Brooke Sharkey’s Wandering Heart is the Society of Sound release for January, and in this blog, Brooke gives us some further insight into the creative process of making the album from the initial inspirations of the writing process through to the final mastering.
These songs came about through travelling, mainly between France, UK and Italy, wherever gigs took us. Adam Beattie and I spent time busking in many different towns. Some songs are about places, such as Offida and Where To Go. Other songs like Wandering Heart are more emotional and tackle a reality of wanting to love more than one person.
We came back to Hackney, after a summer of roaming, and Adam and I started arranging the songs as a duo for a show we had booked at the Union Chapel. After a few rehearsals we asked Sam Pert to get involved. Jez Houghton came in later as I was spending time up in Liverpool singing Jacques Brel songs with the band Dead Belgian. Jez spent the next summer touring with us where he arranged most of the French horn parts. This set up of musicians is the ‘core’ of the album. I am honoured to know all the other musicians who contributed their talents from playing around London, such as Harry Deacon, Fred Thomas, Alex Bonney, Dominie Hooper, Oliver Price, Leonie Evans and Jon Clayton.
We were looking for somewhere with a simple but high quality set up to record the core of each song. We needed some separation as we wanted to record most of the songs live and I wanted some room for exploration in post-production too. Jon Clayton’s One Cat Studios in Brixton studio was perfect as it has three rooms.
In terms of the equipment, Jon suggested that we use his Lomo 19a19 valve mic to give us a bright, focused sound.
“Brooke’s vocal performance has a great dynamic range, so we used a Shadow Hills mono-gama mic pre with a low noise floor, into an 1176 for some control whilst tracking. With the band we also needed close mics for focus, but also used room mics to get a natural live sound. My favourite for this is the Royer sf24, which gives a wonderful picture of any instrument or ensemble” – Jon Clayton.
When it came to the mixing, I wanted a new space/start for my ears rather than the studio we recorded in, to place the songs in a new environment. I had a great experience working with recording/mixing engineer Sonny when we recorded my debut at Livingston Studios and wanted to work with him again.
“The album was mixed entirely in the box using Pro Tools 12 with Waves, Slate Audio and Digidesign Plugins. Nearly all the plugins used were ones recreating vintage analogue gear. This was to fit with the mixing approach which was as if mixed on an analogue console with small amounts of outboard gear. Only one or two plate reverbs were used to create a coherent and consistent sound and only a couple of each compressors/EQs were used at any one time. The idea being to simply balance the sounds and allow the performance to come through, rather than manipulate the performances to fit a sonic ideal.” – Sonny.
Tim Debney – Fluid Mastering
Wandering Heart was mastered by Tim Debney at Fluid Mastering. Of the mastering process Tim says: “My general approach to mastering is to retain the vibe and feel of the original mixes as much as possible; this was definitely the case with Brooke’s album ‘Wandering Heart’. The whole album had been recorded and mixed with great clarity, depth and separation between all the instruments and the vocals, which always makes my role a whole lot easier! The main tweaks we felt some of the tracks needed were to control the odd rogue frequency here and there, to give the tracks more presence but to also add a wee bit more warmth. This was mainly done with our lush sounding valve and analogue outboard EQs and processors. Commercial loudness is always a contentious issue as many mastered tracks are seriously compromised for the sake of trying to get the master as loud as possible. Brooke and I felt that keeping as much of the dynamics and warmth as possible was really important and trying to gain too loud a commercial master was much less relevant; especially given the nature of the sound and style of this album!”