Nathan Holliday is a 27-year-old recording engineer, FOH engineer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist from Oklahoma City. Nathan has worked closely with Walrus Audio on their live band tech demos, their Songs At The Shop series as well as with Keeley on their full band tech demos and recorded live and in-studio. He recorded Walk The Moon, Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes, Run River North and Julien Baker, local Oklahoma City artists such as Horse Thief, Adam And Kizzie, Tony Foster Jr, Jose Hernandez, The Notionaries, and more.
[LEWITT] How did the cooperation with Walrus Audio and Keeley came about?
[Nathan Holliday] The great thing about those companies is, other than the fact that they make awesome pedals, they’re located in the Oklahoma City area. And the Oklahoma City music scene is really tight-knit, meaning everybody who does something has probably heard of or knows of you. I happen to be friends with the guys over at Walrus and some of the guys at Keeley for a long time. I’ve actually built pedals for Walrus for a little bit and then started doing some recordings with them.
[LEWITT] You’re using LEWITT mics for most of your projects. Please tell us about your experiences so far…
[Nathan Holliday] I own more LEWITT stuff than other microphones. I’ve got the DTP BEAT KIT PRO 7. That has the DTP 640 REX, MTP 440 DM, three of the DTP 340 TT’s, and two of the LCT 340’s. I’ve actually got another DTP 640 REX kick mic, and then I’ve got two more of the MTP 440 DM’s, three MTP 550 DM’s, and one MTP 940 CM. So, I’m a massive fan of those. The reason I chose them was that I do a lot of live sound and live recording. Dynamic mics tend to be more rugged than studio and large-diaphragm condensers, but one exception at that is the MTP 940 CM. I use that a lot on live and in-studio vocals. I’ll cut scratch tracks with that, I’ll cut full, final vocals with that. I’ve actually worked on a song with my wife last Christmas, and we used that microphone because it has a really good amount of rejection. We had to work while our then newborn daughter was next to us in the same room, so we couldn’t have a bunch of extra stuff going on. That ended up being so good - it is, in fact, a full-blown large-diaphragm condenser. I use them all the time, every project.
Walrus Audio's Songs At The Shop performance with Walk The Moon
[LEWITT] Let me ask you about the MTP 940 CM for a second. You spoke about the rejection. When you unscrew the cap, you have three polar patterns there. Which one do you use?
[Nathan Holliday] When I first got that in the mail, I unboxed it and unscrewed the cap just to see what was going on with the large-diaphragm capsule. I switched it to the supercardioid, and I haven’t looked back. It’s just so good. With the MTP 550 DM’s I have three more cardioid dynamic microphones, but I don’t really have any supercardioid mics. So that fits the bill for me. I love that microphone. I actually geek out on it all the time. Whenever I work with singers, I want to let them know that they’re being taken care of, and say: “You just sang into a full-blown studio condenser, even though we’re in the Walrus Audio HQ. Kind of in an untreated room, which is not ideal but your vocals are going to sound great.”
[LEWITT] What do you think about the sound of your MTP 940 CM condenser handheld microphone?
[Nathan Holliday] It’s absolutely insane. It’s not harsh at all. It’s really open and clear. Like I said, the rejection, the focused nature of the MTP 940 CM. No matter what singer I’ve thrown it on, we talked about Adam And Kizzie, Tony Foster Jr, and all those kinds of artists. R ‘n’ B, jazz, it works great on infinite vocals. I’ve used the MTP 940 CM on Taylor Goldsmith’s vocals and that thing sounded amazing. I didn’t have to do hardly anything to it. It just sounds open and clear, and nothing that you think a handheld microphone would sound like. If you would just listen to that with a trained ear, you would think that it was a big fat microphone with a shock mount, in a studio. No, it’s a handheld vocal. It literally blends together the two worlds of live and studio sound.
[LEWITT] Have you had any comments about it from the artists that you worked with or their audience?
[Nathan Holliday] All the time, especially artists. They’ll come up to me afterward and go: “My vocals sounded great, what were you doing?” And then I’ll unscrew the cap, show it to them in my hand and say: “You just sang into a studio-quality microphone. Live. That’s why. I’m not doing anything special, it’s the microphone. It’s you singing into this mic, and it’s really just going out of its way and letting you be heard how you picture yourself in your head.”
Walrus Audio's Songs At The Shop performance with Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes
[LEWITT] Tell us about your MTP 550 DM handheld dynamic microphone. How has that worked out for you?
[Nathan Holliday] Those are a staple of mine as well. I typically try and put different microphones on background singers, rather than having the same mic on every single one. I’ll usually put the MTP 940 CM on the lead vocalist, and on all the background vocalists I’ll put the MTP 550 DM’s. Not that it’s a lesser microphone, but it sounds a little different. They’re just rock-solid. They sound more expensive, detailed, and refined than your run-of-the-mill Sennheiser or Shure handheld live vocal mic. I’ve used them in conjunction with those before and everybody on stage has favored the MTP 550 DM, noticeably. I never have to sacrifice quality. It’s just a different tool in my toolbox. One that I can always trust.
