakubu is currently playing with the legendary Las Vegas singer Clint Holmes. He was also the house drummer for Cirque Du Soleil’s production of Zarkana which premiered at NYC’s world famous Radio City Music Hall in June of 2011, moving on to Madrid, as well as having a historic run at the Kremlin Theater in Moscow in 2012. Jakubu’s powerful, yet very musical drumming reputation has been highly appreciated by many musicians and music lovers both here and abroad.
When not on the road, he’s kept busy at home recording and teaching. But, with the recent stay-at-home measures implemented due to COVID-19, working in his own studio has become his primary focus.
Jakubu has graciously given us a virtual “walk-through” of his home studio environment, where the StudioLive 24R is the centerpiece and his dedicated audio interface to his DAW of choice, Studio One. Let’s check out his setup and how he’s been using our products in action at home.]
Jakubu: My first audio interface was the PreSonus Studio 192 along with the DigiMax DP88. As a drummer, I need to have at least 8 channels dedicated to drums in my space at all times for my own use. With the Studio 192 and DP88 giving me 16 total channels and great preamps, I was able to stack them in a rack and run my 8 drum channels into the DP88 using the Studio 192 rear channels for my keyboards, bass, extra drum channels etc. and even leaving the 2 front channels open for a vocalist or instrument to plug right in. As my studio evolved, I graduated to the StudioLive 24R rack mixer, as well as the NSB 8.8 AVB Networked Stage Box to expand channel inputs in my other rooms. Since I don’t have the space for a console mixer on my workstation, the StudioLive 24R is the perfect solution for me with UC Control as my console. I use the HP60 for 6 stereo headphone mixes. With a router plus the network control via Wi-Fi of the StudioLive 24R, my clients have the option of using the QMix-UC app to control their own headphone mixes. The PreSonus Monitor Station allows me flexibility to switch between my different sets of of studio monitors and speakers, and also gives me 4 more headphone outputs if needed. I’ve used other DAWs, but I’m completely sold on Studio One Professional because it’s just more user/musician friendly. I understood more about using Studio One in 24 hours than I’ve learned on other DAWs after countless months of usage. I’m a musician first, not an engineer.
Jakubudrum Studios is my home as well as my recording space. I have three isolated rooms on one floor. I have eight CCTV cameras installed, and video monitors in every room for visual communication. My main “studio” room is my acoustically-treated drum and keyboard room, as well as my control booth. My living room is my large room and features my Baldwin L grand piano. My smaller acoustically-treated room is great for acoustic bass as well as other instruments, and it also serves as a vocal booth and isolated amp miking room. I’ve done several live recording sessions in the studio with different configurations ranging from solo piano to live strings… and various band sizes, genres, horn combinations, etc. I do a lot of drum and percussion tracking for projects myself, but I’ve also engineered tons of keyboard track layering sessions, instrument tracking sessions, vocal tracking, and my space is perfect for tracking bass and drums together. I record voice-overs as well, and I’m currently producing an audiobook session.
Now that I have the StudioLive 24R, I have the luxury of using 14 dedicated drum channels just for myself. I usually use two different sets of overhead mics simultaneously, another stereo room mic, and a subkick along with my normal kick, snare, hi hat, and tom mic combinations.
I also use seven channels for my keyboards, and a channel for my bass amp to run direct with a pre amp. I use the NSB 8.8 Stage Box in the other rooms to mic the piano, horns, strings, vocals, etc. I use the 12 outputs from the 24R mixer to sum 2 outputs to each of the 6 stereo inputs of the HP60 headphone amp and made them stereo mixes from UC Control. Again, I have a router connected to the 24R mixer and a network setup so people have the option of using QMix-UC to control their own headphone mixes. I have two sets of studio monitors, but I also have small PA for the keyboards, rehearsals, gigs etc. The monitor station is actually one of my favorite pieces of PreSonus gear to be honest. I love the versatility I have with 2 sets of monitors, but I even use the PA as a 3rd reference sometimes. The Monitor Stations onboard talkback routed through the HP60 is perfect for my setup, plus I’m the type of guy that just needs a big volume knob in my life since I don’t have a console.
