Greetings and salutations people and peoplettes,
D.B.Tarpley here, your man on the streets in Nashville, Tennessee and it just occurred to me that even though I live in ‘Music City U.S.A.’ I have brought you very little in the world of music. One reason for this is that we here in Nashville have long since dispelled the magic of the industry. Almost everyone in this city either is directly involved in some way or knows someone who is. We all have demo albums and we all play guitar. In fact many national acts will not come play our town because Nashville audiences are notoriously hard to impress. Half the people in the crowd can pick up any instrument on stage and give a comparable performance. We are like the gate keepers in Oz who tell passerbyers, “The Wizard? Oh yeah, he’s alright… whatever”.
Most of us have been in a recording studio, many of us have one in our home. We know where the magic lies, behind the knobs and bobules at the recording engineer’s fingertips. The man behind the curtain — he who makes Roseanne Barr sound like Christina Aguilera. The recording engineer holds all the power in the equation we call ‘laying it down.’ He is often the unheralded and sometimes uncredited magician whose uncanny ability to bring out the soul of any given piece goes unnoticed by the world at large. He is the artist’s dirty little secret.
So yeah, let’s talk to one of these makers of musical mirth. Let’s pull back that curtain and see what it’s really all about: this ‘Music City’ I live in. I give you, ladies and gentleman, the man who engineered my personal demo album, my good friend Kevin Edlin… engineer extraordinaire.
D.B. — Good morning, how are you feeling today?
Kevin Edlin — I answered all these questions in the middle of the night. Which was technically morning, I suppose. So I guess I’m doing alright.
D.B. — Do you consider yourself to be more of a night owl than a daytime person?
Kevin Edlin — Generally speaking, yes. Although when I need to be up and at someplace early for a session, a meeting, or any kind of gig — then that’s what I do.
D.B. — Ever since I have known you, you have been heavily involved in music both as a private interest and as a career. At what age did you decide that you wanted to live a life in music?
Kevin Edlin — I think it was when I was in college or getting ready to start at MTSU that I realized that if I was going to learn how to be a recording engineer and make records – that I would not be able to move back home after college and get a job doing it. I would have to be somewhere else to do that full time, and there would be no turning back. So I guess the short answer is around age 20 or so.
D.B. — Are there any artists or individuals who have inspired you to pursue this endeavor?
Kevin Edlin — Yes, lots. I don’t even know where to begin with a list of those people. So in the interest of brevity I’ll say that one major record producer (who is also a recording and mix engineer with major credits) was talking with me once about how everything worked. I was his personal assistant engineer on every album he did for a period of years. One day he said to me, ” You can keep working for me like you have been on all these album projects, but you will never make $100,000.00 a year working for me – not unless you can do something that will make me $300,000.00 a year. So, you’re going to have to work for yourself eventually — because you are the only one who will pay you what you want to make”. I haven’t had a regular job since.
D.B. — Tell us a little bit about your training and resume to date both from a professional standpoint then from the standpoint of music as a personal pursuit.
Kevin Edlin — I went to school (the Recording Industry program at MTSU) and learned a lot of really good principles/practices/ways & means of doing things by really great and knowledgeable faculty, and with a lot of really great equipment. When I graduated I thought I knew a lot of stuff. And I did! But then I got a job at a commercial recording studio down on music row. It was then I realized that I knew just enough to get started good. And that’s when I really started to learn about recording and pro audio on a serious level.
D.B. — Seeing your life over the years as I have I would have to say that what you do definitely doesn’t fit into the 9 to 5 mold most jobs seem to. Talk a little bit about the non-specific nature of your schedule and how if indeed, that appeals to you?
Kevin Edlin — I like getting to work on all sorts of different things at all sorts of different times. If I need be up and somewhere on regular business hours, I’ll do it. But otherwise I’ll just work at my own pace and at my own schedule and make sure everything is taken care of in a timely manner.
D.B. — How important is networking or keeping active connections with a wide variety of people to what you do?
Kevin Edlin — It’s extremely important. I feel like I need to constantly do it, but I enjoy getting in touch with people I haven’t worked with lately just to say hello, too. I like hanging out with most people I work with, and I really like getting to be friends with them after working intensely together on a project. I honestly love to have new friends come out of an album project. It’s one of my favorite things, actually. Although sometimes I wish I could just get someone else to do all of the sort of networking and promotional stuff for me so I could just make records and do what I love.
D.B. — I take it then that you constantly have to ‘market’ yourself through various social interactions. Does this ever put you in situations where you feel plastic, or where you feel you have to ‘put on a face’ as it were to make things happen? Do you ever feel you have to be nice or at the very least polite to people which you might not feel like patronizing at the moment for the sake of your work? How political would you say what you do is? Is there such a thing as ‘playing the game’ in your chosen field?
