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The Wit and Wisdom of Kristian Bush

June 18, 2013

Many of our readers know of Kristian Bush as one half of the sensational band Sugarland, but there's a lot more to him than that. He's a producer, songwriter, and head of the songwriting/creative collective Songs Of The Architect. He is funny, friendly, wise, and just a tad subversive in that really cool way that most folks can't seem to manage.

When writing up my trip to Nashville for the AES Recording Workshop+Expo for the magazine, I came across a collection of random notes from Kristian's fantastic keynote address, and they were too good to lose forever. I apologize to Kristian if I got any of these a little bit wrong, but here we go:

On getting started: "I taught myself on a Fostex 4-track cassette recorder. I got a mic, learned how to mike up a drum kit, then how to bounce tracks. And now I'm in... you start down this gear road and you Can't. Get. OUT."

On his first time in a studio: "What's that? A 'compressor'? Yeah, whatever. Threshold my ass... what does it DO?... It was a ways to go, from 'what does this knob do?' to 'I totally MADE that knob!'"

On changes in recording technology and the human element: "I am thankful.... for four dollars I can multitrack on my phone! But the engineer is more important than ever because of the democratization of music. I had to beg for a 4-track, but my 10-year-old can record in GarageBand while my back is turned. The engineer is the upstream process that everything else used to be. [With the engineer there,] I can simply write and create."

On learning the rules before breaking them: "I'm a classically trained violinist... I picked up the mandolin, and couldn't figure out what to do with it, and suddenly I realized it was a violin but with frets and a pick, and suddenly I'm Van Halen, playing Vivaldi at sound check and stunning everyone... but then I realized I couldn't solo. So I took a lesson and learned the blue notes. There's always more to learn."

On seizing opportunities: "I get a call from someone. 'Do you have a song that sounds like X?' I say, 'Hang on, I'll get right back to you.' I grab some friends and write and record it in an hour, and then call back and say, 'Yeah, I got that.'"

On musical influences: "The stuff you hear between the age of 3 and 17 stays with you forever."

I hope to interview Kristian for RECORDING this summer for our next Songwriting Special issue later this year. Stay tuned.Mike Metlay and Kristian Bush at AES Nashville 2013



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