Grammy nominee Shawn Everett's experiments land him top honors
'She was buying these whacky mics off of eBay for $10, and we were recording her lead vocals with those'
From drumming in a tiny building behind his Bragg Creek home to living in Los Angeles as a Grammy Award nominee, Shawn Everett's road to success has been nothing if not unconventional.
"Especially when you're playing bad metal music as a teen, you don't think that the world's going to listen to anything you ever do," joked the drummer turned sound engineer.
Experimental recording techniques
Everett and Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard experimented with a variety of unusual techniques while recording and engineering the nominated album.
"She was buying these whacky mics off of eBay for $10, and we were recording her lead vocals with those," he said.
Using a speaker as a microphone, they fiddled with their recording technique to capture her main vocals. One time, they even stuffed Howard's mouth with cotton balls and Anbesol because she didn't want to feel her mouth as she sang.
"They're just kind of fun ways of not doing it the standard way," Everett said.
"Especially with someone like her who has this world-renowned voice, people are very hesitant to do anything with it other than record it in a perfect, beautiful manner.
"Sometimes, the most interesting results come out of just cracking the creme brulee open a little bit," he said.
Sound engineering to evoke emotion
For Everett, sound engineering is more of a creative art form than a technical process.
"It's kind of like if you have an empty room and you're kind of just designing the air, really, with design, and placing different things in rooms, and distorting things," he said.
He often asks the artists he works with for a picture or a painting that encompasses the primary emotions they want to convey through their music.
"Just by looking at a photograph, you can kind of imagine that world and create that sound," he said.
"It's amazing how much you can alter raw, recorded sound by placing different things in different speakers, distortions, reverbs and things like that."
The 58th annual Grammy Awards happen in Los Angeles Feb. 15.