Kevin Edlin — I always try to be nice and polite to people whether they can do anything in return for me or not, even if (and especially if) I don’t know them. I make sure to treat everyone with respect. I never feel like I have to be nice to someone, or anyone really. I enjoy it.
D.B. — What are the ups and downs of freelancing or being your own boss?
Kevin Edlin – The ups are that if you’re doing well and making money then everything is great. And if you’re not, then it can be pretty tough. When everything’s going well and you’re really busy with work and getting paid for it, you can feel a lot of validation for what you do and what you know. But when there’s nothing going on it can sometimes be hard to see that. In those times you just have to remember what you love and that you’re good at it, and that things will pick up again.
D.B. — Choosing to be your own boss and not take the ‘safe’ route in life is a very brave and scary thing to do. How important is the feeling of validation regarding the level of service you provide and the craft involved in what you do? Do you often feel that people don’t appreciate the level of skill required of you as an audio engineer and if so how does this affect how you approach your day to day work environment?
Kevin Edlin — I think it’s always true in any profession that there will be people who will take you for granted. For me, I try to just do my best work and let that stand for itself.
D.B. — Do you have a favorite kind of music to record?
Kevin Edlin — I like all kinds of music, but I might enjoy rock & roll (in some form or another) more than others. Although I do also love making classical albums, especially small chamber groups — and maybe that’s because it’s more than less similar to working with a band.
D.B. — How many years would you say you have been doing what you do professionally?
Kevin Edlin — 15 years, as of about now.
D.B. — If there is anything you might claim to be known for in your profession, for example is there a situation where your name might come up when people are talking about hiring an engineer or mixer?
Kevin Edlin — Classical records, for sure. Also with rock and electronic music too. But I have to say that I’ve legitimately worked on an enormous amount of different types of material, with national acts that are prominent in each of those genres. I’ve kind of been all over the map in that respect. And I love it! I’ve done bluegrass and Americana records, hip-hop artists, heavy metal bands, and jazz big bands. Working on all sorts of different types of projects back to back – which couldn’t be more different from each other – is one of my favorite things. And I don’t know of any other engineer who’s worked with one of the nominees for Producer of the Year (for rock/pop/country mainstream music) in the most recent Grammy awards, and also worked with the woman who just won for Best Classical Producer.
D.B. — Do you do what you do to be able to play on the side or would you do what you do regardless of whether or not you ever got to perform?
Kevin Edlin — Being a musician has helped me as an engineer, and the converse of that is also true. Playing music live, playing it on recordings, mixing other musicians live, recording myself/other people, or mixing anything for any artist and making sure that compelling performances are either expressed to a crowd of people or captured in a tangible medium — those are all things that are completely intertwined to me. I sort of see all sides of them at once. I recognized that early on, and it’s been that way in my head ever since.
D.B. — Could you ever see yourself doing anything else?
Kevin Edlin — I’m not sure. Sometimes I wonder about that myself. But I don’t think so. (Then again, you never know where God will lead you…)
D.B. — Have you spent much time going out on the road with various outfits?
Kevin Edlin – I have spent a fair amount of time (to my reckoning) playing with my own bands or other artists/groups out on the road around the country. I haven’t toured nearly as much as some, but maybe more than most. I’ve done it enough to have a solid amount of practical experience doing it, and generally will know how to deal with most any situation that may come up.
D.B. — What is the difference between hitting the road as a tech verses going out as a performer?
Kevin Edlin — Well, when you’re in a crew position, then you’re working for someone else (obviously). It’s a service industry, so you need to do a good job and make people happy. Having a working knowledge of what they do and how they do it (from their perspective as a performer) can be invaluable but can also be to your detriment – it all depends on how you handle it. And as a performer, if you know what all the people who are working around you are doing (and can respect and appreciate them) then that can also be invaluable.
D.B. — What is the wildest thing which ever happened to you while on the road?
Kevin Edlin — Man, that’s hard to say and tempting to talk about… Too many stories, and where would I start? But I really shouldn’t get into that here. Sorry.
D.B. — In all your days meeting people who might be considered famous, have you ever met a personal hero or icon and what were your impressions of them as an individual?
Kevin Edlin — Oh, I’d love to answer this but there’s literally too many of those to even begin. I will say that when you meet someone famous that you should realize that everyone has good and bad days at work, and so do they. And whatever they were like (either good or bad) during the moments you met them might not be what they’re like most of the time.
D.B. — I can respect that. Is there a sense of a code of silence within the industry and respect when it comes to that since you find yourself in an environment where you do occasionally get to cross paths with someone who may be considered ‘famous’. In other words, are you bound by honor to not ‘kiss and tell?’
