March 22, 2019
Artists get beaten up by our society and system. Corporations exploit them for profits (like most workers) small business (venue) owners sometimes do not look at their work as actual work. (Though the “good” venue owners are saints.) American culture sees their work as “a dream” instead of “a job.” When I started Woody’s House Recording Studio, my mission was to empower and support artists, to help them do their best work, and to treat them with the respect they deserve.
American culture sees their work as “a dream” instead of “a job.”
What does a producer do? This is a question many music fans (and probably some musicians) have asked. My own answer is whatever serves the project and the artist. Often the artist is perfectly capable of producing their own album and they need someone to help them gain the confidence to do it. They need a partner to believe in their effort and one who will tell them “yes, you’re not crazy.” On projects like this I become an engineer, open to all ideas, or an engineer and co-producer. Other times all the artist has is the song. They need an arrangement that serves the song, and instrumentation and sonics that make the listener want to hear it listen to it repeatedly. On these projects, I become hands-on producer, doing pre-production and building the arrangement of the song. There are even some projects where the song is not finished and I help complete writing it! Whatever my role, the goal is always the same: excellence. I do not impose my own agenda unless an agenda is needed, and then only to serve the song and the artist.
They need a partner to believe in their effort and one who will tell them “yes, you’re not crazy.”
All of this esoteric talk is fun, but I also love the engineering aspect of the studio, and I do love gear and sound. The great radio personality Vin Scelsa used would begin his show “Idiot’s Delight” with the statement “respect the old, embrace the new.” The recording industry has changed a lot, and there are good and bad aspects to the changes. I believe it is important to not lose good equipment and methods because we feel they are outdated. Nowadays with digital it is much easier to pass a project around from studio to studio, and for people to work on things at home with minimal equipment. This can be empowering for artists and can lead to innovation. With digital editing and sampling, things can be “fixable” which years ago could not be corrected. New technology can be wonderful, but it has also brought with it new methods. Sometimes old methods, which were good for the music, have gotten lost. Old recording methods would require the artist to commit more to things in the recording process. Now decisions get put off until mixing, and the mixing process becomes a wading through of piles of useless crap. At Woody’s house I respect the old and embrace the new in terms of gear and methods. I’ve got some of the latest, “state of the art” gear and also gear from the 1960’s and 1970’s, from Columbia/CBS studios, and a bit of everything in between. We built a comfortable, beautiful sounding room treated with old barn wood, and sometimes employ a sixty year old microphone if that sounds best! I’m not afraid to try different approaches in search of a compelling sound.
I’m proud of the commercial placements which songs recorded at Woody’s House have landed, on TV shows like Bones and All My Children. I appreciate the movie score work I’ve produced and the commercial success of some of the records made at the studio. Above all, I’m proud to be somebody who is documenting the Hudson Valley Music Scene, and helping its artists to be their best. From Pete Seeger to local singer-songwriter Julie Corbalis, and everyone in between, I’ve been privileged to work with many great artists! Many of them come back for two or three projects.
Please help keep recorded music alive by BUYING CDs, downloads, and vinyl of regional artists. Sure listening to Spotify or Amazon Music is convenient, but there is nothing like owning your own copy. It makes you a part of the music! Remember that being an artist is not “a dream, it is “a job.”
Fred Gillen Jr is a singer/ songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist from New York’s artistically rich Hudson Valley. In his songwriting and in performance he has never been afraid to take on controversial or politically-charged topics, and is equally at home writing love songs and sing-along anthems. He seamlessly incorporates folk, punk, rock, spoken word, country, and Americana styles into his music. Gillen is also a busy recording engineer and producer, primarily working out of his own studio “Woody’s House” in Croton on Hudson, NY. Check out some of the recording projects at Woody’s House Studio. CONTACT FRED
DiMarco Brothers Band with some “behind the scenes” at Woody’s House in the beginning.