Having never actually recorded in a studio before, I’ve gathered some gear for my home studio/bedroom setup along the way.
I started recording music when I was around 11 years old. My brother, for his music classes in school, got Cubasis and a Yamaha PSR-262 keyboard which I would regularly use to record my own little songs. This was the beginning of my love affair with writing and recording my own music, and it wasn’t long until I had acquired some equipment of my own. At the age of 13 I saved up all of my money and bought a laptop, Tascam US-122, and ‘borrowed’ a Shure SM58 from school (…they had loads…). This did me for a while whilst I was learning how to record.
Fast forward a few years until I started university, I thought it was about time that I upgraded my setup. I got my first Mac - an iMac with Logic pro 7, and a new mic which I have been using ever since - a RØDE M3. This was a birthday gift from my brother and his fiancé. I have recorded everything with this one mic. It’s relatively inexpensive but it is incredibly versatile. I have used it to record vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin, strings, and various percussion, and it's generally very clear. Of course, it does have its restrictions, which often requires adding effects to vocals in particular to bring out the high end, but this has worked in my favour as I have found a way that works for me when using the M3 and producing the recordings, which has added to my style. It's a massive step up from the SM58, for me anyway, as it doesn’t have that tinny quality, and it’s actually geared towards recording…
It was with this, the new Mac and the ancient Tascam interface that I recorded my first album Architect - with the help of an old classical guitar from the 1950s that my grandfather had given me.
After completing Architect, it occurred to me that I would have to play live at some point, so I got myself a new classical guitar. The one I was using for recording had begun to warp and go out of tune, so it had to sadly retire. This is when my Pacco Castillo Nylon String Guitar came on the scene. I tried out a lot of guitars, and this one really spoke to me. It's so soft and has a really lyrical quality. After a few months of playing it, I decided that it would be fun to play an electric guitar on stage as well, so I sauntered down to my local guitar shop and bought myself a PRS SE 245. I’ve had my eye on a PRS guitar since I was about 15; I used to be a massive Opeth fan and really envied Mikael Åkerfeldt’s guitar, not only because of its hugely versatile sound, but because of the way it looked with mother of pearl birds ascending into flight up the fret board.
Having toured the first album extensively I decided to go back into my own little home studio to record The Midnight Sun. It was around this time that I got an email from two very nice people at Focusrite asking if they could essentially try out the new Clarett 2Pre on me, and make a promotional video about it and how it improved my recording quality. They sent it up about two weeks before they came to film me and I started to play around on it. It was a huge step up from the Tascam which I had been using for the past 10 or so years, and I started to realise that the Clarett was amazing for a few reasons - II had just upgraded my MacBook which has thunderbolt, as does the Clarett, so it has extremely low latency. It has the Air function which makes everything sound super clean and it pre-EQs it for you so that the vocals in particular are crystal clear. And it’s a really nice colour (it matches my shoes).
The guys from Focusrite noticed that I didn’t have any monitors to mix on. Until then I had been using a pair of RHA cans which were a tad bass heavy, but to their credit had been the sole way of listening and mixing my first album. As well as gifting me the Clarett, Focusrite also gave me a long term loan of a pair of KRK VXT4 monitors, which are ideal for the kind of music I make as they have a lot of mids (not too much of course) and a real warmth to the sound.
So, as you can see, I haven’t really had to spend much money or time on making and upgrading my home setup. I have always just worked with what I’ve had, and tried to make the best of it. I find that not upgrading too often and utilising what is around me is a good way for me to work and enhance my production, as I get to know my equipment very well.
The Midnight Sun is out now via Fat Cat Records. For more information, please visit his official website.