Kevin Edlin — I respect people’s privacy, and especially their confidentiality, but I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s a “code of silence” or anything. Unless you’ve had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, that is.
D.B. — Talk briefly about being a Voting member on the Grammy’s (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) and what that means to you. For example, what does it take to be able to vote… guild membership? Specific credits? Etc.
Kevin Edlin — I am a proud voting member of the Recording Academy (NARAS, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) and a member of their Producers & Engineers Wing. Last year, I was asked to be on the P&E Wing committee for the Nashville Chapter of the Recording Academy. Not everyone can be a member in this organization. It’s for people who are involved in making recordings professionally, and on a national level. I encourage everyone who can to join! There are more benefits that I can begin to name here. You can vote on the Grammy awards and promote artistry that you feel has worth, and help garner support and proper compensation for music industry professionals of all types. The best way for anyone to learn more about it is to read everything here:
D.B. — Talk a little bit about your impressions of the industry when you first went into music, vs. what you may think of the industry now. Have any of your illusions been shattered?
Kevin Edlin — It has changed and is still changing. In some ways it’s been like the old wild west with for the last several years, with everyone trying to figure out how to carve their own niche. We’ve gone back to selling singles just like in the 50’s. And knowing what goes on behind the scenes of anything will change your perception of it. But while nothing is perfect in this world, capturing a heart-felt performance in a way that actually sounds good sonically is like shooting a hole-in-one at golf. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s not unheard of – and even a glimpse of that will make you want to try to get it each and every time you have a chance. I think that’s what had me hooked.
D.B. — What are your plans for the future, professionally? Is there an endgame in your chosen career or will it be hand to mouth right up until whatever qualifies as retirement?
Kevin Edlin — I want to do what it is that I love to do and be able to make plenty of money doing it. People have asked me before what else I could see myself doing, and while there are many things I think about in that respect, I basically want to just do more of it. And if I’m paid what I’m worth for doing it then I won’t have to worry about a retirement. I mean that statement in two ways — I will have plenty of money to retire on, but I will also never want to retire.
D.B. — What would be your dream project?
Kevin Edlin — I don’t know if I have a dream project. I want to make the kind of records that I would like to listen to, and I love making them for other people — and I want to do it all the time.
D.B. — Do you ever see yourself releasing an album of purely personal material?
Kevin Edlin – I think I did that once (or something close to it), and it’s the Seven Cycle Theory album “Agonist”. It’s very hard to put your heart and soul in something only to see it reach something less than its full potential. Right now I’m just trying to collect all the songs I’ve written with different people, and make sure I have good and relevant versions of them. There’s some decent stuff there, and I’d love for people to be able to hear all of it one way or another.
D.B. — I’ve always found that to be the beauty of any artistic endeavor – Doing something extremely personal and extremely beautiful with the knowledge that no one else in the world might ever come to appreciate and or respect it. And yet you do it anyway. There is always that potential to fail in the sense of not getting the awareness you want. But is it really failure if you created the product you wanted to create in the first place? It is sort of the analogy of the tree falling in the woods. Do you want the perfect fell, or the audience? Any thoughts?
Kevin Edlin — I believe in just making something meaningful. If it is moving to you, then it will be moving to someone else somewhere out there in the world too. So just do it.
D.B. — Talk a little bit about how it feels to be a rock-star.
Kevin Edlin — I am not a rock star, but I have played that role for periods here and there. And I thoroughly enjoy it! That can be a lot of fun, but also a lot of effort – it can be very enjoyable and very hard at the same time. But it’s good work if you can get it.
D.B. — Do you feel there have been times when you have received undue attention be it friendship, or sex, or whatever, simply because you were seen holding a guitar on the stage?
Kevin Edlin — There have been times that I didn’t feel like I’d played a good show or maybe had a less than stellar performance on stage – which everyone in the crowd after the fact seemed to have loved. Maybe that’s because my brain chemistry is reeling when I’m done with an emotional outpouring of a performance, or I don’t even know what. But I’ve learned that when someone gives you a compliment about something, to just smile and say “thank you!” Maybe you deserve it, and maybe you don’t. Who’s really to judge, anyway? But you should respect the fact that you’re being appreciated none the less.
D.B. — Talk a bit about the cult of celebrity and what if any of that, you have experienced.
Kevin Edlin — People will make up about you what they will. That may be something falsely positive or even sometimes negative. Often they’ll be disappointed when things didn’t live up to their imagination afterward.
D.B. — Do you find any aspects of the life you lead, plenty of late nights at the clubs, predisposition to enhanced drinking, easier access to drugs, greater opportunities for casual sex, etc. to be dangerous or disturbing?
