Inside Nashville's Station West Studios
Interview with Grammy award-winning engineer and producer Luke Wooten
Station West is a thriving studio complex in the Berry Hill community of Nashville, that was established in 1998 by Grammy award-winning engineer and producer Luke Wooten. Luke has recorded and produced such great artists as Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Chris Stapleton, Dustin Lynch, Kellie Pickler, Bob Seger, Sixpence None the Richer, Richard Marx, as well as worked on soundtracks for movies such as “Country Strong” starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw, and the “Cars” animations from Pixar.
[LEWITT] Luke, you have this really wide and varied career. Tell us, how did you get started in the music business?
[Luke Wooten] Well, I was a music theory major at the University of Virginia and transferred to Belmont for the music business program. During my time at Belmont, I interned at a company called Famous Music, which was a publishing company subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. And it was really in that internship when I discovered the recording process. I moved here to be a singer-songwriter guitar player. I'd never seen that side of the glass. From my first day recording, I realized that I had a passion for it. That's what I wanted to do. And in that internship, I worked with a guy named Carl Jackson, and he was Glen Campbell's bandleader for years. He actually used to play with Jim and Jesse. He went out on the road when he was 14 years old, but he's also a great songwriter and producer, and he was my mentor for years. We actually won a Grammy together for the Louvin Brothers tribute, for Country Album of the Year, shortly after I started Station West.
[LEWITT] Now that you are here at Station West and you're recording, producing, and engineering, what do you like best about it?
[Luke Wooten] The most fun I've had in about 20 years is the new artist development company that we just started. Being able to watch an artist launch and get that first taste of success is definitely the most fun. When I first met Dierks, he had just done a demo session. It was basically a basement recording that I mixed for him, and we were able to have our first number ones together – he as an artist, me as an engineer and producer. That was incredibly fun, and kind of getting to do that all over again, with artists under the Warehouse West brand, is incredibly rewarding. I'm getting up and looking at their stats on Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music every day. It's pretty incredible how much the business has changed in just the last five years.
[LEWITT] One of the artists from Warehouse West Entertainment, Jordan Brooker, is an up-and-coming rising star. Could you tell us a little bit about how far he's come?
[Luke Wooten] Well, I met Jordan six years ago. He had done a cover video of a Dierks Bentley song that I produced. I remember I saw the video on the Tuesday morning that the album came out. That's because he had stayed up until midnight to buy it at Walmart and learn the last song on the album, then he did a cover video. I was the seventh person to see it, and that's how I met him. And since then, I've mentored him, helped him get his first publishing deal, and when we started this company, he reached out to me and said, “hey, I want to be the first artist on this artist development company.”
Since then, he put out his first EP three months ago, we're almost at 2 million streams on Spotify, he is the face of the “Wild Country” playlist, he's got two songs on that playlist as well as on “New Boots”, Pandora named him one of the “Country Artists to watch for in 2019”, he's about to go on his first major tour, doing 25 dates that haven't been announced yet, opening up for a great artists in town, and it's really exciting to see all that hard work coming to fruition.
[LEWITT] So, while you're developing him, and while he's rehearsing for his tour, what kind of microphones is he using for his vocals?
[Luke Wooten] He's using the MTP 550 DM. We have a rehearsal space here, that's something for all of the artists to kind of woodshed before they go out on the road and work on their live sets. And it's a smaller room. A lot of the bigger rehearsal rooms in town are just like insane asylums, just big padded rooms, while ours is a little bit more alive. We were kind of struggling with feedback issues, and not only does he sound great on this mic, but it has really helped with the feedback problems in the room. Even on the road, because he takes them out. He and his guitar player, who sings harmonies, both use them. And at every place where he has gone, we haven't had the feedback issues with some of the usual suspect microphones like he's used in the past. He’s really happy with them.
[LEWITT] Tell us about your LEWITT recording microphones.
[Luke Wooten] We've got the LCT 840 and LCT 940, as well as the LCT 540 S and LCT 440 PURE. The LCT 440 is just that kind of a Swiss Army knife mic. It’s super flexible. I find that a lot of the writers are constantly using it to do work tapes with, because it's a general-purpose microphone when you're doing guitar, vocals, or other stuff. But the LCT 940 is the one that I've probably spent the most time with, because it's just so intriguing. I've never had as flexible of a microphone in our locker before. A lot of times, what I'll find myself doing is that I dial in a sound from the control room, and then put on headphones and sit with the artist and adjust between tube and FET right in front of them, just to get that perfect blend. And it is amazing how you can get the sound of four or five different microphones from that one mic, depending on the blend of the FET to the tube, that's pretty amazing.
[LEWITT] Have you had any feedback from people in the studio? What did they think of the way that mic looked?
[Luke Wooten] Well, everyone loves the way it looks, because it's kind of a high-tech look. You can definitely tell that it's a modern mic. It's funny – when we were doing a shootout the first day, with several of these mics as well as others in our locker, with Alana Springsteen, who's another one of the acts on Warehouse West, we had both of the engineers in here, and we were going back and forth. We kept thinking that the LCT 940 wasn't patched correctly, because you could hear the ambient noise as we were going from our 47 to the C12, and then plugged in the LCT 940 and said, “guys, the supply is not on”, and they went, “yes the supply is on”, it was just that much quieter than our other tube mics. You could really notice that. That’s the first thing that caught our attention. And then, obviously, you've got one sound that you're going to get out of a 47, a 251, or C12, but it's almost infinitely variable between the two circuits on the LCT 940.
[LEWITT] How does the sound translate, as they used to say, to tape? In this case, how does that sound translate to your computer’s DAW?
[Luke Wooten] It's like they're sitting right in front of you. It’s so clear. It’s almost like if you want to have any color to it, you're going to have to do that through a preamp, because you're pretty much just getting an unfiltered, clear picture of what's being presented to it.
[LEWITT] And your other LEWITT microphones? I see that you're using the LCT 540 S. What do you think of that?
[Luke Wooten] That takes the whole clean thing to the next level. It's evidently the lowest noise floor microphone manufactured in the world, I guess. And yeah, if you think the LCT 940 is quiet, you should try plugging this thing in. I have actually started using it as a third mic on acoustic. I usually only have stereo mics, but now I use the LCT 540 S over the sound hole, pointing down, and it has changed the way that I record acoustics.
[LEWITT] Are there any final words you'd like to say about LEWITT?
[Luke Wooten] They make great microphones. It’s nice to see a new-looking microphone that can stand up to a lot of the classics that we've got in our locker here. I'll look forward to trying out more of them.
LCT 640 TS
- Full, crisp, and well-balanced sound
- Revolutionary Dual Output Mode
- POLARIZER plugin to create any pattern after the fact
- Stereo capabilities
- Multi-pattern design
- Blend tube and FET circuit at any ratio
- Studio centrepiece
- 12AX7 tube
- Remote control and power supply in one
- Multi-pattern design
MTP 550 DM
- Tailored vocal sound
- Highly feedback proof
- Durable materials for longevity
- Cardioid polar pattern