Performer Magazine: October/November 2022

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THE MUSICIAN’S RESOURCE OCT./NOV. ‘22 FREE JOYThe Blue Stones Jocelyn & Chris Karen Bella Ariel Bui interviews 5 Ways to Give Your Stereo Mix Width The Global Streaming Leader You’re Ignoring Making Jazz Cool Again for a New Generation Samara
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TABLE OF CONTENTS PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 3 VOLUME 32, ISSUE 5 COVER STORY
JOY 24 18 30
JOCELYN
CHRIS DEPARTMENTS 4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 5. Book Review: Long Road: Pearl Jam and the Soundtrack of a Generation 6. Don’t Sleep on This Major Streaming Option 34. How to Maximize Width in Your Stereo Recordings 36. MACKIE ACROSS AMERICA Recap 43. GEAR REVIEWS: PreSonus, SSL, DPA and more… Meredith Truax Cover 8 12
KAREN
THE BLUE STONES

from the editor

Hey gang,

Another year quickly coming to an end -- where does the time go? We’ve got some exciting stuff coming up soon including the oft-mention, and somewhat delayed, special Pedal Issue for the December/January window.

There’s still time to get involved with that, so if you are an artist (or a pedal company, hint hint) looking to join the pedal train (or should I say Pedaltrain?) give us a shout. We’re putting out another cassette compilation to accompany the issue, featuring some really cool pedals from Rat, Ibanez, BAE, Donner and more – so be on the lookout. PLUS, we’ll have some exclusive new videos hitting the Tube that’ll show some of our fave new pedals in action (with special guests, of course).

By the time you’re reading this, World Cup fever will be in full swing, so happy WC to all who

celebrate. I know there are a lot of mixed feelings this year due to the location and timing of the event, but if you are one to focus on the positives, there are likely to be some legendary footballing moments in the weeks ahead that I’m sure we’ll be discussing for years to come (*cough*Brazilis untouchable*cough*)

Anyway, sit back and enjoy this issue, be on the lookout for some new vinyl we’ll be releasing in early 2023 with our friends at Mackie (more on that in this very issue!) and KRK, as well as a bonus mixtape for the holiday season that we can’t wait to tell you about!

Until then, stay safe and we’ll catch you next time.

Benjamin Ricci

PS – for those of you keeping score at home, yes it does look like the money spent in the transfer window is working out well for Spurs. The only wrinkle is how poorly Juventus is doing in Italy, and the rumors swirling that the Turin club may try to lure Antonio Conte back to Serie A to take over once again. Always with the drama!

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4 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Volume 32, Issue 5
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LETTER
ABOUT US / Performer Magazine, a nationally distributed musician’s trade publication, focuses on independent musicians, those unsigned and on small labels, and their success in a DIY environment. We’re dedicated to promoting lesser-known talent and being the first to introduce you to artists you should know about. MUSIC SUBMISSIONS / We listen to everything that comes into the office. We prefer physical CDs, cassettes and vinyl over downloads. If you do not have a physical copy, send download links to editorial@performermag.com. No attachments, please. Send CDs to: Performer Magazine, Attn: Reviews, PO BOX 348, Somerville, MA 02143 CORRECTIONS / Did we make a heinous blunder, factual error or just spell your name wrong? Contact editorial@ performermag.com and let us know, cuz we’re big enough to say, “Baby, I was wrong.” EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS / In the words of our esteemed forefathers at CREEM: “NOBODY WHO WRITES FOR THIS RAG’S GOT ANYTHING YOU AIN’T GOT, at least in the way of credentials. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be sending us your stuff: reviews, features, photos, recording tips, DIY advice or whatever else you have in mind that might be interesting to our readers: independent and DIY musicians. Who else do ya know who’ll publish you? We really will...ask any of our dozens of satisfied customers. Just bop it along to us to editorial@performermag.com and see what comes back your way. If you have eyes to be in print, this just might be the place. Whaddya got to lose? Whaddya

Long Road: Pearl Jam and the Soundtrack of a Generation

ReadingSteven Hyden’s excellent Pearl Jam deep dive Long Road might take a little longer than expected - this is not a slight against the book, but rather a feature of its structure. Hyden frames Long Road as a mixtape, and each chapter launches from a specific performance of a song in the band’s catalog. The reader has the good fortune of seeking out this particular song, which often leads down a rabbit trail of other Pearl Jam performances from the same era before returning back to the book - and thus the longer (but ultimately richer) reading time.

This structure works for a number of reasons. It allows Hyden - an astute, often hilarious cultural critic whose song rankings on the UPROXX website are essential reads - the opportunity to zoom in on particular moments in Pearl Jam history and examine their significance to the band. It also frees the book from being a straight biography. As Hyden himself says, readers who

want that can pick up Pearl Jam Twenty. Instead, the book uses these songs and performances as a touchpoint for Pearl Jam’s place in the culture of those moments, and of the culture itself.

Pausing reading to watch or listen to a particular performance highlighted by Hyden - take “Animal” and “Rockin’ In the Free World” from the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards for example - is a treat. (As Hyden describes it, “...the 1993 VMAs presented [Pearl Jam] in full-on berserker mode, with amps cranked up and Jeff Ament violently slapping his bass as Mike McCready attacked his amp like it owed him money.” - try not YouTube-ing it after reading that description). This gives the reader a chance to see Pearl Jam at the height of its live performance powers and a feel for early ’90s culture.

Diving back into the book, readers are rewarded with not only the details of this performance but contrasting it with the

treatment of Scott Weiland and Stone Temple Pilots and their (unfair) perception as poseurs vs the “authenticity” of Pearl Jam. Hyden takes this point deeper, examining the mentors Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam had (like Neil Young in this performance and on Mirror Ball), compared with Weiland’s lack of support and ultimate demise.

As in his other writing, Hyden takes what could be an obvious angle (Pearl Jam vs STP) and brings a depth to it that speaks to Pearl Jam’s unique place in music and poses deeper questions about our own perceptions and expectations of artists. Long Road is packed with such revelations, all based on specific performances from the band. The experience of reading them while also seeking out their sonic inspirations is a rewarding one indeed.

For more information, please visit www.hachettebooks.com

PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 5 BOOK REVIEW REVIEWS
A must-read for Pearl Jam fans and anyone interested in how the band intersected pop culture from the ’90s to today - insightful, funny, and poignant

THE GLOBAL LEADER IN MUSIC STREAMING YOU’RE IGNORING

It’snot Spotify, it’s not Amazon, and it’s not Apple. It’s not web3 and it doesn’t run on a blockchain. It’s not TikTok. It’s available in every country which has the internet. There’s a premium and ad-based tier. There’s a playlist culture. It’s desktop and mobile friendly.

Have you guessed it yet?

It is YouTube.

While Spotify has more pure premium subscribers (183 million), and TikTok is gaining on users (1 billion), it’s almost impossible to measure YouTube’s reach. But the number you need to know is 2 billion. 2 billion active users who listen to music.

Full disclosure: I pay for YouTube Premium (no ads anywhere), and it is by far the most valuable $12 I spend monthly.

You might be thinking, “but wait, I have to spend thousands of dollars to create cool videos for my music!” Not completely true. I recently worked with an artist who released an “Official Video,” meaning a storyline, editing, and color grading in 4k. It is a gorgeous piece of film. The

video ran up 15k views in the first weekend. Pretty good.

But, here’s the important thing: their “Album Cover” video (which cost zero dollars) and the “Lyric” video (which cost some time and maybe $20 in graphics), both ran up 100k views each, so far. The point being, you do not have to invest tons of money in the video side of YouTube to harness it for your music career. Users are listening to YouTube without even watching.

Music makers tend to follow the public in (wrongly) putting all of these apps and sites into a nice little box. People dismiss TikTok as a “kids doing crazy dances” app -- not true. If anything, it’s a lip-syncing app.

People think Spotify is a music app -- not true. Don’t believe me? Spotify invested over 1 billion dollars in the last 2-3 years on podcasts, not on music.

Speaking of podcasts, Apple has always been thought of as the leader in that space. Not true. In fact, according to a recent Music Ally survey, “ 24.2% say YouTube is the platform they use the most for podcasts, ahead of Spotify (23.8%) and

Apple Podcasts (16%).”

How does YouTube compare to these others for your music career? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Robust demographics and metrics? Yep, Creator Studio has it.

Subscribers and community building? Of course.

What about influencers and playlisters? Millions more and they are easy to message.

Aren’t YouTube music stream rates low? Sort of, but all of them are. This rate is hard to break out unless you just look at the YouTube Music app. The difference is once you get your channel monetized, you get paid for the video view (with ad revenue sharing) and the music on it through your PRO.

Just like other DSPs, you can add merch directly to your page, have a pre-save (premiere a video), as well as integrated live concert listings.

But here’s what you can do on YouTube that you can’t do on others:

A livestream with revenue (superthanks, tips) built-in.

6 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE MUSIC BUSINESS

Offer your music channel for a premium subscription.

SEO terms and hashtags for organic growth.

Affiliate links, brand integrations, chat.

Launch a podcast, entertainment series, learning module and music videos all on your own channel.

Make your full song available as an embed outside of the platform.

There is no shortage of people who will teach you all about how to use FB/IG through Business Manager ads to build your followers and streaming numbers for a latest single. Most of you have probably lost a lot of money on this because it is technically difficult to do correctly, and it takes time to find your audience. As some of you definitely know, it doesn’t work that well if your audience aren’t premium subscribers on Spotify due to the limitation of shuffle.

One of the most amazing things I like about YouTube for music is by using Google Ads you can do a true ad campaign on your latest music “video.” It’s simple and very effective. A short example: we just did a campaign for a total of $40 which netted 8,000 views, 100 subscribers. Real people, new fans, all above board.

Did you forget about YouTube? They have not forgotten about musicians. Crucially, you need to understand that there is a longstanding conflict with YouTube and the major labels. What this means is that many of the features YouTube launches are designed to be used by the independent music community first, whereas their competitors often roll out to the majors first—such as Marquee on Spotify.

Here is a short list of features they are rolling out in the U.S., and why you should pay attention and make YouTube a larger part of your music business mix.

