Capitol Studios’ staff recording engineer Steve Genewick was once a struggling guitarist in the ‘90s. Aware that his talents lay elsewhere, he transitioned to live sound and landed a gig at Cherokee Studios. A few years later a buddy pinged him about an opening at Capitol. He arrived the next morning with résumé in hand and started his new job that same day. He’s since been nominated for multiple Grammys and in 2016 was awarded Best Tracking Engineer at the Pensado Awards. He’s worked with Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Al Schmitt.
A challenge Genewick faces is when clients’ hopes and aims are out of sync with what’s possible. “People who have unrealistic expectations of what can happen, how quickly and at what cost can be difficult,” the engineer observes. “It’s tough when someone comes in and expects to make their whole record in a day. I have to explain, ‘No, today we’ll only do one song.’ [Making a record] takes longer than [some clients] think.”
Even lifelong artists can feel uneasy on the opposite side of the glass. Genewick finds that showing he’s prepared often helps diffuse lingering tensions. “We try to establish an environment in which the artist is comfortable and let them know we’re all here to allow them to perform,” he explains. “There was one time when communication was hard on the talkback. I brought the artist into the control room, handed him a [Shure] SM58 and we did the vocal. That’s [what] you can only learn by being in the studio.”
Over 16 years, Steve Genewick's worked alongside legends such as Al Schmitt and Phil Ramone. “The most important thing Al taught me is attitude in the control room,” he says. “How you carry yourself and get along with other people, when to talk and when not to. [And] I remember Phil insisting that you never say no. Your first response is always yes. Then you can talk the artist out of it later or [explain] why something may not work.”
Genewick aided Schmitt on the 2016 DVD The Art of Recording a Big Band. “That didn’t start out as a DVD,” he recalls. “People have asked us about big band recording and Al is the master at that. We [did] a class exactly the way we’d do it [at Capitol]. We booked the studio and got [Grammy-winning arranger, conductor and composer] Chris Walden to put together a band. Someone suggested that since we had Al, we should tape everything. So it’s a taped master class. Afterwards, [director] Shevy Shovlin pointed out that we had enough for a film so we released the video.”
Working at a world-class studio such as Capitol, an engineer has access to the best gear. Consequently, it might be hard to pick a favorite. But Genewick has managed to. “We have a lot of [Neumann] U 67’s here and use them on a range of stuff,” he explains. “It’s a very versatile mic. I like to say, ‘It’s never the wrong mic.’ Give me a pair of those and I can do anything. On any given tracking date there’s probably at least four of them in the room. There could be [as many as] 15 or 16.”
Among the recent projects Steve Genewick has completed are records with Diana Krall and jazz drummer Jeff Hamilton. He’ll record the Oscars with an army of engineers. He also worked on Bob Dylan’s latest project, expected to drop this year. He’s active with Capitol’s 1 Mic 1 Take YouTube series as well as Top of the Tower in which artists perform live atop the Capitol roof.
See CapitolStudios.com; stevegenewick.com; theartofrecordingabigband.com