[LEWITT] That’s really great to hear. You also have a similar mic, but without a ball head. That’s your MTP 440 DM. How do you use those?
[Nathan Holliday] That’s my go-to snare mic. I have three of those, so I’ll typically do snare top and snare bottom with them. I rotate between a few different dynamic microphones on electric guitar, and the MTP 440 DM is right on top of that list. Every studio engineer has a gaggle of 57’s in the center console of their car, right? It’s this snare staple. It sounds good, but it never sounds great. It works, you know? The MTP 440 DM is like it took everything that the 57 ever wanted to be and made it better. I have a couple of vintage 57’s, which are supposed to be better and make snares sound good and everything, but the first day I got the MTP 440 DM’s in the mail I threw them on a snare drum, and I haven’t looked back.
[LEWITT] For someone who has never heard an MTP 440 DM, how would you compare its sound of that to the industry staple?
[Nathan Holliday] I think the reason that the staple has been around for so long is because it’s been proven, it’s trustworthy, and it just works. You know what you’re going to get. That’s how I feel about the MTP 440 DM. You could put it on anything and it’s going to sound great. It has more bottom-end focus than the 57. It doesn’t ever lose that low-end focus. The top end is great without being harsh. Their transient detail is incredible. I’ve actually used them on horns, as well as trumpet, and saxophone. They’re killer microphones.
[LEWITT] You also mentioned your BEAT KIT PRO 7. What do you like in that kit?
[Nathan Holliday] I really like the case. (laughs) It’s amazing. As crazy as it sounds, the aesthetic is something. The logistics of carrying around that many microphones can be a hassle, especially in a live setup. I’m carrying a ton of cables, extensions, stuff that can make and break a show, mic stands, you know... Having that hard, noble case that they came in honestly saves me a lot of stress and unpacking. Which is silly, but that case is awesome. The DTP 640 REX is my go-to kick mic. I actually have two of those, and I use them on low toms, organs, bass amps, and bass cabs. There’s another MTP 440 DM. It’s great to have three of them now because I can put them on snares and still have one left over for electric guitar. The three DTP 340 TT’s, those tom mics are really deceiving because they’re small little things. They sound huge. And then the LCT 340’s, those pencil condensers are just awesome. I use the DTP 340 TT’s on toms, exclusively, and I’ll swap out the DTP 640 REX on the low tom, depending on the song and if it needs something a little different. I also use DTP 340 TT’s on guitar. They sound awesome and will beef up anything. That’s one of my favorite mics on electric guitar, and it also works on piano back really well. The LCT 340’s are my go-to overhead mics. I can just trust them. I use them in spaced pairs over the kit. They sound even and focused. They bring out the nice whack on the skins of the drums, and they tame the cymbals a little bit. They’re not harsh, they’re not dark microphones, it just sounds like what you’d picture a drum set sounding like. Plug them in, turn up the mic, and it’s like you’re standing in front of the kit, listening to exactly what is being played. Doesn’t sound hyped at all.
[LEWITT] Let’s change the subject for a moment. What’s it like to be married to a singer-songwriter like Bobbi Holliday, and how does that affect your client-relationship work?
[Nathan Holliday] It’s awesome. Some of my friends had a rule that said: “Never marry a musician.” I broke it and married Bobbi a couple years ago. She’s an awesome singer-songwriter. It was tough at first because I was her husband, and I talked to her like a husband would, but in a session. We’d be working on a song, trying to go through the creative process, and I’ll talk to her like her husband and tell her “you need to do this differently”, or “you could do that better”, so I was really honest with her. I realized that didn’t work really well because she expected me to be her producer and her engineer in that moment. I had to treat her like a client, which is tough at times. Usually, when your client is done they go home and you’ll see them the next day or the next week. But I live with mine. (laughs) It’s awesome. It’s been fun to take the journey and figure that out.
[LEWITT] You know what they say. “Happy wife – happy life!”
[Nathan Holliday] There’s some wisdom in that.
[LEWITT] Do you have any final comments about LEWITT?
[Nathan Holliday] There are a lot of great companies out there doing awesome things, and LEWITT is one of them. They are, in my opinion, one of the tops in the game right now. They make amazing microphones that are rugged enough to survive on tour. They’re detailed enough to be used on anything I do in the studio, and they’re affordable enough to where anybody who is serious enough about pursuing a career and spending money on mics won’t just break the bank. That checks a lot of boxes for a lot of people. I think that if somebody is looking to chase the sound they hear in their head, LEWITT should be on top of their list.