1. In a few months, YouTube is going to start paying creators revenue for Shorts - their rival offering to TikTok for short form videos. Creators will earn 45% of the money generated from ads that run between Shorts videos. Again, just you and your phone with your music underneath can earn you real revenue, in addition to gaining subscribers and promoting your music. Side note: a recent artist we worked with released three Shorts, all of them had more than 1000 views in one day with no advertising, and resulted in 100 more subscribers.

3. I am most excited by Creator Music, which is a “a new destination that gives creators easy access to an ever-growing catalog of music for use in their videos, while offering artists and music rights owners a new revenue stream for their music on YouTube while retaining the same revenue share they would normally make from non-music videos.” This means you can offer your music for others to use and get paid for it.

Of course, Spotify (and the others) are still important to your music business mix. However, I absolutely think you should invest (more) time and effort in developing your YouTube Artist channel, becoming a partner to become monetized, and taking full advantage of the opportunities unique to the global leader in music streaming.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

-Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.

PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 7 MUSIC BUSINESS
2. YouTube user handles (@Artistname) to use across the platform and a simple hook in Shorts.
SPOTLIGHT
photo by Jennifer Maggio

Indie Songstress on The Importance of Hard Work, Cultural Heritage and Staying True to Your Artistic Vision

Bella is about as hardworking as they come, as we learned when we had the pleasure of working with her recently on a series of videos in conjunction with Elixir Strings. And at the time of publication, we just learned that Bella has officially joined the Elixir artist roster as an official endorsing artist, so congrats are in order. We got an opportunity to chat with her after our videos wrapped to learn a bit more about her background, her creative process and the importance of staying true to oneself as an artist.

The best place for us to start is to learn a bit about how you came to music, where it entered your life…

I grew up in Long Island on the South Shore, and the reason why I really went into music, besides the fact that my father was such an avid music lover and occasionally played the guitar… it’s a little bit of a sad story, but there’s a positive thing that came out of it. So, in school, I didn’t have a lot of friends and there was something about music that always lit me up. And anything

Karenthat was associated with the arts, that became my friend, that became the one thing that was always there for me and never made fun of me and never ridiculed me or anything. And I always found solace in being able to enjoy the love of music when I sang.

The second thing that really lit me up, which made me realize why I want to be a singer, was the first time I ever saw a Funny Girl. And I just remember seeing Barbra Streisand and that first scene of her staring in the mirror…she doesn’t look like the other girls. And she’s like, ‘Hello gorgeous,’ you know? And I just remember thinking, ‘Wow, someone who looks different from everyone else,’ which is how I felt, is saying positive things to herself and then she opens her mouth…this amazing voice comes out. And I went, ‘That’s what I want to do the rest of my life.’

You said your dad played guitar. Is that where you first got introduced to guitar or did that come later? Was the singing the priority first, or how did that all work?

Yes, that was my introduction. The first thing that my parents did, besides voice lessons when I started at nine, they had me take piano lessons -- that was really important because piano is a

really difficult instrument to play. I mean, you’ve got to do two different things at the same time. I’m really fortunate that that I did that, that’s how I got my start and then it was slowly going to auditions, being a part of my school plays, the elementary school band, where I played drums…

How does the idea of music, as a career, enter into your world?

I really took a giant leap of faith to pursue music full time; it’s not a guaranteed profession. You’ll work. Hard. You have to invest a lot of money and time into yourself, write songs and I got to a point where I lost my voice for about a year, and that was a big reality check. And I was waitressing at the time, and even as a waitress I couldn’t work. And so I got fired from my job because they’re like, you can’t speak. I was like, I can’t help it!

So, I got a regular job, and then when my voice started to come back and I worked relentlessly with my voice coach and speech therapy. Maybe once I started getting that back, I just said, you know what, I’m not loving my day job. I said if I don’t do this now, I’m never going to…I completely focused on booking as many gigs as possible and taking it from there and it was the best decision

PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 9 SPOTLIGHT
Karen Bella

I ever made. It is a scary decision, and you really just have to say ‘yes.’ And you have to make sure that you have your craft down in order to be able to sustain yourself being a performer, musician, recording artist for a living. And you learn a lot along the way.

This is a job that you gotta work at. And get yourself out there and put in the work. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen.

Yeah, you literally have to have a fire stick up your rear end. I’m trying to keep it PG. [laughs]

You have to be obsessed with music and for me at least, I can’t speak for anyone else, but this is my entire life. Even on days that I’m tired or I want a day or two off, I still find that motivation. And I think what helps me a lot was my father passing away at the end of 2016 while I didn’t have my voice -- that was rough on so many levels. And what that experience taught me was that life is short, so you go for. What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? It’s not going to come into fruition. At least you have the satisfaction of trying and putting in everything you’ve got.

So, I’m putting everything I got into all my dreams and goals and aspirations, and I have to remind myself logically that things don’t happen in a day. It takes a long time to build your village. I’m taking it day by day and I think that that’s the secret… Booking, booking like crazy, making phone calls, emailing people, constantly writing, constantly recording stuff…

I’d love to kind of learn a little bit more about your creative process. How do you approach the songwriting process?

Everybody has their own way of writing, and I’ve found that there’s a couple of different ways that I write. Usually, the way that I start writing a song is a melody is sent to me – kind of like a fax machine in [my head] -- or at least a part of the melody is sent to me and then I go pick up my guitar or go to my piano and I start messing around finding the chords that appeal to me… then I add lyrics. Sometimes in the past someone has thrown an idea toward me, like, ‘Write a song about a broken seesaw.’ Or someone said to me, ‘Karen, you are the queen of bad decisions, you should write a song about that.’ So, I did, which I’m recording it this year. [laughs]

Without putting words in your mouth, you’re more of a music-first type of person. What are your thoughts on the co-writing process?

I’m very blessed that I’ve had a lot of experience co-writing with others, and it was done in a way where one of the producers would be like, ‘Here’s a melody I came up with, add lyrics

10 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE SPOTLIGHT
photo by producer Teddy Kumpel (l) -- at Grand Street Recording Studios, NYC

to it,’ and so I’ll sit with it and then add whatever I want -- thankfully I’m so grateful they loved it. I’ve also done it in the past where someone comes up with chords and we write the song together right then and there. I write part of the lyrics of the chorus and then he or she or they, you know, add whatever their opinion is. And again, I’ve also been very blessed to work with people who are really good. That what they do. So, I’ve never had an issue co-writing with anyone. It’s always been easy. And I also think you have to want to work as a team. You have to really put your ego aside and be open to someone else’s ideas.

I did a little reading on you beforehand and I know you spent quite a bit of time living abroad. I’d be curious to know if that taught you anything that you were able to bring into your music?

So, I was born in America and my parents were born in Germany, near American campgrounds, right after World War Two ended. So, my family, they are Holocaust

come back home here to New York. Both places are my home, by the way. But back here in my ‘other’ home, New York, I realized I had to go 100% and take that leap of faith. Leaving family, I moved [back] here to a situation where I didn’t have a home, I didn’t have a car, I didn’t have a job. I barely had any money on me. I put everything I owned in a suitcase with my guitar. I left my dog behind and I moved here and I lived with my aunt.

For about a year I got myself situated. I got a car, I got a job, I got money and my mom brought over my dog and it’s been a really, really up and down [journey].

But I’m so proud of myself and I remember thinking yesterday, I’m so proud of myself for taking all those risks and challenges because if I were faced with them today, I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to take [them].

I’m so proud of how brave I am for doing this, because to be an artist, a working artist, aspiring artist, any type of artist that you are in the entertainment industry or any business, you’ve got to take a lot of risks.

survivors, which means I’m a third generation Holocaust survivor. And in 1948, the state of the country that was Palestine back then became Israel. And my family moved there to create a better life and get away from that whole situation. And then after 30 years, they moved to the States and built a life here. And then I was born. In 2011, I got into a car accident. That wasn’t too bad, but I kind of felt like I was in a dead end in my life. I was very confused as an artist and about where I can go with my career, ‘cause I felt like every place I turned to was a dead end -- my mom and dad lived over there for their retirement, so my mom was like, ‘Why don’t you come over here and see if you can get settled here?’ So, I lived over for two years and I feel…it’s a very misunderstood part of the world.

The people who live there are so strong and they’re so brave. And I’ve had experiences where I’ve had missiles flying over my head and you have to run to safety and you don’t know if your parents are OK or not or families [nearby] are OK…and you grow up fast. At the same time, it’s the most beautiful country I’ve ever been in. And the people are so beautiful and loving and the food is amazing.

I had the best two years of my life there, but I understood that the music career that I wanted to pursue…I couldn’t do it there. I had to really

PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 11
SPOTLIGHT KAREN BELLA KARENBELLAEP STANDOUT TRACK: “INDIO” Follow on Instagram: @karenbellamusic
“I said if I don’t do this now, I’m never going to…”

On Keeping Sane in on Tour and The Grind of Recording in a Studio Lockout on Their Latest

12 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE SPOTLIGHT THE BLUE STONES
LP
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 13 SPOTLIGHT

Blue Stones, aka Tarek Jafar and Justin Tessier, have been on quite a tear for the past few years, even during COVID. They released their acclaimed and JUNO-nominated (‘Rock Album of the Year’) sophomore album, Hidden Gems, in the spring of 2021, featuring three top 5 radio singles in Canada, including “Shakin’ Off The Rust,” which was the #1 most played single in Canada last year, and hit the Top 5 on Billboard’s ‘Rock’ radio chart.

In 2022, the band hit Zane Whitfield’s NOP Studios in Kingston, Ontario for 35 straight

Thedays writing and recording for the Pretty Monster project, working with a few select producers, including Kevin Hissink (grandson/ Demi Lovato) and WZRD BLD (Highly Suspect, iDKHOW), along with multi-GRAMMY Awardwinner Joe Chiccarelli (The White Stripes, The Strokes, Spoon).

The result is a10-track album titled Pretty Monster dropping on November 4th via MNRK. They released three singles so far- “Don’t Miss,” “Good Ideas,” and maybe my personal favorite banger, “What’s It Take To Be Happy?” as they gear up for a special hometown album party event on November 3rd, before crossing Canada on a headlining tour, November 4 - November 25.

Obviously, it’s a busy time, but I was able to catch Tarek in between flights to talk about life, the whirlwind of a new record, and where the duo is headed. Of all the topics we covered, I promised that I would highlight one hugely important fact: Tarek would like everyone to know—especially TAYLOR— that on the Canadian tour, he won the NHL22 crew tournament as the Colorado Avalanche, which no one else drafted, and that can never be taken away. Do you understand that, Taylor? “It was a game of skill, and I beat him,” said Tarek Jafar.