So, funny story: I actually learned about PreSonus through another drummer, Dre Boyd, who is also an Artist with them. We both met and quickly became good friends working for the Cirque Du Soleil company. I finally had the space and needed an interface to start getting into recording and he highly recommended the Studio 192 and DP88. I’m an impulse buyer, but he told me to wait so he could “hook me up” with his representative at PreSonus. Well I’m impatient and went ahead with the purchase of the interfaces anyway. I was ecstatic, but then a couple weeks later Dre let me know that the PreSonus Artist Relations Manager was none other than my college buddy, Perry Tee… so I should have waited!!! Not only do I love the products, PreSonus reconnected me with an old friend, who happens to be on guitar in this video below that we produced remotely with 4 other buddies using Studio One Professional:
I love the power and versatility that I have with the StudioLive 24R mixer, especially for low-end instruments. Now I have the ability to mic an acoustic bass and get a warm, powerful tone without any need for a DI or outboard preamp. Its considerably better for my drum miking as well. I get better headphone mixes, and I have plenty of room and power to hear my kick drum perfectly which can be a problem in regular interfaces without external pre amps. The ability to control mixes across Wi-Fi is a true bonus allowing my clients the flexibility to control their own mixes with QMix-UC. The HP60 is a great solution for my headphone needs with 6 channels, and stereo mixes plus the Monitor Station is one of my favorite additions to the studio, and has made my work flow much smoother and faster. The onboard talkback is perfect for my space. Studio One is absolutely the best DAW available, in my opinion. I know has everything I could possibly need for my studio. Everything in my setup works seamlessly. I couldn’t be more satisfied with the sounds, and results I get with my gear.
Every piece of gear is perfectly matched and catered to the needs of my workflow and studio ecosystem… thank you, PreSonus!
[Incidentally, from now until Aug 31, 2020, anybody who buys a qualifying StudioLive Rack Mixer will get a PX-1 microphone for free!]
Songs like “Suddenly Last Summer” and “Only the Lonely” were Top 10 hits that remain on playlists to this day, but her varied (and ongoing) career includes solo albums, an acting stint in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” creating music for several films (including “Moscow on the Hudson,” “Teachers,” “The Golden Child, and her “Soul Man” duet with Sly Stone), and working in theater. She still tours—at least when there’s not a pandemic—and amazingly, her voice is better than it was in the 80s. But, it took Studio One’ Project Page to bring a solo album back to life that had been all but written off ten years ago.
The collection of songs on “I Have My Standards” (Fig. 1) was meant to be an album of jazz standards, with orchestration—but the twist was that Martha had written the “standards.” She cut a demo album with longtime musical collaborator Marty Jourard (piano, tenor sax), Allen Hunter (bass), Paul Pulvirente (drums), and Felix Mercer (clarinet). However, the budget to do the orchestration never materialized, and the record was never finished.
When Martha found out I did mastering, she mentioned “the album that never was” and being curious, I asked to listen to it. I was floored. The songs were deep, the vocals flawless, and the instrumentation excellent. I heard the lack of orchestration as an advantage because the sparse, emotional treatments were compelling in themselves.
Except…being a demo, there were technical problems. Among other issues, the acoustic bass overpowered the song on some of the demos, the mic had a boxy quality that was no friend to Martha’s voice, and there were mix and level issues that resulted in a lack of clarity. I asked if she could locate the multitracks so I could remix before mastering, yet no one had any idea where they were. Oh, and the project had to be mastered for vinyl—she wanted to put it out on 180-gram vinyl for her nascent record label, Remarkable Records.
Fortunately, the songs were recorded with the same basic setup. Although I’m usually not a fan of “one size fits all” mastering chains, in this case, there weren’t too many variations among the songs (Fig. 2).
The Splitter separated the frequencies below 178 Hz from the rest of the audio. With vinyl, bass needs to be centered, and the dynamics need to be controlled—hence the Limiter, and the Dual Pan. with both left and right channels set to center.
Another reason for the Splitter was that in some songs, the acoustic bass overpowered the mix. Note the fader at the end of the Dual Pan, set to -9.0 dB to help keep the bass under control. This setting worked for most of the songs but for one of them, I had to pull the level down by -13.8 dB to get the right balance. The frequency splitting was crucial.
For the rest of the audio, EQ was by far the most important process. Fig. 3 shows the setting that was used on most of the songs. Remember that the RIAA curve for vinyl (which boosts treble massively on the vinyl, then cuts it on playback) isn’t a fan of high frequencies, so the highs were often cut on vinyl masters. Although the steep high-cut filter wasn’t needed on all the songs, when necessary this gave a sound that was more consistent with vinyl records.
