Grammy award winning producer and engineer Paul Ebersold has worked with an ever-lengthening list of A listers including but not limited to 3 Doors Down, Al Green, Chuck Levell, Sister Hazel and many more. Paul is going to be running a clinic on his method of recording guitar (presented by 3rd power amplification) this year at SEGAS! SEGAS got a chance to ask Paul a few questions about his career, the industry, and some other cool stuff.
SEGAS: We would like to first thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us! How did you first get into producing?
Ebersold: In my family, I was really the only one musically inclined. So I was kind of the weird kid. “Look at Paul, he can play piano/guitar/whatever with no lessons!”
The thought that music could be a career was just not a thought that occurred in anyone’s mind, much less producing. No one knew what that was, even myself.
But I somehow understood why “When the Levee Breaks” and “La Grange” worked. I realize these are iconic, perhaps cliché, songs to some people, but to me these songs were defining, and intensely so. I think I was 12 when my aunt gave Z4 and Tres to my older brother for Christmas. He listened 5 times. I listened 500. I was literally sucked in. I had no choice. I could not stop listening. I just knew.
SEGAS: Did you go to school for this or did you simply gain knowledge via experience?
Ebersold: Mostly experience, although I took a few classes for engineering. At the age of 26, (working for my father, on a drafting table, ) I heard that the University of Memphis had opened a Commercial Music Program, and they had a recording studio. This major at a University made me think that music could be more than just a hobby. So I went back to college…. and failed the Music Production class. I thought, “I think I can do this.” So I started my own studio. In a year, I was offered a job at the legendary Ardent Studios.
SEGAS: How long have you been working in the music industry?
Ebersold: Since 1988
SEGAS: How did you get hooked up with 3rd Power?
Ebersold: My day to day engineer, Scott Hardin comes in one day and says “I met this guy at lunch. We were talking about amps. He says he has an amazing one.”
Well, we hear this a lot, and try out quite a few. And frankly, after a few days we just go back to the JCM 800, Plexi, Vox , Super Reverb, and the early Mesa’s, etc., because the new amps don’t measure up. Anyway, I call Jamie and he calmly tells me about his amps. He isn’t trying to sell me. He just is stating facts. He invites me over to check them out. So I go. I mean, I went through his amps and really tried to find weak points in them but I simply could not. They really excelled in a way I cannot explain. You just have to hear for yourself. I finally have a great Plexi that goes to 19.
SEGAS: What is it like to win a Grammy?
Ebersold: Humbling and very cool.
SEGAS: Looking back from where you are now to where you started, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Ebersold: Not much. Maybe stick to my instincts more.
SEGAS: Are you looking forward to this year’s SEGAS?
Ebersold: Are you kidding?
SEGAS: For the folks who will be reading this pro tools and the like are a bit too digital. In the respect of an entirely analog studio what would you say is the single most important item?
Ebersold: as far a guitar is concerned…. first, the player, second, the pickups/ guitar, third, the tone coming from the amp. Next, Neve mic pre’s and EQ. Then appropriate compression / tape. The compression varies depending on the tone and the part, (as does the eq.)
SEGAS: Any other secrets you could share with our readers?
Ebersold: I try to go to 16 track 2″ and back to pro tools with all my drums, bass and guitars before I mix. And I try to add a little natural room sound to all guitar tracks when I record them.
SEGAS: What can we expect from your SEGAS clinic this year?
Ebersold: My point of view on how to record great tone. Perhaps some pointers on how to get great things out of your guitar players.
SEGAS: Which project have you had the most fun working on thus far in your career?
Ebersold: In 1989, I kind of met up with this kid named Eric Gales and his brother Eugene. We were writing and playing this crazy, sick psycho heavy blues. Hubert Crawford was the drummer and he was just like Bonham behind us. Then the “Screaming Cheeetah Wheelies” in 1993. Those guys were amazing. I recorded them pretty much live in the studio, everyone at once. Just a few fixes to the take and move on. Mike Farris was the singer. The first 3 Doors Down album was fun. Everything I engineered for Jim Dickinson. I learned so much from Jim. Miss him dearly.
SEGAS: What do you feel about the path that mainstream music trends have taken on the production side of things? (For example, the extremely popular usage of auto-tune, digital correction, and drum replacement.)
Ebersold: Well, I will tell you that I like singers and players that are the real thing. There is nothing like it. Even if they aren’t yet at the top of their game, it is honest and real. I have recorded Al Green and Mavis Staples on the same mike at the same time. Jimmie and Stevie as part of a rhythm section with Chuck Levell. Incredible. But, Lil Wayne uses technology in a good and creative way, and I respect good music. I don’t like having to use AT and BDetective on my artists because we are short on time. I would rather have the time to rehearse them and help them to become better rather than “fix it” for them in the computer.
SEGAS: What album is in your cd player/playlist right now?
SEGAS: Favorite album of all time?
Ebersold: Holy crap. There are so many…
SEGAS: What piece of advice could you give to that kid who wants to be you one day?
Ebersold: Don’t be me, be you. Make an honest assessment of your skill sets. Listen and learn from others. Know how to be wrong. Always improve. And being rude, mean or arrogant NEVER gets you what you want.
SEGAS: We would like to thank you again for taking the time to do this interview with us! We can’t wait to see what you and 3rd Power amplification has to offer this year at SEGAS! I know that I will most certainly be attending your clinic.