What do you guys call yourself, a band, a duo?

Tarek Jafar : Oh, yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, I think a duo. I guess I don’t

14 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE SPOTLIGHT

really concern myself with the differentiation between those two. And I actually kind of think it’s funny when people hear our music and they’re like, “ Oh, I really like this band. I wanna go see this band! ” Then they go to the show, and it’s just two guys. Like, “ What? ” You know, they’re kinda waiting for the other people to walk out.

Pretty Monster maybe isn’t really a departure from Hidden Gems, but it definitely seems like growth sonically. I dig it. I know you recorded with some heavy hitter producers. Was it a conscious decision on your part to put in different textures, synth etc., or did that come out of working with the producers?

TJ: Well, I mean, it’s a classic answer to that: a little bit of both. You know, we definitely wanted to approach this album with more of a true sound and approach how we would record it to match our live show, right? Because we wanted it to sound very close to how we sound live. The energy, volume, the fullness. We did have a couple ideas heading into the album, but they really took flight when we worked with Joe, who’s just like a sound master.

Actually, the whole writing session exercise was brand new to me for this album. I had done a couple with Drew Folk, and also with Kevin and that’s kind of what sort of snowballed into the songs that we had collaborated on, when it finally came time to record the album. So, it was definitely a mixed bag of producers with Joe, Drew, and Kevin and then also some help from our good friend Zane who runs the studio where we recorded in Kingston. But yeah, it was a mix, and they all provided their own flavor to each track, and it was awesome just kinda opening it up to this collaborative process which we really hadn’t attempted before. I think we are both very pleased with what we were able to accomplish.

You did over a month-long lockout in the studio right? A lot of artists assume being immersed in the studio would be a joy, did you find that freeing or was it a grind?

TJ: Being completely honest with you man, it was a grind. Yeah, we recorded for nearly six weeks straight. There times where it was frustrating and I would hit walls, and things weren’t sounding the way that I wanted them to sound, and we were getting upset over which plugins were being used and which weren’t. That whole thing.

And, let me tell you, as amazing as Joe is, which, you know, I really enjoyed working with him, he’s very, very, detailed, and he definitely has a picture of what he wants. Sometimes it can take hours to dial in the sound of this one snare drum, you know? (laughs) And that’s just the process, right? You have to sort of have to open yourself up to it. But as much as a grind as it was, at the end of the day, I was thrilled with what we came out with, and truly, I think it’s a huge step forward for us as a band.

It’s so fashionable to just record singles or EPs, was it a decision to do a proper album?

TJ: You know, I think we’ve always been album guys. We love rolling out with an album, a cycle, a look, a sound, that accompanies this one sort of moment, this era in your growth as a band. So, an album has always been something that we lean towards versus the sort of drip feed of singles throughout the year.

I always call back to this one Reddit post I read on our Blue Stones Reddit—which yes, I read it guys (Breaking News!). There was this one comment, from a guy who was like, “You know what? I really like the album Hidden Gems. I just wish I hadn’t heard five of the songs before the album was released, because it was kind of ruined for me. When I got to listening to the album, I was skipping over songs I’d already heard for months.” Mmm. That really resonated with me.

Now aside from that, I want to mention that we kind of had to release it as singles to tread water during the Covid shutdown because we didn’t wanna release an album in the middle of that whole thing. But at the same time, I think it brings up a really good point where it’s like, you know, the way the music’s released now, I feel. The album is kind of the end of the cycle, five or six singles drip, and by the time an album hits or drops, there’s really nothing fresh for people.

Both Justin and I wanted to go a different route for this album. We put out, you know, your standard three singles, give people a taste of what the album’s gonna offer, and then you save the rest for when the day the album drops and have people be surprised and feel like they can fall in love with these songs for the first time and not have a majority of the album spoiled.

I imagine it’s always a challenge to figure out how far to go in recording vs. what you can pull off live. Like, you can tell the blueprint of what you do is on every track, but there’s a lot more. Notably very bass heavy lead lines. Is it a challenge?

TJ: The blueprint of the song is always there. Then we add things around that. And yes, I used a bass in the studio this time. The way we play together and our energy and dynamics, I don’t think our live stuff feels like it is missing anything.

Your previous releases had a lot of videos which your fans loved, are there plans to do the same with Pretty Monster? And is that something you like doing?

TJ: Oh, now you’re asking the heavy-hitting questions here! (I know, I’m sorry) Truthfully, do I like doing videos? Not really. Yeah, I just, I dunno. I feel like they just don’t go as far as they used to. I believe in the fact that they help to imprint your brand, right? They snapshot this one moment in the album cycle and your growth as a band. Like, here’s where the Blue Stones are right now.

We have found better success with some simple lyric videos than we have with some high production music videos. But, I do enjoy working on good ideas. If a filmmaker or director comes to

PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 15 SPOTLIGHT
On the grueling recording process:
“…as much as a grind as it was, at the end of the day, I was thrilled with what we came out with, and truly, I think it’s a huge step forward for us as a band.”

us with a really good idea, I’m psyched about it. I would love to do it because, again, you know, it’s creating something cool.

I’ve chosen to work with my brother (Sameer Jafar) a few times now, because he gets us, you know, he’s grown up with me. So he understands the vision and a lot of his ideas are really cool. So a lot of the lyric videos that you see for Pretty Monster and that you will be seeing are from him, myself, and Justin, kind of getting together and deciding on how we want to present the visuals for this album. We kind of do our spin, like half performance half lyric video. We’re still there playing the songs, It’s just the lyrics playing on top of us and Sameer shooting it in a very cool way. And again, there’s like a unique spin on something that might be commonplace. So those are things I really enjoy working on.

For some bands coming up, the dream of getting signed is still there. You’re still under MNRK, right? But you were signed to eOne. How has that transition been, did your team stay intact? Do you still feel you have the artistic freedom you hoped?

TJ: They’re a good label. We didn’t really have a team shake up, which was kind of nice. When they did go from eOne to MNRK (pronounced: monarch) there wasn’t any sort of turnover in the staff who were working closely with us for years. So, that was kind of nice because they have always given us artistic freedom and full artistic integrity when it comes to making the music that we make.

Something we talk about in the industry a lot is mental health, and the extreme social media load that so many artists have to carry right now. You guys seem to be doing a good job of staying balanced.

TJ: You know, I’m trying to get on the TikTok train. I’m trying to at least develop TikTok in a way that suits our brand. You know, who we are. I’m not gonna sell myself out to these trends that come and go. But it can be hard to stay on top of, you know? And I hate the fact that you have to, but it is part of it now, having a presence because people want to connect with you. And really, we want to connect with them too.

But what I will say is don’t lose sight of who you are as an artist, ok? If somebody’s doing some kind of thirst trap, lip sync in front of a mirror, that might work for a female pop artist or a male pop artist, but it might not work for you as a death metal man. You know? Just don’t lose your identity there just for the sake of getting used.

A lot of bands are still trying to figure this whole new music world out. What

do you see working and not working? Are streams important, are you finding more of your fans are really gravitating toward merch and physical?

TJ: Yeah, it’s, it’s so hard to pinpoint. I mean, streams are still very important because it is obviously a metric that is measurable in that people will, whether you like it or not, use it to rank where you’re at in your career and it can really have an effect as far as maintaining your bookings. Your lifestyle, and maintaining a career in this industry, I mean, that’s where the physical stuff comes into play. I guess surprisingly we’re a vinyl band. You know, a lot of people like buying our vinyl, so we’ve tried to diversify with cool vinyl alternatives and the vinyl drops that are limited time offers. That stuff has worked really well as far as generating an income for both Justin and myself so that we can keep doing this, right? A lot of bands don’t even have these offers and I think fans want them; ours do.

And then, there’s the touring aspect. Touring is expensive. It’s fucking expensive. I truly feel like the age of endless, non-stop touring just because you feel you need to is over. I think artists should be smarter with their tours. I think you should target major markets where you can generate some fans and generate some income. Also, where you’re gonna make the biggest splash. You know, you don’t gotta go on the road for 8, 10, 15 weeks at a time playing random places. If you can just efficiently plan a tour, that’s gonna have the biggest sort of return for you.

And then finally, social stuff. Honestly pick one or two that are trending - like, Instagram and TikTok, or I dunno, maybe Twitter’s your thing. Then just get really good at those. Otherwise, you’ll spread yourself too thin trying to master five different social media platforms all at once, you’re gonna rip your hair out.

And know that none of this matters if the music isn’t great. (laughs)

Touring is precarious right now - a lot of acts have canceled or pared down, with confusing Covid restrictions, inflation/gas prices, and venues struggling as well. How has your experience been out on the road this last year?

TJ: It’s definitely tough to tour right now. The expenses are high and I would say they’re higher than they have ever been. Especially with gas prices and with just natural inflation, the higher cost of goods. So, there’s that, which can kill margins.

Also, there’s a huge demand on staff and personnel. It’s crazy. Now, you are the belle of the ball if you are an available front of house engineer, or an available tech, merch, media or

driver, like you are being sought after. Right now it is booming for that side of the business because everyone wants to be on tour now that they can do it again. What’s happening that I’m seeing is that now people who are showgoers are having to choose between five or six different shows in the same week and having been like, “okay, like where am I gonna spend my once a month show budget on - when I have the choice of 15 to 20 shows this month that are coming through my city?”

There’s just a huge amount of competition. So yeah, it’s kind of a bit of a gridlock when it comes to touring and playing live because of all of that. But I can definitely see the clearing through the forest. I know that it’ll balance itself out, it always does.

How do you guys deal with being away from family and friends? What do you do to stay grounded?

TJ: I’ll give the top three. 1. Having a comfort show. That is so important to me. When I say that, it’s like the Netflix, HBO, or Paramount Plus show that you are always watching in your bunk when you go to bed. For me, on the US tour, it was Brooklyn 99 . Previous to that, it was my all-time favorite, The Office That’s just like a piece of home that I take with me everywhere. I can watch it, and no matter where I am, it’s something that feels familiar and is awesome. That’s important.

And 2. is gaming. Justin is getting into portable gaming. He’s got, uh, what does he have? A Switch or something? Yeah, it must be a Switch. I just got a Steam deck; I pre-ordered one months ago and it finally came.

