Grammy Award-Winning Audio Engineer, Gary Laney joins The Church Studio
Q&A with Gary Laney
What was your first impression of The Church Studio?
The studio was incredible sounding, the mic selection was great and of course the Neve 8068 is a legendary board. The crew here is full of fun, hard working people that are trying to make every client’s visit extraordinary.
What do you hope to accomplish being a part of The Church Studio team?
I have been in the recording business for many decades and hope to bring my recording and production experience to The Church Studio to serve musicians and mentor the next generation of audio engineers.
What is your initial impression on Tulsa?
Tulsa is a really cool city. Large enough to have everything, but small enough to keep its charm and vibe. Music fans have a place to hear artists 7 days per week. It’s incredible the number of great musicians that have come out of Tulsa. And don’t get me started on the food! Music and food. I’m very happy.
What are your thoughts on analog vs digital? What’s the difference and why does it matter?
To me the main difference is that each analog piece of equipment “colors” the sound and we pick and choose which ones we prefer. Similar to how each of us have a favorite microphone, musical instrument–Telecaster or Les Paul; digital does not have a color. What comes in goes out. Of course the better the convertors the more accurate digital is, and here at The Church Studio, we have the industry-leading Burls. Analog is timeless. I mean we still can listen to analog recordings from the 20s, although we do have to bake the older tapes. We assume digital will last longer than analog; but honestly; it has not been around long enough for us to say for sure.
How do analog and digital work together?
Analog and digital work beautifully together. You can cut analog, transfer to digital, make a safety analog tape so you do not have to run your analog master over and over, do your overdubs to analog and transfer to digital. You can mix with digital or analog. I’m a huge proponent of a hybrid approach.
Where do you see the future of the music industry?
We need a crystal ball to see where the industry is going due to so many disruptions in the external environment. There are a vast number of channels and methods for artists to deploy their music to the listeners. I believe Live music will continue to be in our future. The connection between the musicians and the audience creates a special relationship. Because of the size of the live room (the original sanctuary) of the Church; we have the ability to record bands live. It’s a very special type of recording.
For the first time recording clients, how can you make them feel as comfortable as possible?
At The Church Studio, we give the artist a tour of the studio as a starting point. This gives the artist an opportunity to see the space and meet our friendly team. We also encourage a pre-production session. This allows them a chance to practice in the space and for us to further learn their vision. We also can test out a variety of microphones to determine the best for the song and artist. I know they are going to be nervous the first few times, but I try to explain there is no need to worry about their performance because we can fix just about any mistake and everyone hits a bad note occasionally. If this happens, the magic of studio editing happens. We want to inspire the best while working in a fun and professional space.
How did you get started in the music industry?
I always loved music! I was intrigued by vinyl records and how they played on a record player. After enrolling in Belmont In the 1970’s, I got a job in the mail room at a music publishing company that cut demos at Jack Clement Recording Studios. The studio was known for great recordings and had the best reputation; so that mailroom job led to an entry level position with Jack and I grew with the company all the way to senior engineer. One of my first hit records was “Living on Tulsa Time” with Don Williams! It’s funny how that was sort of a foreshadowing of my new position at the Church located in Tulsa! Later, Jack sold his studio and it became Sound Emporium Recording Studios. One hit record, led to another and another and another. At one time, Tulsan Roy Clark owned Sound Emporium and when I saw Roy’s display in the archive, it was just another sign that I was meant to be here at the Church.
What does it mean to engineer a gold, platinum and grammy record? How did you do it?
It feels great to learn that a record you worked on goes gold or platinum. I realized early on that it is not one person; however, but rather a team. It starts with a great song followed by an artist that can pull it off. We are going to assume that everything with track has the potential to become a hit. Of course, the fans make that decision; but we know it starts with a fantastic recording and that’s what we do here at The Church Studio.
Off the top of your head, name 3 artists you are most proud of working with.
As far as mainstream records go, it would be Keith Whitley, Trisha Yearwood and Don Williams. All of these artists are true professionals, talented and just nice to work with. But honestly, I have produced and engineered many records that did not hit the charts, but I still am just as proud of them. It’s brave to make music and anyone that puts themselves out there has my respect and we’ll do anything we can to help their dreams come true.