The substantial dip at 625 removed the muffled quality by making the highs more prominent. The dips at 2.72 and 3.06 kHz were tricky—they were essential in removing a resonance on Martha’s voice that took away from of the openness and intimacy. Almost all the songs needed the dip at 8 kHz, where treble energy from recording the individual tracks “bunched up.” Bass wasn’t an issue, because the split took care of that.
The Binaural pan was set between 124% and 137%, depending on the song. This mainly had the effect of spreading out the reverb more than the instruments, which enveloped the sound in an ambiance it didn’t have otherwise. This also moved the reverb a bit out of the center, so there could be more focus on the voice.
Finally, I’m not much of a believer in “special sauce” processors, but the Scheps Parallel Particles from Waves was ideal (Fig. 4).
After taming the highs to accommodate vinyl mastering, I wanted to restore a perception of high frequencies. Adding a significant amount of the Air parameter, with just a touch of Thick and Bite for a little more midrange presence, did exactly what was needed.
I was aiming for a LUFS of -12. This was a bit of a compromise between vinyl and streaming. A little compression would make it easier for the vinyl cutter to optimize the levels for vinyl, and besides, being a little “hotter” than the typical streaming target of -14 LUFS was fine. For the last stage of dynamics control, I used IK Multimedia’s Stealth Limiter (which is designed for mastering), in the Project Page’s Post slot. It’s a transparent but CPU-intensive plug-in, hence using only one instance as the final limiter. The songs were the levels I wanted, so they needed only very slight tweaks to hit the Stealth Limiter a little harder or softer to reach the -12 LUFS goal.
It was easy to generate timings from the Project Page, so that those cutting the vinyl would know where to put the bands between cuts…and we were on our way. The vinyl hits the world in August (available from themotels.com and specialty record stores). The digital release is available now on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Amazon Disk on Demand, and you can hear it on Pandora, Shazam, iHeart Radio, and YouTube Music. Most of these have ways to preview the songs, and I think it’s well worth following some of the links to check out music that sounds like it’s frozen in time, yet curiously modern.
I checked out some of the customer reviews on Amazon. While they’re all over-the-top about Martha’s voice and songs, as you might expect my favorite is the one that said “The album is mastered in such a way that you would think that Martha Davis is actually in the same room with you.” Mission accomplished (Fig. 5)!
And that’s why we’re excited to share the next episode of River City Sessions. This month, we’re sharing an original song titled “Papi Chulo,” by South Louisiana natives Sydney and The SAMS. Read more about the band, the song, and how it was recorded below.
Give us some background on yourself and the band. How long have you guys been making music?
We have been a band surprisingly for less than a year! I think we have a natural friendship and chemistry that makes people think that we’ve been together for years.
“Papi Chulo” Such a great song! Can you tell us when you wrote it? What’s the inspiration?
“Papi Chulo” was actually the first song I ever wrote! I (Sydney) recorded three years ago when I first started making music. When we got together as a band, we started incorporating some of my originals into our sets and this song became an instant hit with our fans.“Papi Chulo” is about liking a guy and wanting to hang out and smoke. It was actually about a guy I liked at the time and all we did was hang out in the car and talk.
Does writing a melody come naturally to you?
It depends. The beat has to be catchy. I have to find the melody and it kinda has to come to me. If I don’t feel it in a few minutes, I usually move on.
Where do your ideas for songs come from?
All my music comes from personal experiences. I feel like songwriting is therapy to me. The fact that it’s relatable to listeners is just extra. It feels good to know my lyric is relatable and people have been in the same positions as me and felt like I’ve felt at some point. That’s the point of music; to touch people in some way whether it be a happy emotion or a sad one.
Can you describe the first time you wrote a song?
I found this cool beat on YouTube and just started writing. It’s always something I’ve wanted to do but never really tried to do. One day I was like, “whatever, I’ll try.” I did a rough record on my phone and sent to NJ (my engineer) and told him “If this sucks, tell me. If not, I wanna book a session.” And it’s been history ever since.
Do you prefer performing your own music or covers? What’s the difference?
