Bill VornDick

Chet Atkins was my mentor…

Interview with Bill VornDick, award winning sound engineer and producer

© Lilly Drumeva-O’Reilly.

Bill VornDick is a producer and sound engineer who helped his clients earn 40 Grammy nominations. He has worked on many albums during his 40 years in music. These include projects for Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Ralph Stanley, Marty Robbins, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Mark O’Connor, Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent and many others.

I met Bill back in 1998 when my band first visited the US. It was a thrill. Later, in 2013 during my Fulbright research time in Nashville, he invited me for lunch. Then he took me to the legendary Oceanway Studios where we continued our talk. Bil gave me a thorough tour and introduced me to one of his young students.

Apart from sound engineer and producer, what other hats to you wear?

I am an Associate Professor at Belmont University, I teach the advanced engineering class at Oceanway Studios. It is the premium recording studio in Nashville. Some of its clients include: Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Amy Grant, Avril Lavigne
Bela Fleck, Beyonce’, Billy Ray Cyrus, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Burt Bacharach, Carrie Underwood, Christina Aguilera
Dierks Bentley, Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Etta James, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Hank Williams Jr., John Fogerty, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Kings of Leon, Lady Antebellum, LeAnn Rimes, Luke Bryan, Lyle Lovett, Mark Knopfler, Nanci Griffith, Paul Simon, Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire, Richard Marx, Sheryl Crow, Spice Girls, Tim McGraw
Toby Keith, Train, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, Walter Afanasieff, Willie Nelson, Yo-Yo Ma and others. The studio opened in the 90s.

How much is the day rate?

$2400, but that doesn’t include the engineer. It includes dinners and coffee.

How did you become a sound engineer?

I commuted as a teenager between DC and New York. I carried a tape recorder and was recording ideas for good songs, listening to a lot of good live music. When I finished high school I moved to Nashville and got a publishing deal as a writer. I am a graduate of Belmont University (“Music Business”). I concentrated in the recording and production side. I was interested and involved in the “Nashville Sound.” Chet Atkins was my mentor. He gave me a good reference. Since 1969 I have been working professionally as a sound engineer.

Do you play an instrument?

Yes, I play string instruments and keyboard.

Tell me about your recent project, you have recorded Lynn Anderson?

Oh, yes. Lynn is still going strong. Recently, I finished albums of Jim Lauderdale, John Oates (from Hall & Oates). Right now I am working with a southern gospel group called “Sothern Raised.”

Do you have your own studio?

Yes, since high school I have had my own workplace. I bought a lot of equipment. I helped building the Curb Studio in Nashville.

What are the best microphones for singing? Is it still the Shure SM58?

Oh, no. The C12, the C12A, the U67, the U47.

Do you use a lot of overdubbing or you prefer to record live?

Record live. But we usually overdub the vocals.

Do you use a lot of auto tune these days?

No, not so much. Not unless I have to.

Do you consider yourself a specialist in the acoustic genres? Is this what you enjoy doing?

Yes. I produced a lot of Celtic albums (“The Celtic Women”).

Thank you Bill. Nice talking to you!

Lilly Drumeva