Kevin Edlin — Contrary to popular belief, most of my nights are spent alone and to myself. There are sometimes that I’ll occasionally be out every night (and only for brief periods, at that), but mostly I’m not. It just seems like I am. Sure, when you’re on a gig as a performer there’s a social aspect that is necessary and partying at least a little bit can be part of the job description. I find it all to be alluring, dangerous, and disturbing.
D.B. — If you could go back and begin your career anew, is there anything you would do differently?
Kevin Edlin — Yes! Lots of things. I have no idea where to start.
D.B. — Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get into your field?
Kevin Edlin — Is there anything else you’d like to do with your life? What can I do to talk you out of wanting to try and do this for a living? Those two questions to them would be my advice.
D.B. — Do you find that most people approach the world of music with unrealistic expectations of fame and glory?
Kevin Edlin — Yeah, sometimes. And it’s especially hard with the music business not booming any more like it used to. I think it’s best to just stay positive and focused, and do what you love to do (and feel led to do).
D.B. — Do you have a favorite outfit to wear when you perform?
Kevin Edlin — Anything that looks good, is functional, and appropriate for what I’m playing. That’s usually a loose fitting shirt of some sort that looks cool; I tend to move around a lot on stage. There’s a pair of pants I have that I feel very comfortable in, and I love the way I feel when I wear them on stage. I also love my Angel boots by John Fluevog.
D.B. — Do you have anything interesting you are working on right now or in the immediate future you would like to mention?
Kevin Edlin — I’m currently still playing live with D. Ryan and also Lady E and the Black Light. I’m writing and producing/engineering a few new things with the former, and producing/engineering an EP with the latter. I’m also going to be writing with a few other artists soon too, which I’m excited about.
As far as recording projects, I engineered and edited something I’m very proud of recently which is a new album for the Alias Chamber Ensemble and the Portara Ensemble. It’s all music by composer Paul Moravec, and a joint venture between the two groups. I’m also producing/engineering an EP of “Chet Atkins style” finger picking guitar music for a really brilliant guitar player who is somewhat unknown but prolific in that style.
Lastly, there’s the music video that was shot for a song I wrote with one my best friends when we were playing together in her band. It came out about a year ago, but I’m still very proud of how it turned out.
And I’m excited for everyone to hear all of these things.”
D.B. — And we can’t wait to hear them.
(In the early 70’s legend has it Eric Clapton was recording an album on Nashville’s famous Music Row. During a break he was roaming the halls and heard the most beautiful guitar playing his ears had ever witnessed. He ran down the hall and tore into the room to find a simple man sitting on a bucket playing a guitar. “Who are you recording for?” asked Clapton. To which the man replied, “Oh, I’m just the janitor.”
Clapton didn’t come back to Nashville for over 20 years.
This is Nashville, and music is what we do. But never forget to pause a moment and thank the man behind the curtain for bringing us all this wonderful ear food. Without all his hard work and dedication to the craft our ears would starve. And a malnourished ear is a horrible sight to behold.
From Nashville/Oz this is D.B.Tarpley signing off. Keep it tuned in and as always, have yourself an amazing ass day.)
Kevin Edlin: ‘Recording Engineer, Music Producer, Guitar Player’, was interviewed by D.B.Tarpley in Nashville, TN on 3-17-2015.
The son of a poor immigrant philanthropist. D.B. Tarpley got his start writing dialogue for the imaginary friends of imagination deficient kids on the Lower East Side. ‘The Death of Love’ is D.B.Tarpley’s latest book. I am telling everyone and anyone who will listen to take a look at this book!… It’s a page turner… I have NO IDEA where Tarpley is going with this!… Tarpley must be a genius, he surprises in (both) big and little ways”. – five star review. Over the years D.B. has been discovered and recognized by the Lewis N. Clark committee for creative mastery; in addition to this D.B. was recently tossed the Paul Reubens Fellowship for excellence in self awareness. He currently Summers in Manitowoc, Wisconsin; and Winters in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. In addition to writing, D.B. is an internationally acclaimed adult diaper model/ pastry chef. His work has been featured in ‘Pee-n-Poop Wear Quarterly’ as well as ‘Dem Some Fine Damn Muffins Magazine.’ His advice to readers everywhere is “Leave the pages bloody.”
Kevin Edlin after obtaining his degree in Recording Industry Management from Middle Tennessee State University he has been professionally freelancing as an engineer for over 20 years. He is currently a proud resident of East Nashville and brings the ruckus all day every day. Below are links to the projects and artists he mentioned.
More: Meant To Bleed-Addicted To Drama|Grammypro.com|D. Ryan FB fan page|LinkedIn/Kevin-Edlin|Alias Chamber Ensemble FB fan page|Allmusic.com|Portara Ensemble FB pan page|Artistdirect.com/kevin-Edlin|Lady E & Black Light FB fan page|Theeastnashvillian.com/Kevin-Edlin