Billy Decker is an in-demand mix engineer stationed in Nashville. He’s mixed 14 #1s to date – most recently, Chris Young’s “Losing Sleep”.
#1 – What are your three foremost focuses with any mix you work on?
- I always start with drums
- Then the bass
- Acoustic guitars, electric guitars and keyboards
- Vocals are always last
#2 – Country music has definitely changed over the years in ways that some enjoy and some don’t but the twang has always remained. Do you feel this illustrates the power of the Telecaster or is there a lot more to it?
Well country music has and always will be about the song first and foremost. The story telling aspect thru music is what made Nashville and country music unique. Lately it has gotten away from that, as there has been an influx of a lot of people just moving here to write a song and make a quick buck. I do see a shift though where it is trending back to the more traditional “Nashville” sounds if you will including the Telescaster instead of dirty Les paul sounding guitars. Music is fluid and Nashville is no exception, but i think it is through with its growing pains and is realizing if “its not broke, why try to fix it?”
#3 – Many of your mixing credits involve some very nice guitar tones. Could you take us on a detailed walk through your general approach to recording and mixing country guitar?
I never have ever followed any rules about putting a compressor first etc. My usual electric guitar chain (coincidentally what my bus glue plugins are modeled after), are as follows. An api 550 b type EQ, followed by a clipper (aka jst clip, turned up to 3 lights), and then followed by a limiter. I probably use more limiters than compressors day in and day out.
#4 – It seems many studio engineers have mics and amps they love and hate working with. We would love to pick your brain on the gear you love seeing roll into a studio!
Hmmmmm, since all i do is mix, i usually dont get a say, but if I did, it would probably be a u47 type clone for a mix (i actually like the newer recreations rather than the old noisy originals). Amp and cab wise probably a simulator like the AxeFx or a Kemper. I like plug and play easy, time is money!
#5 – You just released a series of mixing plugins with Joey Sturgis Tones called Billy Decker Bus Glue. How did this idea get moving and what was the development experience like for you?
I did a nail the mix episode for Joey and his URM crew. When he was in Nashville filming me he approached me and said he and I mix very similar, just in different genres. He wanted to try exploring the country market as it is such a growing genre. I napkin sketched out my ideas, documented what I use, and his team looked at it and recreated it with their coding and software my exact sound. To the point where it actually not only equaled on all plugs but in some cases exceeded it and beat the original!
#6 – During the development, can you tell us what hardware components from your collection you had in mind when helping JST with the design of Billy Decker Bus Glue?
Well i am 100% in the box and always have been, so they looked at what I used and how I use it, and then applied their own coding and algorithms to that.
#7 – While the bulk of your career highlights have been in the country genre but you have obviously mixed a wide variety of genres and styles in your career. What qualities do you feel the Billy Decker Bus Glue plugins can bring to any mix in any genre?
Music is music, an act is an act, an electric guitar is an electric guitar and a voice is a voice. They all fall within a certain frequency spectrum. Pop these on and you will understand what I am talking about.
#8 – Nashville and country music in general always has and likely always will be a haven for the session musician. Who are some of your favorite session players to work with and what key factors do you feel are a must with any session player?
They are all good here in Nashville. The key is choosing the right ones for the style of country music you are recording that day, ie” traditional/bluegrass/contemporary. Each sub genre of country has stronger players than others. There really are too many to list and there are always at least 5 deep in each category
#9 – Amp simulation is an ever-growing industry be it with hardware units like the Kemper and Axefx or the abundance of high quality software out there. Many top name players and bands in a variety of genres are switching over for various reasons, do you see much of it in Nashville studios?
Not as of yet. Nashville is slow to embrace change, but i imagine with a new generation of players, new technology always emerges. I love both of those products and use them.
#10 – How would you use the “electric” plugin in the BDBG series to give an amp sim a little more life?
There is just one knob on the BD bus glue, called Deckerate ,so i would say, just turn it up….lol
#11 – The Billy Decker Bus Glue plugins are designed for any level of recording in mind but they are absolutely going to attract attention from the large population of home recording warriors. Can you lay out some general advice as to how people at home can use your plugins to create a more professional product?
The coolest thing about these plugins are they are my exact chain. You want to “look under the hood” and sit next to me for a day while I mix a tune, well you could, or just use my plugins, they are exactly the same!