How does a young boy from small-town northern Minnesota grow up to be one of the premiere producers/recording engineers in Nashville?
Follow his story.
First there came a love of music. His dad played classical guitar and his mom taught piano lessons in their home. The rich vocal harmonies of Crosby, Stills and Nash and complex guitar stylings of Leo Kottke played from the record player. A snare drum was purchased, an electric guitar was found laying around the house, the piano keys inviting harmonic exploration. And exploring he did.
He could never afford any audio recorders, but he borrowed them where ever and whenever he could, beginning with a simple boombox cassette recorder and moving up to 4 track cassette and digital recorders. His entire life was documented on tape, on these recordings. He’s been going through them, archiving them for history – he estimates 150 hours worth before the age of 20.
Although recording was his first love, playing out live soon became an obsession. He joined a rock/variety band at age 15. His friends played basketball and football on Friday nights – he was slamming drums at bars all over the upper Midwest, making booties shake and toes tap. He played with his first band nearly 5 years, the Dead Stiks, before branching into local bands such as Strange Brew, Desert Eagle, Kumari, Nashville legends Blue Mother Tupelo, and his own band Big E & the Killer Bees. His drumming career reached a high touring the US and Canada with Kelley Hunt in true boogie-woogie fashion on the blues circuit.
1999 saw a move to Phoenix, AZ for audio school and subsequent move to Nashville that same year. An internship at Omnisound and a staff engineer job at Sound Emporium studios brought him up to speed, studying under notable professional producers and engineers such as David Sinko, Garth Fundis, T Bone Burnett, Mike Piersante, Chuck Ainley, and Steve Marcantonio. The bar was set very high.
Fast-forward to 2003. Alison Brown. Compass Records. She needed a live sound engineer. Compass needed a studio engineer. Both owned by the same person, and on board he jumped. He began touring internationally, running sound for Grammy-winning banjoist Alison Brown from Nashville to California to New York to Canada to Ireland to Scotland to Australia, from clubs to theatres to huge festivals. He orchestrated the studio-rebuild at Compass Records new building and slid into the chief engineer chair, engineering albums for Alison Brown, Paul Brady, Drew Emmitt, Bearfoot, Grada, Beth Nielsen Chapman, John Doyle, Liz Carroll, Catie Curtis, 2-time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year Dale Ann Bradley, and Grammy Nominated Russ Barenberg.
What’s he been up to lately? Producing and engineering Norwegian rock band Orbo & the Longshots, most recently winning their Grammy equivalent for Best Blues Album in 2009. Producing and engineering an album for songwriter and flatpicker extraordinaire Bryan Clark, currently #21 on the Euro Americana Chart.
So how’d he get here? A lot of hard work. A lot of hours on the road, hours in the studio, hours listening to records, hours bringing dreams and ideas to life through music. But the question isn’t how’d he get here.
The question now is, where’s he going next.