Jacquire King

NORAH JONES – KINGS OF LEON – TOM WAITS – MODEST MOUSE - Cold War Kids - Of Monsters and Men - Buddy Guy

 

“Someone once said to me, ‘You have to feel like you are the best person in the world to do the job you’re doing at that particular moment.’ This was really helpful for me. It’s not that you go around saying that out loud or being cocky, but you have to believe that right now, there is no one better to make this record. You have to be confident, while also being willing to go with other people’s ideas.” 

Jacquire King’s track record shows that he has inarguably been the person most qualified to do the job at hand in many different situations, for example in working with the likes of Tom Waits, Modest Mouse, Dawes, Of Monsters and Men, Buddy Guy, Norah Jones, Kings of Leon, Josh Ritter, Cold War Kids, Punch Brothers, Editors, Robert Ellis, James Bay and Melissa Etheridge. His impressive achievements as a producer, engineer, and mixer have been recognized with three Grammy Awards.

“You can’t think, ‘geez, my ideas don’t work, I suck!’” King elaborates. “You can’t make a worthwhile recording or a mix when you are not able to make confident decisions. You may have to make adjustments later in the process but at least you’re making a statement as you go. The endless choices that a DAW offers may create a lack in confidence and commitment, but if the process can embrace the beauty and mindset of recording with multi-track analogue machines—including having to make decisions and commit early on in the process—then the digital realm can be a powerful and creative tool. In the past you were mixing as you went and immediately had to move on. We can still learn from that. Your decisions may not always be the perfect ones, but that are what makes something unique.”

King grew up in Virginia, and began his studio career attending the Recording Workshop in Chillicothe, Ohio in the late ‘80s. Following this he cut his engineering teeth in studios in the Washington D.C. area, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He eventually moved to Nashville, where he primarily used a home studio for mixing, but in 2013 he took up residence in Studio G at the Blackbird Studios. His set-up there consists of a hybrid analogue/in-the-box approach, using Pro Tools with a modified Quad 8 console for summing and to patch in his extensive outboard collection.

King is widely known for predominantly working in the Americana genre. The country scene in Nashville is part of that movement, but King explains that he casts his net far wider, both in the types of music he works with and in his recording approaches. “I don’t really work in country music per se, although it’s part of my community and something I like. I moved to Nashville because it is a great music town and there’s a great studio community here. While I have done many Americana records, I choose projects to work on because of the quality of the artistry and the voice. If those things move me, it doesn’t really matter what the genre is.”

“I still have my Ampex ATR102, but I don’t switch it on very much anymore. Pro Tools and the emulation plugins have become so good that incorporating analogue tape is no longer a necessity. In the last year or so I recorded both Editors and Dawes to analogue tape, but doing this is always the result of a very specific discussion with the artist, and no longer the norm. I am not totally happy to be entirely inside digital either, so I work with a hybrid set-up, using lots of plugins and the automation in the computer, but using a lot analogue outboard as well, stemming things out and summing them externally on the desk or with a summing box.”

At the time of writing, Jacquire King had not yet conducted any seminars at La Fabrique, but he is scheduled for one in June. He says, “It’s an honor to be part of the series. I’d like to offer a balanced and special course. One fundamental aspect is to do things for the right reasons. Engineers, mixers, and producers obviously have a passion for music and working in a studio, and we want to be part of something great and to be of help to an artist. Particularly as a producer we offer creative input, vision, opinions and so on, but at the end of the recording it’s the artist’s music, their inspiration, and their desire that you are serving. You can’t be in it for totally selfish reasons.”

 “There are many aspects of working in the studio that I’d like to address and teach, starting with engineering skills and how to be creative with them. I’d like to talk about the concept of absolute phase. There is also the importance of having creative thoughts about music and knowing how to present them, and how to work with artists. When you’re working in the studio you need to be a good communicator and to be able to create a comfortable and inspiring environment for the artist to work in. Sometimes you need to push and challenge the artist and get in their face, but only because you’re trying to achieve the best end result, not to satisfy your own ego. I have been a part of the making of many great records, and my main contribution has been to help identify what the great ideas are and help bring them to life. I look forward to offering seminar participants the inside track on this.”

Text by Paul Tingen.

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Q&A with Jacquire King