Producer Crosstalk: Mark Everton Gray

Engineer and drummer Mark Everton Gray learned a large chunk of engineering by recording himself and friends’ bands. Later he went on to study the music industry in college and to work for several labels and related outfits. Ultimately, though, he realized that he loved music more than business and enrolled in an audio engineering program in London. He’s since worked in studios around the world with artists including Celine Dion, Elton John and Imagine Dragons. These days, much of his edits and mixes are done at his home studio in Asbury Park, NJ.

As an engineer, you develop a sense about when an approach is working and when it’s falling short. “Usually you know within the first 10 minutes, but sometimes it takes a while to figure it out,” Gray says. “It depends how long you’ve been listening to the idea. I was fortunate enough to work with the great producer Larry Campbell [Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, among others] and his adage was always ‘You can’t take it out if you don’t put it in.’ When I have the reins in the studio, I’ll try things.”

With hundreds of records to his credit, Gray has grappled with countless challenges throughout his career. Many issues he’s faced can seem simple in retrospect. But psychological swindles have long been hindsight's stock-in-trade. “We did many live shows in Vegas with a lot of fiber optic lines running up from the Pearl Theater into the Studio at The Palms,” he recollects. “There was a split at the stage and then it would go through digital converters and I’d be able to record my own separate levels.”

Engineers often favor a compressor, microphone or even a vintage instrument while in the studio. But for Gray, the thing that most moves his meter is a dependable console. “A well-maintained console doesn’t have to be vintage,” he asserts. “I’m a big fan of using faders both large and small. I love the Neve 8058 but also the API Legacy as well as the SSL XL 9000 K and others. Whatever I can use to push it, get some real grit and up into the second and third harmonics, that’s my favorite piece of gear.”

When an expert steps into the room, people often want to hear their stories. As an industry veteran, Gray has amassed a mountain of them. “I was lucky to do about five albums with Celine Dion,” the engineer observes. “We recorded her live with a band—Herbie Hancock and his trio—which is something she’d never done before. They covered Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Mr. Paganini.’ In order to get Herbie’s aircraft-carrier-sized piano into the building—the studio was on the third floor of The Palms’ Fantasy Tower—we had to use a giant crane. It was a fun day.” 

Gray is working with a number of artists now, many of which he can’t discuss due to non-disclosure agreements. Beyond those, he’s also engineering project band New Age Bully and a “lifelong” undertaking with his friend Michael Pope titled Synematika

Visit markevertongraynoise.com; Contact [email protected] (publicity); [email protected] (management)