5 Top Mix Engineers U Should Know in Country Music
Knowing Top Engineers and their work is one of the things engineers should be doing if they aren’t already. Learning whose work is considered top notch in your industry is one of the best ways to know what to shoot for in your own mixes. Here are some of the Top 5 on our list in Country Music today. If you don’t know these guys, that’s fine. That’s why we decided to do this post, to familiarize our guests and members. Like the other posts on Pop & Hip Hop, I want to make it clear, I am very aware that these engineers mix many, many genres. By no means are we saying with this article that these engineers only mix country music. We decided to include these engineers in this category because they’ve either mixed some of the most recent country hits, or they’ve worked with some of the genre’s biggest artists. Without further ado, here are 5, (not necessarily the top 5 ) mix engineers in country music you really should find out more information about.
If you go to an AES convention you may see Chuck Ainlay on a Grammy Panel of engineers. It’s always great to hear some leading audio engineers impart some wisdom, and Chuck Ainlay is a leader in country music mixing for sure. According to his bio on chuckainlay.com he’s worked all across Nashville’s Music Row and eventually launched his independent career after his stint as chief engineer at Castle recording studio. His production partnerships with music great Mark Knopfler have been the basis of a lot of his major works, but you’ll also know his work from associations with artists such as Dire Straits (won a Grammy for their surround album), Miranda Lambert, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Travis Tritt. Like most engineers, he’s branched out to other genres with works with Lionel Ritchie and Jewel among others. One thing that stands out to me about Chuck Ainlay is his soundtrack work. He’s not only mixed many of the most famous acts in country but his foray into mixing for film is another reason why he’s definitely one of the most influential engineers to follow.
One of the reasons for the success of Taylor Swifts “Speak Now” aside from the great songwriting, the target demographic, and a hell of a lot of radio play, is its awesome mix engineer. You can blame Justin Niebank for that . Based in Nashville, Justin Niebank is one of the top mix engineers in country music today, and other than Taylor Swift, you’ll also know his work from artists such as: Rascal Flatts, Hunter Hayes, Vince Gill and Blake Shelton. He’s had his own episode on Pensado’s Place, and he’s a Grammy winner many times over. Personally, one of the best things I’ve learned about Justin Niebank is that he’s a fellow bass player as well. To quote from an old interview he did with universal audio here, where he imparts some key info we hear all the time in the engineering world, “keep [the] momentum going and get the gig done so the technical side is invisible to the creative side.”
Mike Shipley (Deceased)
Although this is a posthumous tribute/listing I think you can’t overlook Mike Shipley’s work in the music industry and you can still learn a lot from his records. One of the most awesome things about music, is that it continues to live on forever. Born in Australia, Mike won 2 Grammy awards for his work on “Paper Airplane”, the record by Alison Kraus and Union Station. Shania Twain, Faith Hill, and The Corrs are all names you’ll know his work from as well, and he began his career in London at Wessex Studios working with acts such as Def Leppard, Queen and The Sex Pistols. Sound on Sound did an in depth article on Mike Shipley’s work with Alison Kraus and his ten year break from engineering here and it’s an article you really shouldn’t miss.
Reading Andrew Scheps credits on Allmusic.com is like reading a “who’s who” of artists. He’s most certainly not only a country engineer, but I wanted to put a spotlight on him, and this seemed like as good an area as any since he has worked with greats such as Bonnie Raitt and Johnny Cash. One of today’s most revered voices in Jennifer Nettles is also on his credit list. You’ll easily learn a lot from videos of his stint on “Mix With The Masters” and you can’t overlook his award recognition as well, Grammy’s, International Engineer of the Year and TEC Outstanding Creative Achievement awards. Scheps’ is a University of Miami grad, musician and all-star mix engineer. From working live gigs with Stevie Wonder, to mixing Metallica he’s done it all in our field.
Brett Eldridge, Colt Ford, Thomas Rhett, and Kacey Musgraves have all worked with Ryan at “The Racket” Recording Studio on Nashville’s Music Row. Ryan like many engineers came to Nashville pursuing a career as a musician, but found his love of engineering to be a bigger pull. He lists many of his favorite things about working as a recording engineer on the sold sister’s web blog. Check him out!
**What are your views on these Mix Engineers and some of the other top engineers in this genre? Let us know in the Forum**
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