Then 3. I am really into finding that one coffee shop in every city that I go to, you know, both Justin and I meet there. Normally, I wake up a little earlier than Justin. I’m kind of a morning person, so I’m up at eight, maybe nine. I’m hitting the closest nice, quality, “third-wave” coffee shop that I can find. I’ll kind of find a spot and once Justin’s ready to come out, I’ll let him know where I’m at. And we both have our laptops open and we’re, you know, catching up on emails or I’m working out some live track stuff or some writing that I’ve been doing.

So having that daily sort of place that is kind of our wakeup call is nice. And that helps us stay grounded for sure.

Routines are just so important for your metal health and health in general. I try to drink a lot of water. I always get up in the morning, I go find a coffee shop, I sit down, I listen to the same Fantasy football podcast, or the same news podcast that I would just to have an anchor. And that really helps, having a steady routine on the road.

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PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 17 SPOTLIGHT courtesy of the artist THE BLUE STONES PRETTYMONSTER STANDOUT TRACK: “WHAT’S IT TAKE TO BE HAPPY?” Follow on Instagram: @thebluestones Go-to coffee order? TJ: Cortado (oat milk) JT: quad shot Americano Tequila or Mezcal? (I think know this one) TJ: Mezcal. Shout out Siete Misterios JT: Mezcal Last song (not yours) you were obsessed with, listened to daily? TJ: Forty-Three by Askies JT: Inner Light by Elderbrook and Bob Moses Favorite road food. TJ: McIntosh Apple JT: Chipotle Is there a band no one knows that you can turn us on to? TJ: Mo Lowda & The Humble JT: The Brandy Alexanders Current video game? TJ: The Last of Us Part II JT: Red Dead Online Last show you streamed and loved? TJ: Severance JT: House of the Dragon Mariah Carey’s Christmas song or Wham’s? TJ: Mariah JT: Wham QUICK HITS Justin Tessier was able to join us for these hardhitting journalistic questions:
SPOTLIGHT
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 19 SPOTLIGHT ARIEL BUI Nashville Artist Opens Up About Using Music as a Tool for Empowerment and Representation
Jonathan KingsburyBenjamin Ricci

Ariel Bui has been on a DIY path since junior high, having bounced around a bit as a kid, finally finding her musical footing in Nashville, where she’s not only an artist and activist, but also educator at Melodia Studio, which she founded.

We had a chance to catch up with her on the eve of the release of her latest album, Real & Fantasy, and the drop of her lead single (and video) “Sixteen.”

So usually, I find the best place to start with people is getting a sense of their background, but more importantly where music entered the picture for them. Where did your musical journey start?

So really it started when I was in preschool, when my parents took me to one of those Mommy & Me classes. I was about five or six. I don’t even really remember it myself, but that was where it started. So, I learned how to read music a little bit. You know, just enough for a preschooler. And from there I had family members, cousins, who were trained in the Suzuki method and it looked like torture. I watched crying and fighting. So, when my parents asked me if I wanted piano lessons, I said, “I want a piano and I want to play, but I want to do it for fun and I want to do it because I want to, not because somebody is making me.”

So, I was self-taught in piano throughout

my childhood, and I moved around a lot because my mom has schizophrenia and my dad was struggling with taking care of that -- so I lived with a lot of extended family members. But if there was a piano in the house, I would play it. And if there wasn’t then I wouldn’t.

By eighth grade, I had picked up the guitar and started teaching myself how to play bass lines and things like that. And eventually I was teaching myself how to play classical guitar and folk guitar by ear. I started writing songs, playing shows and recording. And then when I got to college, I was raised to be a doctor or a lawyer or nothing else. But, in undergrad you can study anything to go on to be a lawyer, so I thought, OK, well, let me take some music theory classes just because freshman year you take a bunch of classes you like and just see where it goes.

I had no intention of becoming a music major, but I was in this Music Theory 101 class at Rollins College and…my professor, Dr. Gloria Cook, overheard through my headphones that I was noodling and doodling and playing a little Bach Minuet… She said, “You have natural form. You should declare a music major so that you can study piano with me and then if you decide to switch majors, we’ll figure it out from there.”

It was like boot camp to go from being selftaught my whole life to being thrown into this classical training setting with piano lessons

and learning advanced repertoire, and then also singing in the choir. I took some voice lessons towards the end and almost wished I had double majored in voice, because it came really surprisingly naturally to me to sing.

Cool – and from there you started doing the solo DIY indie artist thing. But on this new record, you brought in a bunch of studio musicians into the studio. Was that a new process for you?

I’m pretty sure this is my fifth record, now. Not all of them are on the streaming platforms because a lot of them are DIY, so I haven’t even figured out how to get the other ones on there. [laughs] But they’re all on Bandcamp ‘cause that’s easy and yes, for the first three records they’re solo guitarist, singersongwriter. They’re super lo-fi, low budget. A lot of home recordings, bedroom recordings. Literally.

My last record, my self-titled record that I

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released in 2016, I wanted to do something that would showcase my songs in a way that was professional and palatable, rather than the first three records, which are almost like demos, really. So, we recorded at the Bomb Shelter [in Nashville], where I recorded the new album, ‘Real & Fantasy’ too. It’s a great analog recording studio. My self-titled record was analog from start to finish. So, the vinyl product is from tape to lathe, completely. The records are hand screen printed on recycled cardboard. But it was all selffunded and put out myself.

That was my first time recording with a band, with session musicians, with a professional producer, with a professional budget. Even an independent budget is a very big budget and I wanted to do that to showcase [what I could do] and perhaps get my foot in the door for more professional projects and more support. And that happened with [this record, ‘Real & Fantasy’].

I was approached by a friend and was connected to A&R rep Tasso Smith over at Audio Network -- they are a music library company, and I had been really interested for years about how to get into sync licensing and getting music placed in television and film for a few different reasons. I feel like it’s hard to make a living as a musician, and I feel like that would have provided a balance. I can continue teaching and running my music school, but also, you know, they call it mailbox money, right? But also, beyond that, from a creative standpoint.

So I had a meeting with the A&R rep Tasso. He came to Nashville to talk to all these songwriters, and he asked me, are you a country and western writer? And I said, well, I’ve written some country songs, but I would not consider myself a country and western writer throughout the arc of my discography, if you will.

So, he said, ‘ah, OK, I’ll pitch you to the label (I’m gonna call it a label, for lack of a better word), as a concept artist.’ And I said, “I love that”. You know, as an artist you don’t wanna be nailed down, and I love subtly experimenting with genre. So, they came back to me and they said we love this song “Appraisal” off of your last record and we would love to see if you would wanna write some female, alt, indie rock.

So, we started with a few songs. Then, they said, “Well, what about a record?” So that’s how the whole process started [for the new album, Real & Fantasy’].

Was the goal of the record based on that prompt to come up with songs that could be licensed and marketable? Or was it more of a creative thing for you to do a rock record?

I would say it’s both, right? Because I think that their sync licensing company has different needs. They want songs to license. But they still support my vision. What I wished for, was a team, however that looked, that would believe in and support my artistic vision. And so, when I met with them, I said yes, sync licensing sounds amazing, however, as an artist, it’s really important to me to maintain my artistic integrity.

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And I had been wanting to move more into rock from Americana, so this was perfect for me, creatively & professionally.

You and I have talked about the new single, “Sixteen,” and the wave of nostalgia and things from your past that inspired that, including coming up in a maledominated scene -- especially in Florida. People say representation matters, but I think a lot of people don’t get that until maybe they see it. And you don’t know something is possible until you see that it’s possible. The whole world can open up for you – can you speak to that?

Absolutely. I remember having that moment when I was 15 or 16, and I went and saw Bright Eyes. They were touring on this record, Lifted…, and they basically had all of Saddle Creek on this tiny stage in Orlando. And it was men and women all on stage, and some of the women were multiinstrumentalists. Some of them would switch from the flute to this and to that and they were all on stage together. And one of them was Asian! And I thought, “Oh my gosh!” Sure, I’d seen Asian people playing classical music. But other than that, I hadn’t seen very many women, and then on top of that Asian women, just in a normal indie rock settings, and it opened my eyes to [the possibilities] in my own life.

So now [with my single “Sixteen”], I was

building up throughout the verses, right? “I have something to say.” Creatively, I try to connect the inner self with the collective consciousness. One thing that has been going on in the political consciousness, or the collective consciousness over the years, has been the #MeToo movement. I’m so grateful for it because as a survivor, it transformed something that was completely, absolutely taboo to talk about. I never wanted to before. I work with children, and there was this stigma that if you’ve been sexually abused, you might abuse other people or things like that. Like you’re too damaged to interface with reality or whatever, I don’t know. But there was all this stigma. And now, it’s just been…so much more talked about and accepted. It’s another part of representation, I feel like, because not everybody is comfortable with sharing that part of their experience.

Sometimes out of tragedy comes really powerful art that can speak to others, a message that maybe resonates with other people, you know? I think that’s a really powerful thing.

Yeah, absolutely. And then, of course, the rest of the new record Real & Fantasy kicks off from there, the song “Sixteen”. It’s a journey from that youth on into adulthood, and adulting, and then how adulting can hamper our dreams and desires but also encourage growth and healing and exploration, as well.

22 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE SPOTLIGHT
courtesy of the artist
ARIEL BUI REAL&FANTASY STANDOUT TRACK: “SIXTEEN” Follow on Instagram: @arielbui
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SPOTLIGHT
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 25 SPOTLIGHT Making Jazz Cool Again for a New Generation JOYSamara
Gus RochaMeredith Truax

To the casual listener, the cool and loungey sound of a jazz ensemble is likely to conjure up images of elegantly smokey and dimly-lit nightclubs buzzing with the chatter of debonair patrons sipping on expensive cocktails and exuding a perfectly cultivated air of urban sophistication. One might reasonably picture the type of refined and swanky environment where it would be expected to run into such urbane regulars as the late poet and art critic Frank O’Hara or the fictional Madison Avenue advertising guru Don Draper. A place that belongs in the collective memory, held together by the sweet and gentle sounds of a bygone era. But for jazz vocalist Samara Joy, the sassy and sultry sounds of yesteryear are less a reason for lapsing into teary-eyed nostalgia than a real opportunity to brighten the musical palette for today’s youth.