I enjoy both because even when we do covers, we always put our own little spin on it or rearrange it so it’s more our own. We also do medleys with our originals to kinda bring the crowd back and make them interact with us. Ultimately it’s about having a good time and making sure the crowd has an amazing, memorable time.
How has the Coronavirus affected your music?
We used to gig so much and it really put all our gigging and traveling at a complete halt. At first it was creatively discouraging but we decided to virtual concerts to continue to perform and connect with our fans in a different way. People really loved them and received it really well. Livestreaming is a way for us to reconnect and stay fresh. It also gave us time to finish our EP which will be released this July!
Now that the coronavirus has thrown a wrench in everything, What do you miss most about performing live?
I miss having fun with the crowds mostly. Dancing and singing with them was the most fun part of it all. As a concertgoer, that was my most memorable time and now as an entertainer, I want every person in the room dancing and having an amazing time! I hope we do that every time.
Do you plan on doing any live streams?
We’ve done two live-stream virtual concerts. We’ll be live streaming our EP release concert and party as well. So y’all join the fun!
Last month, we had the opportunity to sponsor an event called “Band Together NOLA” for a virtual, live-streamed festival with more than 20 acts!
PJ Morton, Tank and the Bangas, Jon Cleary and more New Orleans’ musical heavy hitters played an online benefit festival to raise relief funds for the city’s musicians who have been out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, over $40,000 has been raised!
The Band Together virtual festival also featured Ivan Neville, Kermit Ruffins, Galactic’s Stanton Moore, Nigel Hall, Cupid, Dawn Richard, Water Seed, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Sean Ardoin, Flow Tribe, Glen David Andrews, Hasizzle, Shane Theriot, Elizabeth Lyons, Fermin Ceballo, Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes, Kelly Love Jones, LeTrainiump, and Caren Green.
Our friend, Steve Himelfarb, was the engineer for six of the acts using a StudioLive 32 and Studio One Professional. We took some time to talk about his experience with the live stream and his career.
Our interview with Steve follows.
Tell us about Band Together NOLA. How did it come to be? What was your role?
New Orleans is known for its tourism, food, and of course live music. The pandemic has put much of that to a halt which has left musicians our of work. The Band Together Online Benefit Concert took place on April 25 and helped New Orleans musicians whose livelihoods have been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am a part of multiple non-profits, and serving the community has always been something that I strive to do no matter where I live or what job I have. I was approached with the opportunity to participate with Lou Hill and Kermit Ruffins, it was a no-brainer. I was in!
Sounds like a huge undertaking. Did you know what you were getting into before you got started?
Yes and no. I had taken a break from the audio industry to focus on several other projects. Three years ago, my childhood friend, Tori Amos, had a show in New Orleans. From the stage, she says, “I’d like to thank the person responsible for me being here… Thank you Steve!” From that moment on, I knew I wanted to get back into recording and producing music and saying “Yes” to whatever opportunities came my way. Getting back into audio after a 20-year hiatus was like learning a whole new language that sounded familiar. Everything was the same but what changed was the technology. So, yes, it did seem like a huge undertaking but I was up and willing for the challenge.
We used a PreSonus StudioLive 32, multiple PX-1 mics and Studio One Professional, of course.
After watching the live stream, it looks like you recorded in multiple locations. How challenging was it recording in multiple locations?
We recorded six bands, all on the fly. Each band did a few songs, then we had a soundcheck for the next band all while doing our best to keep social distance guidelines. It was super hectic and everything was happening so fast. The onboard EQ and limiters on the 32 were AMAZING! We had no problem at all. This was very important and there was no room for a hiccup because everything was moving so fast. Once one band left, we had to wash down the stage and all the cables and mics to get ready for the next band to arrive. With the StudioLive 32, it was really a best-case scenario. Set up was easy, no distortion at all, the mixes sounded great.
What’s something you learned about live streaming?
With these harsh conditions and because everything is happening so fast, you have to be able to trust the gear you’re using. Be prepared, make sure the equipment is working, and use PreSonus.
Last November our friends Molly and Denton got hitched! A few days before their wedding, they stopped by River City Studios to record another River City Session. They recorded an original song titled “Bartending” written by Molly Taylor. Thank you, Molly and Denton for taking the time out of your busy week to join us and share your song. Read more about Molly and Denton’s track below and learn how audio engineer Wesley DeVore, recorded the song.
