Confessions From A Sound Booth: A Day In The Life of a Sound Engineer
Meet Gordon Hammond, the unsung hero whose behind-the-scenes work description includes making an artist sound good. Having already recorded 7 Grammy-nominated albums and working with artists like Dawes, Don Henley and Trisha Yearwood, Hammond has cut his teeth at studios like Compass Sound studio and Sound Emporium. Currently, he oversees all aspects of the musical experience at Hutton Hotel including managing the Writers Studios and mixing performances at the hotel’s new Analog music venue.
This month, we caught up with Gordon on his musical origins and how he approaches his day job.
Hutton Hotel: When you were young, what did you study and how did you become a technical production guy?
Gordon Hammond: When I was around eight years old, I started playing guitar and drums. Then in high school, I got a 4-track recorder and became interested in recording music. My friend and I started a live sound company and produced events for local bands. After high school, I moved to Nashville for an internship at a recording studio and expanded from there.
HH: What music did you grow up listening to?
GH: My parent’s album collection. I listened to lots of Neil Young, James Taylor, The Beatles, Willie Nelson and The Eagles.
HH: In a few steps, take us through the process of your work.
GH: For me, the first step is gathering information and putting together a plan of attack. Next, we set up and test the equipment to ensure a smooth recording session or show. Afterwards, we’ll sound check with the talent and we work to make sure the artist is comfortable with what they’re hearing and make sure we’re representing them in the best way possible. Of course, during the recording session (or show) we’re paying attention to what’s happening and adapting as necessary. Finally, we’ll break everything down, document any changes that need to be made, and get ready for the next one.
HH: Is your job mostly based in art, science, sound or mathematics?
GH: I view it as an intersection between science and art. My job is to use physics to help achieve an artistic goal. There’s also a bit of psychology involved in helping the artist feel comfortable in situations where they may feel vulnerable.
HH: You wear so many hats. What is the most exciting part of your job?
GH: The most exciting thing for me is being present when something good is being created, whether it’s a recording or a live event. It feels great to see the results of work and preparation pay off in real time.
HH: You have worked with some industry greats. Who are a few favorites that you’ve helped create music magic?
GH: I’ve been fortunate to work on some really great music. Artists like Buddy Miller, Don Henley, and Dawes create their own magic and I just try to get it on tape. Most of the time, letting the magic happen in a live or studio setting, is all about keeping the technical stuff from getting in the way as much as possible.
HH: Who is your favorite up and comer?
GH: There’s so much great stuff to listen to. Really, I have a new favorite every week.
HH: Why is Nashville the hottest music city in the country?
GH: The Nashville music community is one of a kind. I think we have the best musicians and techs in the world. I love the variety of music here and I think people here really respect the history of music as well as being innovative. There’s also so much industry infrastructure here that makes a lot of things possible.