Born and raised in the Bronx, the twentytwo-year-old comes from a long lineage of musical performers. Her grandparents both performed with the Philadelphia-based gospel group The Savettes, while her father toured with gospel artist Andraé Crouch. From an early age, Joy began performing with her family’s church choir, learning the fundamentals of harmony in the process. It was this love for singing that eventually led her to attend Fordham High School for the Arts, where she won the award for Best Vocalist at JALC’s Essentially Ellington Competition. Emboldened by the experience, she enrolled in the jazz studies program at SUNY Purchase where she effectively began a promising and successful career as a vocalist.

While at SUNY, Joy won the prestigious Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, an accomplishment that opened up various doors in the music industry. Following her graduation from SUNY in 2021, Joy released her eponymous debut, a lively collection of standards that won her both praise from critics as well as comparisons to legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. These accolades, in turn, landed her a live performance on the Today Show along with a record deal with the legendary jazz record label Verve Records. It’s on Verve that she released her second studio album, Linger Awhile, this last September.

I caught up with Joy and discussed her meteoric rise in the industry, her view on social media where she currently has over 182,000 followers on Tik Tok and nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram, and what the rest of the year has in store for her.

It’s safe to say that you come from a

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“It feels great to know that I’m able to add to the musical palette that’s presented on social media.”

musical background. What are some of your first memories of listening to music?

They range. I remember listening to music in the car on the way to school with my dad. I also remember being at church listening to my family sing or my mom dancing at home while listening to her old favorites. There’s not really one moment, but a series of moments combined throughout my childhood.

Your family’s musical lineage goes back a long way. Your grandparents used to perform with the Philadelphia-based gospel group The Savettes, and your dad used to tour with gospel singer Andraé Crouch. How much has Gospel influenced you as a musician?

I would say that it influenced me deeply. I grew up listening to all of these amazing singers and these choirs and all these groups singing

such amazing harmonies, even before I knew what harmony was. I would just try and copy lead singers, and eventually, I started singing in church seriously when I was 16. Singing in church, I realized that it’s not necessarily about your performance. It’s not about showing off what you can do. It’s more of an invitation for the audience to partake in the music. So similarly, I want that to be the case whenever I sing jazz. I want it to be an inviting and collective experience for the audience.

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music as a career, and what was it about jazz that attracted you to that genre?

I always loved singing and knew that it would be a huge part of my life in some way. But I actually didn’t know that I would make a career out of it until I started getting into jazz. I was introduced to jazz in high school, but I wasn’t really interested in pursuing it until I

went to college to study it. I think eventually what happened was that this amazing and broad world of music opened up and I just started getting into all the styles it had and into all of the instrumentalists and singers who established a style of song in the genre. While immersing myself in it, gigs also started coming up and that’s when I felt like I had found a place in singing and that it could become a career.

Did you listen to jazz through your teens, or did you gravitate toward other genres?

I listened to a lot of Kendrick Lamar and a mix of singers from the ‘60s and ‘70s, and even some from the ‘90s. I loved Stevie Wonder and Luther Vandross, a lot of Motown groups, The Spinners, The Isley Brothers, and anything else that was part of my parents’ soundtrack. Then, of course, artists like Destiny’s Child and Aaliyah or Beyonce.

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You attended the jazz studies program at SUNY Purchase, and while there you won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2019. Fast forward a couple of years to graduation, and you release your eponymous debut which opened up the doors to performing with the likes of Christian McBride as well as making an appearance on the Today Show. How did this feel for you as it was happening in real-time? How did you navigate this insane whirlwind of amazing experiences?

In real-time, it honestly felt really fast and overwhelming, and I don’t think that that feeling has left. Looking back on it, though, as fast and crazy as it felt I’m really grateful that through that period I got to play as many gigs as I did and got to work on applying what I learned in school on the stage.

Your newest record, Linger Awhile, came out this past month to glowing reviews. It was also your debut with the legendary label Verve Records. How did you come to work with Verve and what was the process of recording this album like?

So, we recorded the album first and then started shopping around and meeting with labels. There were a lot of meetings with a lot of amazing people, but ultimately, when we met with Verve it just felt right. The team there is unbelievably dedicated and supportive and I’m just incredibly grateful to have gotten to work with them on this record.

As far as recording the album, it was fairly straightforward. We knew that it was time to record again, so we came up with a list of songs that I wanted to sing that I felt would bring in the general public because they were a bit more popular. Once we picked the material, we just went into the studio and held a couple of rehearsals before recording the whole thing in two days.

There’s a specific singing style that you use on this record called vocalese. You can hear it in your rendition of the late great Fats Navarro’s classic “Nostalgia (The Day I Knew).” For those that may not be familiar with it, tell me a bit about it and how it was that you came to experiment with it.

Vocalese is essentially putting lyrics to an improvised solo. The greatest group to ever do it was Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross although there are many others. But they are luminaries in the style. For my senior year of undergrad, in transcription class, I had an assignment where I was asked to bring in solos and my professor

had me bring in one for “Funky Blues.” So, I had the solo for Charlie Parker, Johnny Hodges, and Benny Carter and I wrote lyrics for each one of the solos. I think that the pressure of being in school and it being an assignment made me actually enjoy it to the point that I actually had a lot of fun with it. And over time, it became a style that I’ve enjoyed exploring and playing around with.

As a Gen Z artist, you’ve been able to build a large and dedicated following on social media. Currently, you have over 182,000 followers on Tik Tok and nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram. What’s it like to bring a vintage genre to a mostly younger digital audience? And what do you see as the hurdles as well as the benefits of using social media to promote your brand?

I was never really much of a productive user of social media, but the response so far has been amazing. It’s cool because I get a lot of support from younger audiences who are really interested in what I’m doing and who often respond to my posts saying things like “you remind me of a time that I never lived in or a time I never knew.”

So, it feels great to know that I’m able to add to the musical palette that’s presented on social media. As far as pros and cons, online you can obviously reach way more people than you could physically at a club or a venue. It’s just amazing to see people from all over the world who find their way to my corner of the internet and become connected with me and each other. As far as cons, I’m not sure. Maybe when people tell me that I make Christmas music (laughs).

You’re currently on tour. What does the rest of the year look like for you and what’s on the horizon?

The horizon is looking quite busy. We’re in Europe until the 28th of October before getting back to play a couple of gigs in Chicago. After that, rehearsals start for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Tour. I’m going to be singing with the orchestra and with Dianne Reeves on tour for two weeks before going back to New York where it’s just going to be me with the JLCO. I also have some gigs coming up with my family, with my grandfather, my dad, and my cousins at the Ardmore Music Hall in December, so it’s going to be a busy couple of months.

Are there any artists that you look forward to working with in the future?

A lot of amazing bass players and R&B artists follow me, like Derrick Hodge, Matt Ramsey, PJ Morton, and Jazmine Sullivan so I would love to work with any one of them.

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Follow on Instagram: @samarajoysings courtesy of the artist SAMARA JOY LINGERAWHILE STANDOUT TRACK: “SWEET PUMPKIN
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JOCELYN

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& CHRIS Sibling Duo on Building Success in an Ever-Changing Indie Landscape Benjamin Ricci Jordan Newman, Jeremy Tkach, Kiki Vassilakis, Lisa Bubel and Tina Pelech

Werecently had the pleasure of working with sibling duo Jocelyn & Chris on a series of

videos with Austrian Audio, and were psyched to be able to sit down with them to discuss their musical journey and creative process surrounding their latest recordings. Let’s jump right in…

A lot of times I ask where band members first met. In your case, that’s probably a pretty easy origin story, but if you wouldn’t mind giving us the abbreviated version of your musical background?

Jocelyn: So I’m Jocelyn. This is my little brother Chris, and we met when he was born [laughs]. So yeah, we go way back, but basically, you know, we grew up in a really small town in upstate New York called Fort Plain and lucky for us, our parents had this huge music collection of CD’s and that’s kind of how it started -- as just a fun thing we would do after school. We would go and grab a CD and listen and it quickly grew into something that we were really passionate about and we started learning [music].

I started piano lessons when I was in 4th grade, and Chris started guitar a couple months after that. We were practicing in the same living room and decided that we were going to play together and write our own music together in middle school. And then we started gigging and it kind of just snowballed from there until we met our current producer, David [Bourgeois], when I was a senior in high school -- so about 10 years ago.

So you guys been doing this together for quite a while. Was there like an a-ha moment where you both thought this might be a little bit more serious than just fooling around in the living room? Like, we can actually turn this into a musical career?

Chris: So basically, the moment that we met David, up until that point, it seemed like it was a little bit too fun to be like an actual professional pursuit, you know? So, we were like, oh, you know, we’re going to do this high school band thing. We’ll record some albums or some songs by ourselves, and then we’ll go off to college. And join the real world of adulthood and then David saw [us perform], and he was like, yeah, you guys could try to pursue this as a job if you want. So that was definitely the first time that it had even occurred to us that it would be a possible thing to do, the moment that it crystallized for us.

It sounds like you needed someone kind of from the outside to tell you, hey guys, this this might be something bigger.

Jocelyn: Sometimes you need that outside push to kind of put you in a different perspective in terms of like, oh, I guess, you know, the thing that we really love could also be our job, you know? Because that’s a big shift, so I feel like definitely sometimes you need that that outside elbow nudging you in the right direction.

Now at that time when David first saw you and put that bug in your ear, were you writing material for yourselves already?

Jocelyn: Yeah, yeah. So, we actually started writing when we were in middle school, shortly after we formed our first band. We’ve been playing together for a while, but we got a drummer and eventually we got a bassist, and we had a garage band in middle school. Shortly thereafter we started writing her own music. Really, we caught the bug pretty quick with that. It’s one of our favorite things to do.

David is the one who kind of brought us into the world of actual, professional-quality recording, where you go into the studio and you spend days and days just getting all of the sounds just right and all the mixes just right. So, while we had experience writing, we didn’t really have experience recording on that kind of a level until we started working with [him].

Now what does the songwriting process look for you two? And has that changed over the years? Is one of you the primary writer or lyricist or do you kind of collaborate and has that evolved over time?

Jocelyn: I think it’s evolved a bit as we’ve changed as people because I think our songs are definitely a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. But for the most part we have very different strengths and we kind of combine those strengths when we write songs. So, I am a word person. I handle the lyrics and the melody portion and Chris is really good at the structure of songs and the chord progressions and all the things that make a song cohesive on the whole.