Give us some background on yourself. How long have you guys been making music?
We have been writing and performing our own music separately for over 15 years now. We started performing together about 2 years ago and we got hitched last November!
“Bartending!” Such a great jam! Can you tell us when you wrote it? What’s the inspiration?
Molly wrote the song because she worked as a bartender for 10 years! If you ever stopped by a bar in Baton Rouge, chances are Molly’s served you!
Does writing a melody come naturally to you?
Writing music is something that comes naturally to Denton and I. We are both individual songwriters with different ways of writing a song. It’s interesting and fun to connect and work with a partner to create a song that you both feel great about.
Do you prefer performing your own music or covers? What’s the difference?
We definitely love performing our own music but we love doing a good cover of a great oldie as well!
How has the Coronavirus affected your craft?
Due to restrictions in place because of Covid-19, we’ve had to cancel over 30 shows for us so far so it has affected us big time. We are ready to hit the road and start performing again!
Wanna know more about how their session was recorded? Hear from the audio engineer, Wesley who captured all the magic here:
We recently had the opportunity to help out locally with an event called “Music Is Medicine” hosted by the Baton Rouge General Foundation and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. It was a small gesture, but our hope is that it leaves a lasting impact. Our friend JST DAVID was our connection to the event, and he did an incredible job producing, videoing, organizing, AND performing for the live-streamed event. This seems like a daunting task, but… as is the case in all things, hard work plus creative energy made for something awesome. He used a StudioLive AR12c to record each performance. We wanted to take some time and hear from David about how the experience was for him and how the StudioLive ARc performed. Read more from JST DAVID below.
JST DAVID says:
The “Music Is Medicine” event was an online benefit concert to raise funds for front-line health care workers, done in joint with the Baton Rouge General Foundation and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. I was initially asked to participate as an artist, and ended up producing the entire initiative. It was a thrill to be a part of such an incredible cause during these unprecedented times, and to play a small role in sharing God’s love with folks who are risking their lives to save others.
I honestly didn’t realize the number of limitations COVID-19 would pose in pulling together a production like this! The turnaround from start to finish was less than two weeks for a 90-minute, pre-recorded broadcast, along with a web platform that could display the broadcast stream and securely collect donations for the cause. Even though that’s incredibly ambitious, I’ve actually been responsible for executing projects with even tighter timeframes. Still, that was all pre-COVID, you know? Social distancing requirements forced us to either film and record these performances outside, or within venues that required a high level of health precautions for myself, my second shooter, and the talent. It was exhausting, to say the least. You can’t show up with a huge crew to these shoots, so I stepped in as the director, producer, audio engineer, and primary cameraman for all the performances.
On two of the shoots, we had to literally juice the AR12c from extension cords that were powered from our vehicle. Oh, and then I also had to figure out a way to record my own performance as well. I laugh thinking about it all, mainly because it all ended up being a success (we raised nearly $4000 for the hospital during the online event), and also laughing a bit at myself for thinking it would all be easier to pull off than it was.
And real talk, there’s absolutely NO WAY that we pull these off without that AR12c mixer provided by PreSonus. Lifesaver. After dialing in the levels and just the right amount of effects, I was able to record all of the performances straight from the mixer into my SD card. I didn’t even have to edit the audio once I was done! The time it saved me, and the utility of it being lightweight, portable, while still having so much to offer with effects and such, made the event happen. I basically had to stay up for 2 days straight to get this thing to the finish line and didn’t make it on-site with the final file to broadcast until an hour before. No way this thing gets completed if the AR12c doesn’t do such an incredible job of speeding up my workflow.
As a lot of artists and creatives are finding out, live streaming is tough. Sure, anyone can flip open their phone camera and “start streaming.” But in order to bring your fans or followers something of quality, it takes a combination of having the right gear and a really well-coordinated plan. Thankfully I had enough sense to pre-record the entire “Music Is Medicine” event, and it was also what Baton Rouge General Foundation and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge wanted to do. Once the final video file was rendered, we streamed the entire performance via OBS to Facebook LIVE, and it all went off smoothly. But yea, for those who are desiring to up the quality of their live streams or do a combination of pre-recorded and live within the same broadcast, it’s not that simple.
