Nashville, Tennessee - June 2010:
Paul Worley has enjoyed a storybook career. Starting out as the proverbial studio gofer, making coffee, sweeping debris, and hoping for a big break, Worley advanced in small measure by serendipity and, in large measure, by his obvious talents, both musical and social. He went on to become a session guitarist, a vice president at Sony BMG, chief creative officer at Warner Bros. Records, and, perhaps most famously, the coveted producer of several legendary country music albums. Indeed, Worley has worked with Big & Rich, Lady Antebellum, and Martina McBride, and has earned two Grammys for his production on the Dixie Chicks' Wide Open Spaces and Fly.
Worley recently partnered, with industry friends, to found Skyline Music Publishing and Skyville Records. In association with Skyline, Worley and collaborators built Shabby Row, a project/overdub studio whose humorous name belies the serious, high-quality work that has, and will be, done there. Happily yielding to his requirement for high-end analog equipment to breathe life into the digital recording medium, Worley purchased API's new 1608 console from Kurt Howell at Marshall Graphics Systems, Brentwood, Tennessee, to give Shabby Row an analog heart.
"It might be my own ignorance, but I simply can't get where I need to go sonically in the box," admitted Worley. "I inevitably feel both a lack of warmth and a lack of three-dimensional depth. I don't know why exactly, except that there is some magic in the electrons moving around; something to do with slew rates, skew, and phase relationships." Worley has long admired the API "sound" and confessed to sometimes running signal through API EQs without any boost or cut, just to impart that "sound" on his signal. "I know it's not 'supposed' to do anything at all," he laughed. "But it does. Everything has a fingerprint, and some are better than others."
That said, Worley does like the workflow and convenience of the Pro Tools system that the API 1608 interacts with. He considered finding a used, vintage console for Shabby Row, but decided against it for the significant risk that failures and upkeep would plague the studio. "All that stuff is hard to maintain, and it's only getting harder," he said. "It's really like buying unsupported technology. It didn't make a lot of sense in our situation."
Worley had worked with the API 1608 (serial number one!) at John and Martina McBride's Blackbird Studio in Nashville for Jennette McCurdy's new single on Capital. "It seemed like the perfect solution for our overdub/project studio," he said. "We have a very nice sounding little room with an isolation booth. Our aspirations are mainly for doing overdubs and tracking demos. It's a perfectly comfortable place to get that kind of work done." As such, Shabby Row's API 1608 won't be used for mix down very much; Worley takes projects to the larger studios he frequents for that task.
So far, Shabby Row has been used to record most of Skyline artist Stealing Angels' forthcoming release. Worley has also used the space to record a Lady Antebellum Christmas project. Vocals have provided the lion's share of source material, along with electric guitar, acoustic guitar, fiddle, and Dobro. Worley added several API 525 compressors to the 500 series expansion bay on the 1608 so that any channel can be patched through it. "I love the 525 on guitars - it's a fantastic sound," he commented. "All together, the board is completely awesome. We're totally happy. It's all nice and warm with that analog 'goosh.' I've tried other summing solutions, but the others fall far short because you need more than just two channels in order to preserve three-dimensional depth."