We kind of come at it from different angles and, you know, each song kind of starts a different way. Sometimes one of us has an idea, sometimes the other one, and we kind of bring those ideas to the table and just start sort of start messing around with them until there’s something that we like and are proud of. We kind of just keep picking at them and rearranging things until we end up with something that we really dig. So, it’s kind of

32 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE SPOTLIGHT

always been like that actually, since the very first song. But, definitely as we’ve grown and become more confident as people and as artists, I think our music has changed a lot. I feel it, it’s matured with us as we’ve grown up and I feel like that’s especially reflected in our most recent record Favorite Ghosts . Because I think that this record feels very much like who we are as people [right now].

Now, when you’re recording, obviously in a more professional setting, are you thinking how these songs can be translated live to a stage for future touring?

Chris: There are definitely things about the record that we try to reproduce live. Like, you know, people want to come and they want

Jocelyn: It did, and we actually were kind of releasing it in waves. It was released on CD and vinyl, and we released it to radio in June, so you can purchase it. But it’s weird rolling it out to streaming platforms as like a series of singles, because that’s kind of the language that streaming platforms speak best anyway, so the official release date, like the streaming platform release date, is going to be sometime early next year probably.

Now would you consider this a lockdown record or not?

Chris: I think I would definitely consider this a lockdown record. A fair amount of the music was written before lockdown, but then a lot of it was written during and recorded

towards live streaming because [that was] a way we could still connect with people. So, there was actually a pretty extended period we were live streaming seven days a week for like a few hundred days in a row. But the moment touring opened back up, we were [back] on the road.

What’s the future hold for you two?

Chris: Yeah, we’re definitely going ride this record as far as we can because I’m really proud of it and I still think that, you know, there’s songs that we still haven’t released to streaming and there’s still a lot of runway for this record. So definitely gonna continue to sink our teeth into this one. And then after that, I mean we’re going to play it by ear. I think we’re definitely already thinking of new song ideas. That’s never stopped. So we’re going to continue to write and record and then see what the next one looks like, you know?

It’s been a weird couple years for us because it did shake up our routine, you know? We were kind of in this cycle of…write a record, release, tour, repeat every 12 months and now we’re going to do what feels good and makes us happy. That’s what it’s all about.

to hear songs that they can recognize and that they know. So, it’s not like we’re a different artist live than we are in the studio, I feel like.

Both the live show and the studio are ways to show off different strengths of the music and the way that you can interact with your music. So, like in the studio I feel given the space and the time, it’s the perfect opportunity to show how this is the ideal [version of the song]. This is how I see them, this is how I hear them in my head. We can nail down every single aspect and do everything exactly the way that we want to do it, and then the live show is all about energy and connection and just kind of raw emotions.

So, there are times where parts are really, really detailed and intricate that work great on the studio record when somebody is listening to it on headphones, but in a club with a PA system and a bunch of people with drinks and stuff like that, a lot of those things just wouldn’t even really translate. One of the greatest compliments you can give a band is like to come up to them and say that they were just as good live as they are on the record. Because that’s like, just so awesome to hear.

This record came out in June, right?

during. So it was…it was weird. I mean, you know, I feel like everybody felt that it was a weird time for anything, especially for creative pursuits, because we all kind of had a shakeup in our routine.

But sometimes that can be unexpectedly good for art because on this record we were able to live with these songs for much longer than we were anticipating. We thought we were going to crank this thing out and go on tour in 2020 and it was going to be like, all out. And then instead we kind of sat with these songs and like, got sick of them and then found our way back to loving them again as we figured them out. So, it was a different process for us, but it ended up being, I think really beneficial to how the record ended up and I’m really proud that we got to stick with it because I don’t think we could have made it any other time.

Were you guys itching to get back on the road? I would imagine you probably weren’t able to do much touring or many concerts during that time…

Jocelyn: So we didn’t do much touring, but we took all of the time that we would normally have devoted to touring and we just turned

PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 33 SPOTLIGHT
JOCELYN & CHRIS FAVORITEGHOSTS STANDOUT TRACK: “SUGAR AND SPICE” Follow on Instagram: @jocelynandchrismusic “The live show is all about energy and connection and just kind of raw emotions.”

RECORDING

Stereo Widening: 5 Ways to Give Your Mix Width

Width is a key element in any mix. Why? It gives the listener a sense of space and depth. Besides, the width makes the overall mix sound more open and exciting.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your tracks sound full and vibrant.

By utilizing a combination of basic mixing techniques such as panning, reverb, and delay, you can create a sense of space and depth in your mix that will make it sound professional and polished.

In this article, we’ll go over five different ways to give your mix width.

Stereo Field

Let’s start by understanding the stereo field. You see, this is essential when we’re talking about width and depth.

So, what is it?

The stereo field is the virtual space in which an audio engineer places instruments and other

sounds during the mixing process. This space is created by combining two channels of audio, usually from the left and right perspectives, to create a 180-degree field.

In this field, sounds can be placed anywhere from dead center to hard left or right. This allows the engineer to create a sense of width in the overall mix.

However, it’s not just about left and right.

The front and back of the stereo field can also be used to place sounds in different areas of virtual space. This can add depth and dimension to a mix.

By carefully composing the stereo field, an engineer can give the listener a feeling of being in the room with the band or in the middle of a huge stadium.

Panning

I’m sure that everyone utilizes panning one way or the other. However, a lot of inexperienced mix engineers are afraid of hard-panning

instruments in their DAW

Why?

They think that it will make the mix sound unfocused and low-pressured. Nevertheless, hard panning is a powerful tool if done correctly when you want to achieve width.

First things first, hard panning is when an instrument or sound is panned all the way to one side of the stereo field. This creates a very pronounced stereo effect and can be used to great effect in a mix.

On the other hand, if every instrument in the mix is panned hard to one side, it will sound very unnatural, and you’ll have a huge gap in the center.

Instead, try picking one or two key elements in the mix and hard panning them.

Keep your L and R balanced!

As an example, rhythmically opposed

34 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
TIPS
photo by Jonathan Gross

instruments can occupy the extreme left and right channels. This can be a great way to get vocals and low-end instruments to sit well in a mix.

Lastly, be bold when experimenting with panning. Try it out on different tracks and see what works best for each individual song. You may be surprised at how effective it can be.

Double Tracking

Double tracking is a recording technique used to create a fuller sound.

How? By having two or more instruments play the same part, simultaneously. This can be accomplished by having two musicians perform the same part, or by overdubbing a part onto an already recorded track.

But that’s not all. The two tracks are usually recorded slightly apart from each other.

By recording two “versions” and slightly offsetting them in time, the human brain is tricked into perceiving a fuller, richer sound. This is the basis of most chorus effects.

Moreover, double tracking can be used to create different textures in a recording.

Let’s take an example:

By double tracking a lead vocal with a harmony part, you can create a thick chorus effect. Additionally, by double-tracking an electric guitar with an acoustic guitar, you can add body and depth to the sound.

While it’s possible to double-track in the studio with two separate takes, many artists now use digital plug-ins that can generate a doubletracked effect from a single recording.

This can be a quick and easy way to thicken up your tracks without having to re-record anything.

Use a Delay to Manipulate Stereo Width

The HAAS effect can be used to create spaciousness in a recording or mix. The best part? It can be achieved with a simple delay.

Huh, HAAS?

The HAAS effect is a perceptual phenomenon that occurs when two identical sounds are played back simultaneously, but with one slight delay.

You see, if the delay is short enough, the brain perceives the sound as being part of the original sound. The result? A perceived widening of the stereo field.

Try this:

Pan the source track either hard left or hard right

Send it to short delay with no feedback

Pan the delay hard to the opposite direction

Try different delay times, but remember, the goal isn’t to achieve an echo effect.

The goal is to make the mono tracks sound wider than they really are, and the trick is to keep the delay time below our ears’ echo threshold.

Most people won’t notice any distinct repeats when the difference is less than 35-40 ms.

Add Depth With Reverb

Reverb is a powerful tool that can help you add depth to a mix. By creating a sense of space, reverb can make a mix sound bigger and more expansive.

In addition, it can be used to add texture and interest to individual tracks. However, it’s important to use it sparingly, as too much reverb alters the character of a sound

Finally, by EQing the reverb return, you can sculpt the tone of the effect to better match your track. For example, boosting the low frequencies will give the reverb a warmer sound, while boosting the high frequencies will make it brighter.

Use a Stereo Imager Plug-in

Stereo imagers work by using various algorithms to manipulate the phase relationships between the left and right channels of a signal. This can be used to create a sense of space and depth in a mix, as well as make the instruments and vocals sound more separated and distinct from each other.

Examples of stereo imaging plugins

MeldaProduction MStereoProcessor CredlandAudio Stereo Savage iZotope Ozone Imager 2 Waves S1 Stereo Imager

When it comes to stereo imaging, more is not always better. In fact, overdoing it can result in an unfocused mix.

Additionally, too much stereo imaging can make a mix sound hollow. Why? Because it can create an artificial sense of space and “gutting” of the center field.

To prevent this, stereo imager plug-ins can be used on instrument busses to blend the processed signal with the dry.

Furthermore, some plug-ins allow you to add stereo imaging on selected frequencies.

Conclusion

The sense of width and depth is what sets apart professional and amateurish mixes. Stereo imaging can be learned, but it requires a lot of practice to get it right. A good mix will have a healthy balance of width and depth. Too much width can make the mix sound thin and lacking in body, while too much depth can make it sound muddy and cluttered.

The best mixes strike a balance between the two, creating a spacious yet focused soundscape.

Hopefully, these tips will get you inspired to create your own wide, deep and immersive mix. Remember, there are no hard-set rules, and the key is to experiment with various techniques.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Kristiansen is the Founder / Chief Editor of Home Studio Ideas. Learn more at HomeStudioIdeas.com.

PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 35 RECORDING TIPS
MACKIE USA MACKIE ACROSS 36 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
MACKIE USAACROSS AMERICA Wrapping up our yearlong campaign with thoughts from our participating artists...