Having a great mic and interface would be my basic prerequisites (I personally own the PX-1 and Studio 26c combo from PreSonus), and there are several other great video and audio switchers and controllers that could really get you in a great space to be creative and make your broadcasts really engaging. OBS is a free, open-sourced software that’s incredibly stable and useful for powering your live streams, and I’d just encourage anyone looking to take their broadcasts to the next level to do as much research as possible on what’s out there. That’s what I had to do and it paid off.
Singer, songwriter, husband, father and RV driver Ben Honeycutt recently added Studio One Professional to his workflow, and let’s just say he’s having some fun! We partnered with him for his social series “Lyrical Content in the Comments,” and it was awesome.
We thought it would be cool to hear how one of the newest Studio One users is doing with the DAW and more about Ben’s career. Read all about it here.
Give us some background on yourself. How long have you been making music?
Well, I was born in the south (Tennessee), was raised in the south (Alabama), and lived in the south (Georgia) until recently. Thought I was gonna grow up and pitch for the Atlanta Braves, but that didn’t quite work out. I come from a pretty musical family, so I’ve always been around music in some way and had an interest in it, as well. Started playing guitar and singing when I was 13ish, and I was in a band for about 10 years after that. Currently, I live and travel full-time in an RV with my wife, Ashley, and our 3 kiddos, Trinity (9), Rhodes (7), and Canaan (2)!
How’s that RV life treating you?
It’s been an experience, to say the least! We started traveling at the start of 2020, and I think we were just starting to get the hang of it when we had to press pause for a minute due to the current pandemic. It was obviously a big decision for our family to sell everything and hit the road, but we were all ready for a change from the “norm,” while being more intentional about the time we have together and how we spend it. It’s had its challenges like anything else, but we’re really enjoying it so far!
How has the music industry changed since your early days?
Oh man. I remember when the be-all and end-all was to get a record deal if you wanted to make a career out of music. And that was definitely a goal of ours in the early days. It almost happened, but in hindsight, I’m glad it didn’t. Today, with the advance of technology and the rise of social media, you can basically distribute your own music everywhere with a click of a button. Of course, that’s over-simplified a bit, but you get the idea. No better time than now to be a self-employed creative/artist!
Describe the first time you wrote a song? Produced it?
Was anybody’s first song good? Haha! Mine definitely wasn’t. The first “real” song I remember writing was called, “Little Seed.” The melody wasn’t great, and I just took the lyrics almost verbatim from a story in the Bible. It even had the word epilepsy in it. Sooooo, we never recorded that one…
Who has been a musical influence in your life?
As I mentioned earlier, I grew up around music. Both my mom and dad have influenced me in my own musical journey. My dad played the fiddle and the banjo, and my mom had a beautiful singing voice. Unfortunately, they have both passed away now, but I’d like to say there’s still a little bit of them in my music and who I am today. As far as established artists as influences, it’s a pretty long list. But a few would be Ryan Tedder, U2, Ed Sheeran, and Jason Mraz.
Have you ever wanted to give up on music? What keeps you going?
I can’t recall a time where I flat out wanted to give up, but I’ve definitely hit some “walls” and seasons where I didn’t find as much joy in it. Like I said earlier, I grew up playing and singing in church, and as a Christian, I believe music is a gift from God. So when I hit those walls sometimes, I just have to take a step back and remember the reason I started.
When was the first time you heard of PreSonus?
I grew up and even honed my talent in the church world. So I remember being introduced to the live audio side of PreSonus products first, primarily the mixers/consoles. I probably know just enough about live mixing to be dangerous, so I left that to the more experienced. But even back then, I remember PreSonus being one of our go-to brands.
So you’re new to Studio One. When did you first hear about it?
Yeah, pretty much brand new! Again, I knew PreSonus more for the live audio equipment, but I wasn’t as in tune with the recording and production side of things. I think I just stumbled across some Studio One videos on YouTube as I was searching home studio tips and tutorials. Found a guy named Joe Gilder, who had some really good content on stuff I needed to learn and get better at. And it just so happened he used Studio One as his DAW of choice.
What DAW were you using?
I was actually just using Garageband. Which was pretty great, especially for the price of “free.” It helped me learn the basics of tracking and editing audio. But it was a bit limited in features, so eventually, I knew I needed to upgrade to something more professional to be able to achieve a better quality audio recording.
What features are you most impressed with the DAW?
