Recording with Billy Joe Shaver, Jeff Austin at the AMAs

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All photos by Ana Gibert


Friday turned out to be a study in contrasts, and in recording techniques.

First we headed over to CMT Studios, where outlaw legend Billy Joe Shaver was scheduled to record a song from his new album, Long In The Tooth. The studio, housed in a sleek downtown building, had what seemed like a hundred cubicles and all the technology any media geek could want. State-of-the-art cameras, sound boards and lighting were scattered over a large, cable-strewn studio floor, where veteran cameramen, sound men and lighting experts worked their magic. Outside, the catering table had piles of donuts, Oreos and grapes, among other things, for the talent and crew. Shaver walked in with his band and, as always, was accommodating, friendly and full of smiles for everyone—and by everyone, I mean a few fans from the office, the crew, me and our photographer, Ana Gibert—maybe a dozen of us, tops. Sound check involved about half of “I’ll Love You As Much As I Can,” with Shaver and his guitarist, and we were ready to rip. The song was in the can in one take, and then he taped a brief interview explaining how the song, written for one of the two wives he’s married three times apiece, came to be. After thanks and a few hugs, a major television segment was ready to be spliced together and aired, all in an efficient 20 minutes.

From there, we headed to Music Row, a suburban strip two miles and a world away. In the famed RCA Studio A, where Willie Nelson, Tony Bennett and others recorded, Yep Roc Records was making a video for former Yonder Mountain String Band mandolinist and now solo artist Jeff Austin. Thirty or forty of us strolled into the historic recording studio, where folding chairs and a buffet of sandwiches and drinks awaited us. Three 35mm-type cameras focused on Jeff Austin, who stood alone with his acoustic guitar. We were instructed not to take photos because the room’s sound was extremely hot, and even the clicking shutter would register on the recording. Not only did Austin go through a sound check, but the audience did as well, clapping and hollering while the engineer adjusted levels in the control booth behind us.

Austin, unflappable, waited patiently and sang well, recording a second take on one song because apparently someone in the audience coughed. The whole affair had the cozy feel of a house concert. We all schmoozed and chatted, breaking mostly because there was another performance looming on the horizon, as there always is at the AMAs.

– Suzanne Cadgene

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