I’ve really been loving my new Mackie Onyx mixer. We’ve definitely been putting it to work, using it for livestreams and recording live sets in the living room or other “off-grid” locations where I can power it through an outlet adapter in my truck to make some cool content. The USB connection that gives me the ability to use the mixer as an interface has been super helpful and I’m really looking forward to making more music with it!

Late last year, we kicked off an ambitious project with the good folks at Mackie. We took a slew of their new products and found a great group of artists from all across the United States to check them out, record 30 videos with the new gear, and ultimately record some fresh tracks to be featured on an upcoming vinyl release entitled, you guessed it: MACKIE ACROSS AMERICA.

So, what did our participating artists think after all was said and done? Well, funny you should ask. We checked in and gave them each an opportunity to tell you themselves in the pages ahead.

Read on to learn all about their experiences with the Mackie products we sent them and stay tuned in 2023 for the final culmination of the project –a killer 12” vinyl release with all the tracks created during the promotion. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it all together!

Ash and I appreciated the opportunity to explore Mackie’s Onyx8 Mixer and share our experience with Performer Magazine. As an acoustic duo, we would have loved to have a unit with the Onyx8 functionality when we were just getting started. The Onyx8’s ability to serve as both a live performance mixer for a small act, and an audio interface truly expands its value for the beginner or hobbyist. We really like the sweepable midrange frequency. It sounded so good that we wish it were available on additional channels.

Of course, we are delighted to earn a slot on the Mackie Across America Vinyl. It is satisfying to have our work recognized by a new and expanding audience. In spring 2023 we are excited to release a short music film that has been in the works for a year now, too. It combines five gorgeous music videos highlighting songs from our latest release, “Sure,” interwoven with poetry. It has been our most adventurous feat to date. Join our community mailing list at ashandericmusic.com or follow us in IG @ashandericmusic to journey with us as it all unfolds.

MACKIE USA 38 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
AJ SMITH Ash & Eric

Hey!! Clutch here, just checking in with Performer to let you all know how I’m enjoying my Chromium Condenser Microphone from Mackie. I love how it allows me to record quickly with great quality and an easy set up. Since I’m always on the go, convenience is key and this microphone always me to handle both my podcast and my music recording. I had to step outside my comfort zone to record my videos -- it was my first time reviewing a product for all of the world to see and I now know what to improve on next time! Thanks to both Mackie and Performer for giving me the opportunity to share my music with the world and try a new product at the same time!  Mmmm

It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of Performer’s Mackie Across America series and to record an acoustic version of my song “Carousel” with the Mackie Onyx12! This mixer is super easy to use – I plug it straight into my laptop via USB to use it as an interface when recording, and its small size and portability allow me to take it with me for shows and get that same studio quality sound on stage. The board offers precise control over EQ, and I love being able to dial in my exact sound with its digital effects without any interruption to the signal flow. This mixer has great dynamic range and the ability to deliver volume with warmth, essentially recreating all the benefits of analog but without the noise. I’m excited to continue working with the Mackie Onyx12 as I’m currently in the process of creating my new EP, Even NASA Loses Satellites, featuring my new single “Retrograde.” Follow me on Instagram to stay updated @ devonsounds

PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 39 MACKIE USA
Paul Mason aka Clutch
Devon
Hmmmm!!!!!

Dee aka Bimbo Hypnosis

This new Onyx mixer has been absolutely wonderful. I went from swapping cables around with a tiny interface, to having everything in my studio at my fingertips. Jumping right from sampling vinyl into my MPC to recording drums off my MC505 into Ableton without having to switch a single thing around. I even have a VCR hooked up now pulling some wild samples from old tapes. I’ve probably written about 2-3 tracks a week since I got it, since it’s so easy to just hop right on. It’s also made recording DJ mixes for online radio super simple.

Outside of producing, I also DJ wherever the wind takes me. I have a residency at a local club and throw raves around the Seattle area. I’m actually throwing a big party for Halloween with DnB Legend Jordana LeSesne and Bored Lord. You can find out what I’m up to on my Instagram @bimbohyno. Thanks for all this, it’s been quite fun, enjoy the track!

Last year, I enjoyed testing the Mackie SRT212 PA speakers for the Mackie Across America event on the Performer Magazine YouTube Channel. I LOVE the speakers. I’ve used them as the main loudspeakers for my band Ache Harvest’s rock gigs and rehearsals, in addition to more laid-back events, such as my background music or open-mic style events. The speakers perfectly blend useful features and simplicity. For example, pre-show music is a breeze by connecting my phone to the built-in Bluetooth. They feel sturdy but not too heavy; I never dread carrying them after a long gig. These speakers are so reliable and have been perfect for all of my needs as a musician.

Overall, I’m super grateful to have been a part of this project. It was truly a great experience! I’m working on some new music both by myself and with the band as well as producing a bunch of local artists. I’m keeping myself busy doing what I love! You can check out all of my current projects on Instagram at @matthewaasenmusic and @ acheharvestofficial

40 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE MACKIE USA
Matthew Aasen

Modern Fools Wood Willow

We received a Mackie Thump Go 8” speaker early this year to put it through its paces and it has quickly become an absolute staple in our practice space! It’s super compact which makes it perfect for a monitor/wedge. We have it hooked into our main console and it makes for a slick small monitor that can easily be moved around the space. But the beauty is the Bluetooth function, which comes in clutch for learning songs as well as listening to music before and after rehearsals. As soon as we turn it on, it automatically connects to my phone, and we can seamlessly have music pumping through! We also keep it plugged in to power so it’s always fully charged and ready to GO!

We had a super fun time putting these videos together and releasing a live video of an unreleased song “Misery.” Go find it on the Performer YouTube page! Thanks to everyone involved in this project! We are currently wrapping up recording our second release “A Strange Offering,” a full-length LP (featuring “Misery”), set to come out in early 2023! Keep up with us on our website www.modernfoolsmusic.com and on Instagram @modernfoolsmusic.

The Mackie Thump GO has been an excellent addition to our live performances. In fact, we enjoyed its ease of use and functionality so much that we bought a second one to complete our PA setup. The clarity of sound, volume, and lightweight aspects of the speakers are a big upgrade for us from our old system but one of our favorite features is being able to use it as Bluetooth speaker to stream music during setup, tear down, and over breaks to keep the vibe going. Testing out the Mackie Thump GO for Performer Magazine was a lot of fun and quickly showed us why this speaker is a must have at our future performances and how it can be used in more unorthodox locations since it is 100% battery powered. Our recently released debut record, Southern Intentions, is now out on all streaming platforms and we hope to be coming to a city near you in 2023! For more information on Wood Willow and what we are up to next, give us a follow at @woodwillowmusic and to check out our upcoming tour dates, merchandise and more, head on over to woodwillowmusic.com

PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 41 MACKIE USA

Large format (three or more footswitches) pedals have become the standard for effects, with options for tweaking that can get to the molecular level. They can also get expensive, and overwhelming to some players. IK Multimedia’s X-Space has reverbs galore, with ease of editing, some great extras, all at a great price.

With 16 modes of reverb it has pretty much any kind of ambience covered, from vintage slap back to cascading ambient soundscapes. On board are 50 factory presets, with the ability to have 300 presets stored in the pedal. The three footswitches can navigate through the presets, and can be set to true or buffered bypass, bringing in elements such as continuing trails after the effect is turned off. Every element of the reverb effect can be manipulated through the controls on the front, as well as quick editing on the fly. There’s not a lot of deep editing to get lost in, and the large display gives the info needed in a very simple and streamlined way. It’s stereo as well and can run at line or instrument level. Fullsize MIDI connectivity is available, as well as USB. For added real-time control of effects, an expression pedal connection is also at the player’s disposal.

The Shimmer effect is always a great way to generate synth-like pads, and having two of them takes things to a whole new level. For more

traditional “spaces” the hall, room & chamber modes were excellent in adding depth. For ’80s fans, the gated version made us want to go back to the days of dayglo and pastels, as it certainly captured the signature of the era. Getting into the more outthere versions, the Bloom and Swells certainly gave a response that was more like a synth that can bend time. Each version has plenty of adjustability for the particular application and sound desired. Play “stump the pedal” and look to see where the road runs out, and you’ll lose, every time.

There are a few optional extras available, such as a cab sim with five impulse responses pre-loaded. These are not adjustable, but do sound nice, and work well with a drive pedal.

The USB connection offers up access to IK’s Librarian software (free to download), which allows the user to move around and rename patches on a computer. It also functions as a DAW interface as well! For added use in a computer environment, a copy of AmpliTube 5 SE is included, with a plug-in version of the X-Space featuring the same functionality.

For a player looking to step into the world of more reverbs, but thinks that it’s too expensive, or too overwhelming, this is the large format reverb pedal that’s wont bog you down. It’s small format pedal thinking, with big reverbs and big results.

PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 43 GEAR REVIEWS
None. CONS $279 STREET PRICE Excellent reverb options, easy to edit, cab sim PROS IK MULTIMEDIA AmpliTube X-Space Reverb Pedal

PRESONUS

Revelator

USB-C Audio Interface

Smallformat interfaces usually fall into three categories: A device meant for musicians, a device that’s meant for a podcaster, and one that does both, but not all that well. PreSonus has bridged the gap with a DAW interface that works across the board as a practical tool for musicians and content creators alike.

The unit features two combination XLR/1/4” inputs that feed into the XMAX-L preamp, along with a small display screen that provides visual representation of metering levels, connectivity status and preset functionality. A multifunction scroll/press knob as well as soft touch controls provide navigation through the settings on the display screen. Finally, a large red mute button can kill the main outputs, but keeps the headphone output active. Thankfully the front panel is slightly angled providing a good line of sight to the user. On the rear resides a headphone jack, left and right main outputs and full-size MIDI inputs and outputs.

Getting it up and running was a snap, registering the device unlocked a plethora of downloads, including a discounted offer on PreSonus Sphere, as well as versions of Studio One Artist & Studio Magic Plug-in Suite, which is loaded with plug-ins from processing to virtual instruments.

For content creators, the big thing is getting to access some serious under-thehood functionality via the included universal

control application. This app runs the show like a fully equipped studio desk, with EQ, filters, compression, a slap echo, pitch shifting and a noise gate. Each effect is adjustable even further for fully customizable presets that can be saved and recalled. A loopback feature allows easy use for gamers and streaming applications. This makes for a control center that has everything covered. The control app can also be run separately on an iPad as a remote control device. Great for an interview setting where a computer could get in the way or distract the talent.