So far, I really like the Auto Punch feature, as well as the Loop Record feature. Neither of which I could do in Garageband. Since I’m recording myself most of the time, it’s made tracking multiple takes and comping vocals much more time and energy-efficient.
How easy/difficult was Studio One to learn?
Well, I’m still learning, and I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of all it can do. But for me, it was really easy to get started. The layout and aesthetic is pleasing to the eye, and it’s also pretty intuitive. I’m also taking advantage of the custom keyboard shortcuts. I do a lot of video editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, so it’s been nice to be able to match up some of those that I’m already used to with the similar functions used in audio editing, too.
Any other thoughts on Studio One or PreSonus gear?
Nothin’ but good stuff so far! I also use the dual-channel Studio 26c interface, and it’s performed like a champ. Customer service and resources online are top-notch, as well. I appreciate what you guys do!
Can you give us a rundown of your live stream set up?
That’s another thing that I (as many others during this time) have been trying to level up a bit, my setup has been a little different for the past few I’ve done. But in a nutshell, here’s my setup:
Rode NT1-A microphone > Bose ToneMatch Mixer (compression, eq, and reverb) > Studio 26c audio interface + iPhone 7+ > OBS (streaming software)
I also just recently added a Shure SM7B and a Canon M50 that I hope to be able to integrate soon to up the quality even more.
What’s next for you?
We’re looking forward to getting back out on the road and making some memories in the RV for sure! And musically, I can’t wait to play live gigs again. I’m also close to launching a custom song-writing service, which will include jingles for businesses/brands, as well as personal songs for people who want their own story in a well-written and produced song. Perfect for weddings and anniversaries!
WATCH Ben’s latest viral video here:
What’s the best advice you would give to yourself 10 years ago?
Tough one. But maybe something along the lines of, “Don’t obsess so much about what other people think about you or what you do.” That’s still something I struggle with today. I just want everybody to like me! But I’m learning that if you live for the applause of other people, you’ll also die from their criticism.
It’s inspiring to see what our customers have created during these strange days of quarantine and isolation. As soon as you open your social media accounts, one thing is certain: Creativity has thrived over the last few months. We wanted to take a minute and share some of the after-hours projects and live streams PreSonus employees have been a part of during this time. Enjoy!
“My PreSonus family is so awesome, please check out the first of the “PreSonus Isolation Jams” – Gregor Beyerle, who lives in Germany and is our Software Product Specialist started this track and sent it to me. I was immediately excited about what he created which inspired me to add some synth effects and saxophones. I then passed it to Rick Naqvi, our SVP of sales who added those awesome guitars. Next, the track was sent to Ben Livingston who works in our inside sales department who added his funky drums. Finally, we punted the track over to Richard Gaspard, who’s in charge of our worship market, he added his “rockin'” bass guitar… and sent the files back. I then doubled this really cool riff Richard played with horns and Rick and I mixed the music and sent the final mix to Gregor who created this awesome video. Oh, this was all done remotely, in our home studios on all PreSonus recording gear. I have to say I’m really proud to work for this company especially with all the talented people! Nothing can keep us from creating music, not even this virus! I hope you all enjoy our jam!”
“My wife and I formed the duo Highs and Lows, a musical experiment of arranging iconic songs as just bass (upright and electric) and vocals (mostly her on lead and the two of us on backgrounds). The point is to create very sparse arrangements, but also songs that feature the six-string bass as a solo instrument, covering any instrumental solos as part of the recorded performance. All mics used are either PreSonus PM-2 or PX-1, and everything is recorded through either a PreSonus Studio 26 or AudioBox 22VSL. All audio is edited and mixed in Studio One 4 Professional and video shot on iPhone 11 and edited in Adobe Premier using a shot template I created in Adobe Photoshop.”
Watch their performance here and subscribe to their YouTube channel:
“Some guys meet their buddies on the weekend to play golf or poker. We make music while practicing Social Distancing… remotely from our separate homes using Studio One.”
Eric Levy (keyboards): Night Ranger, Garaj Mahal
Jakubu Griffin (drums): Cirque Du Soleil Zarkana, Chaka Khan, Peabo Bryson, Melissa Manchester, Pearcy Sledge, David Cassidy, Pharez Whitted
Jon Cornell (bass): SNL Band, Jackie Greene, Grand Canyon
Alex Painter (voice): Life On Mars Tribute To David Bowie, Solo Artist
Rick is as much of a staple to PreSonus as drag and drop is to Studio One. He loves his team, music, and his job! After spending a quarter-century serving the PreSonus family, he is the expert when it comes to selling PreSonus with passion and enthusiasm. If you’ve met him, you love him (and you’re probably still hypnotized by the Rick Effect.) And if you haven’t met him, here’s your chance to get to know him better.