Running it as a typical DAW interface on its own into Studio One, it functioned easily as well. The preamps are quite nice and musical sounding, and using it to record vocals and guitars provided plenty of clarity and depth with a 24-bit/96kHz response. It runs on Mac and PC devices, and can be used with an iPad (with Apple’s camera adapter) as well, which makes for a very compact and travel-friendly recording package.

Overall, it’s quite a loaded-up piece of kit. Using it as a podcast/vocal overdub device, there were no roadblocks on anything, either in software or hardware. As a recording device for music, there was no latency or any issues running a multi-tracked Studio One session or doing overdubs. The big thing for a user is to really dig into all the functionality and features, there are a lot of useful tools in this package for a musician and content creator.

44 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEWS
io24
None CONS $149 STREET PRICE Plenty of signal processing and control for content creators, excellent included software choices, well priced. PROS

SOYUZ

The Launcher Deluxe Inline Active Preamp

Vintage mic preamps found in classic mixing consoles had great coloring that enhanced the recordings, and are super desirable. There are modern equivalents that can be added to any studio, but usually at a high cost. Soyuz’s Launcher Deluxe brings a pair of musical and clear mic preamps to any user for a reasonable price.

With locking Neutrik combo XLR/TRS inputs and XLR outputs, this is a clean and simple unit, the only user options residing on the bottom: a launcher mode, and a saturate mode. Each input is separate, and the modes are available for both channels independently. Launcher mode is meant for ribbon and dynamic microphones, providing 26dB of boost to the signal. Phantom power is required for this mode, so be sure your mixer/DAW has the +48 button engaged.

The Saturate mode works in a more global sense with any kind of microphone. Keyboards, amp modelers and other line level devices can also be used in this setting as well. In this mode it’s a passive system, with no need for phantom power, but if a microphone needs power, it can pass through the unit and handle the mic’s power requirements.

Using this on a guitar amp with a SM57 was a breeze, and the results are best described as “more and better” – simple as that. The signal is dramatically boosted without distorting and getting crunchy, while maintaining a clearer bottom-end and rounded higher-end

response overall. It’s just an overall warmer and smoother feel. On an amp that might sound shrill or slightly high-endy this can compensate nicely. With the ability to run two of these at the same time, stereo tracks can get the same treatment from one box! Running a combo of a ribbon mic and a 57 on a guitar cabinet with one of these can easily add in a big depth to your rig with just two microphones.

This lil box can eliminate the need to try to “fix” things with an EQ plug-in. Running a Strymon Iridium into the Launcher Deluxe in the Saturate mode really made this simple little amp modeler/IR loader sound noticeably better overall, again with more body and smoothness that took a bit of “edge” off of it. With more fly rigs being DI based these days, one of these can easily fit on a pedalboard, and as it uses no power in this application it won’t require more headaches. Running a bass guitar DI, yeah this is the sound you think when someone always says a DI is the core of their signal. Big, warm, and clear.

There’s no way to tweak things, but it does just enough that this could easily be a consistent part of a signal chain in recording. It brings a vintage shade without having to figure out how to get it to work, it’s literally plug and play. There aren’t a lot of devices that can work across a variety of microphones and yield great results, but this can be thought of as the enhancement device you didn’t know you needed for your existing mic locker.

PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 45 GEAR REVIEWS
none CONS $599 STREET PRICE Simple to use, excellent analog enhancement, stereo applications, works with pretty much every mic. PROS

SE ELECTRONICS

Whenit comes to reliable, well-made audio gear, sE Electronics have been providing great products for years -and their new active, inline DI is keeping up its end on that reputation.

The form factor is impressive; it’s not that much bigger than a 1/4” to XLR converter, yet they managed to fit in a three way ground lift selector, and a three way selectable attenuation pad, and they’re both recessed to prevent any accidental movement. The casing is a bright orange and black in a Bengal tiger motif, so this isn’t going to get lost amongst the black and silver sea of other devices. The 1/4” input is a locking type, and the unit requires phantom power for operation.

Right out of the box, plugging in a passive bass guitar into our interface, the DM3 sounds really nice and full. The attenuation pad covers a reduction of 15 or 30 dB, depending on the mixer/ instruments being used. The super clear signal was amazing to hear without any futzing around. Running a piezo equipped acoustic guitar brought equally amazing results. For guitar players running into a DAW direct and using plug-ins, this is where your signal chain starts. Using this with several electrics into various amp sims and

plug-ins on our Mac was glorious, with excellent clarity right from the start.

The small form factor and affordable price are key selling points. It’s not a box that makes you wonder if it’s worth it, or even question if it’s doing anything. This is perfect for the home user who needs a DI that can work across instrument types, and not be another box on the desk to get in the way. Players on the road that have a DI box for “just in case,” get this. It’s small enough to fit in any case or gig bag, and as it’s phantom powered, no need to worry about an onboard battery. SE packages it in a cardboard sleeve that mimics a stick of dynamite – there’s that, too!

If you’re doing fly-in dates, bring this, but leave the sleeve at home, the TSA will thank you, and there will be no worries about your direct signal tone.

46 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEWS
CONS None. STREET PRICE $99 Small, simple,
powerful, works on passive instruments very
well! PROS
DM3 Ultra Hi-Z Active DI

SOLID STATE LOGIC

Guitarstrip Modeling Plug-in

who dive into recording are often overwhelmed; things get much more nuanced in every way, and finding the right combination and application of effects, EQ and dynamics can be difficult. SSL has taken a lot of the guesswork out of navigating multiple plug-ins with their new Guitarstrip option.

Guitarists

The new plug-in features four separate sections (EQ, Drive, Compression and Phase Correction), that can be applied to a guitar (or bass) track and can individually be turned on or off as needed. The three band EQ can be placed pre or post, and is quite adaptable. For compression, there are five presets, responsewise, from very slow to super-fast attack. Guitarists will immediately be drawn to the drive section, which is very sensitive; the subtleties of warm and smooth can easily go to distorted, and depending on the track, possibly musical or unmusically desired results could occur, so be warned when tweaking.

Phase correction is also offered and when applied to a situation where a track might not be in phase, such as a different guitar track or a DI signal, it has plenty of options to rectify the situation and get both signals in sync. We purposely put a signal out of phase and the “0” phase invert function automatically sorted things out, but for added adjustment there’s a delay function that’s a more refined approach. Combine all these effects and it’s a streamlined approach for a pretty comprehensive tone shaping tool.

The big thing is to not drop this on a track, and

try to hunt around through each effect -- that’s rabbit hole territory. There are factory presets that are more tuned for specific applications, and just selecting one that’s close to what’s desired, using that as a starting point, THEN tweaking here and there as needed is what we found to be the best workflow. Knowing when to search outside the norm can help; we applied a bass guitar preset to a clean baritone guitar track, and it added in the low end with clarity, while the top end had a smooth twang.

An acoustic guitar preset was also the better starting point for a clean arpeggio-ed electric guitar track. The drive control has a lot of grit to offer, in some cases almost too much. With tracks that are already distorted in any way, this effect may be overkill so be judicious. With IRs and modeler systems that are based on drive tones (as well as regular mic-ed up amps) already in the track, it doesn’t seem to tone stack well. On the flip side, when in bass mode, it really can fatten up a track with some rich overtones and was perfect for adding life to some tracks that were clean-ish, but lacking warmth and presence.

Overall, it’s a one-stop-shop for sculpting and shaping guitar and bass tracks in the box, and we really enjoyed what it added to otherwise flat tracks. This is one plug-in guitarists want to pay attention to, more so than the newest drive pedal of the month, as it’s a perfect way to put a smooth polish on tracks without breaking the bank (or requiring more room on your already-crowded pedalboard).

PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 47 GEAR REVIEWS
CONS Drive control might be a bit much, especially with already distorted tracks STREET PRICE $199 Plenty of tonal options, easy to navigate, great presets PROS

Vocalists

usually don’t dwell on microphones like a guitarist would over pedals, pickups and other items, but considering the purest path is the best sounding, a mic that doesn’t get in the way sonically for a vocalist makes sense, and yet seems to get dismissed. DPA’s 2028 offers up clean and accurate vocal reproduction for a variety of vocal approaches.

DPA microphones are extremely well made and robust, and considering some singers can really abuse a microphone physically, the extra effort that they used in designing this model will pay off, this isn’t a dainty piece. The capsule is a Supercardioid type, with a max SPL of 168dB; meaning it can handle some serious output.

Trying various approaches with this mic yielded some very interesting results. Mic technique can really color a performance, from cupping and beatboxing, and in a lot of cases certain mics can favor certain approaches, while not getting along with others. The 2028 however, seemed to be able to adapt to a variety of vocal approaches equally well, and is extremely consistent.

Fidelity wise, DPA states it’s a 1:1 vocal reproduction, and after putting the mic through its paces, it certainly backs up that claim nicely. There is plenty of natural response and clarity, and the isolation keeps other sound sources at bay nicely. Powerwise it’s quite present as well, with nuanced performance that feature the right presence and dynamics -- really a step up if you’re upgrading from the entry-level offerings on the market. This kind of clarity and fidelity also comes into play when pairing a mic with a wireless unit and gives the user the choice of mic voicing that doesn’t mess or contradict a wireless unit’s response.

Overall, regardless of vocal style the 2028 really delivers, and for serious vocalists who are relying on in-ear monitors, clarity and definition are a concern right from the start, and it starts with the microphone. For some vocalists the price tag might be a sticking point but considering it’s the first thing your voice hits in the signal chain, a high quality mic isn’t a bad investment, and having one that doesn’t color the response is worth every penny.

48 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEWS
Chris
CONS slightly pricey STREET PRICE $599 works great for a variety of vocal approaches and styles, excellent articulation PROS DPA 2028 Supercardioid Condenser Vocal Microphone

Scarlett is known as the interface of the people — Scarlett interfaces have found their way into millions of home and professional studios and have enabled musicians, songwriters, and producers to record, mix and play back audio worldwide.

Scarlett is easy to use and is backed by Focusrite’s unparalleled customer experience and know-how — it’s a force to be reckoned with.

NEVER STOP CREATING

Join the ever growing community of 4.2 million+ content creators who chose Scarlett and Never Stop Creating! focusrite.com/never-stop-creating

Artist: Chris Buck
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