How long have you worked for PreSonus?
This coming October will be my 25th year at PreSonus. I was employee #5 or #6 I believe.
What was your job title when you started? What is your job title now?
Well, I was the first guy in sales so I guess my title would have been “Rick Naqvi, Sales Guy.” Today my role is Senior Vice President of Global Sales.
What were you doing before working at PreSonus?
In my early 20s, I was playing in two bands (Zaemon and Chris LeBlanc Band), running a recording studio and working in a music store called BeBop Music Shop. I was finishing a Marketing degree at LSU at that time as well.
I knew Jim Odom from the local music scene. He was one of our hometown guitar heroes and although he was a few years older than me, we went to the same high school and even took guitar lessons from the same guy. I did a recording session with him in the early ’90s and he used to come into the music store I worked at. I remember him bringing in the prototype of the very first PreSonus product, the DCP-8, about a year before PreSonus started. When Jim approached me about being a part of a startup company, it was a no-brainer for me.
Let’s talk about the Rick Naqvi Effect. People LOVE you and recognize you as the face of PreSonus. How did this come to be? How has it helped you?
Haha!! LOL. Well, I guess since this year will be my 25th year of working at PreSonus, I’m definitely one of the blessed people that found something to do with their lives that has spanned pretty much my entire adulthood. I’ve always been passionate about music and technology and I love people. So PreSonus has been the perfect place for me. I’m in awe of the fact that people use our products to share and experience music together with each other. That’s the part of this job that never gets old. I love being part of a team whose mission is to help people make music.
The Firepod was the first recording interface with eight microphone preamps in 1U. So you could basically mic an entire drumkit at once. Or record a small rhythm section. It was also one of the first interfaces that allowed for multiple units to be used at the same time. So if you needed 16 simultaneous inputs, you could chain two of them together, and so on.
Any fun stories about the FirePod?
Here’s a true story. The original design for the FirePod had eight inputs but only two mic preamps. Jim Odom was beta testing one of the early prototypes and took it home to record his son’s band. When he realized it was going to be a hassle to hook up additional outboard preamps, he came to work the next day and changed the design of the Firepod to include the other six preamps. We literally had to reshoot images for a tradeshow launch that was happening a few months later. However, putting eight preamps on the Firepod solved a huge need, not only for Jim but for tons of customers. It was one of our most successful products without a doubt.
What has been one of the biggest challenges of working at PreSonus? Major roadblocks?
Working for a technology company has its ups and downs. There have been good years and not so good ones too. Sometimes you create a product that really resonates with people and other times there are challenges that keep a product from its full potential. There’s nothing more important to us than delighting our customers. And when we can’t do that, it is a major bummer for us. Thankfully, our mistakes give us the experience to get better and that’s what we strive to do every day.
In 1995, how did you define success?
One of my first job tasks was to contact dealers and try to tell them about our product. I had a copy of Music Trades that had a list of the Top 100 US Dealers. So I literally picked up the phone and started cold calling people! It was so hard to tell people about a brand new product from a brand new company that they had never heard of. It was amazing just to get someone on the phone who would give me the time of day. Amazingly a bunch of people that got called by a 25-year-old Rick Naqvi are still in the business and are some of our most trusted dealers and life-long friends.
Tell us a cool NAMM story. Or any other PreSonus story.
One time at a NAMM Show I had to give a DigiMax demo to Steven Seagal. Turns out he’s a musician and had a studio at the time. It might have been one of the strangest demos of my life. He was super serious and never cracked a smile. When I told him you could only do 96k using AES outputs, not ADAT, I thought he might judo chop me or something.
When you think about the last 25 years, how does it make you feel seeing how far PreSonus has come?
It really doesn’t seem like I’ve worked for one company. It seems like I’ve worked for about 5 different companies. I’ve been through three building moves and I’ve seen tons of people come and go. I’ve seen kids of our employees grow up and start families of their own. It’s truly humbling to have been a part of this great journey.