I didn’t choose to become a musician, it just picked me….
Interview with Scott Neubert, musician & sound engineer
© Lilly Drumeva-O’Reilly
On 29th of October 2013 I strolled down 19th Avenue in Nashville in order to visit legendary Studio 19. It opened under the name of Music City Recorders in the early 1960’s. It has seen artists such as Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson begin their recording careers. Ringo Starr also recorded his “Beaucoup of Blues” album in Studio 19. Others like Dolly Parton, Allison Krauss, John Wayne (believe it or not) are among many various artists that have recorded projects throughout the years.
I met with sound engineer and musician Scott Neubert, who gave me a tour. Here is what he shared with me.
Scott, how did you get involved with music?
My dad had some country records: Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, Waylon Jennings. He introduced me to a band in the 70s called Poco. I was really taken. I have a degree in math and as a social worker. I started playing guitar when I got out of college. I am originally from Wisconsin. In 1986, I moved to Austin, Texas to play music. I performed every night where I could, country and blues. I got involved also in the songwriters circle. That’s how I met Hal Ketchum. We started playing together. Then Hal moved to Nashville in 1989, he had a record deal. Became quite big. He called me and I followed. I played with Hal until 1996, mostly electric guitar and lap steel. Then I played with Trace Atkins and Tanya Tucker.
How did your parents react when you told them that you wanted to become a musician?
They weren’t terribly happy. They were asking: aren’t you gonna do something with your college degree? Only when I played the Austin City Limits television show with Hal Ketchum they realized that it is a job. Before that it was kinda like a hobby.
Are you happy that your life turned out this way?
I am trilled. I always say – I didn’t choose to become a musician, it just picked me. I got out of college, I started playing guitar and I couldn’t think of anything else.
What is your work here in the studio?
The guy that you just met is a songwriter. I produced a demo for him. I hire singers and musicians and arrange it. Then the demo gets sent to the publishers.
Do you do bigger productions, albums?
Yes, I do CDs for people. I also have an Internet business where people send me tracks to play on. Usually wave files, I add my part and send it back.
Do you do mix and mastering also?
Yes, you may send me your recordings and I can mix and master them here.
Can anybody rent the studio? What are the fees?
Yes, you can call Larry, our boss or you can choose me. Usually we fix a daily rate. Per hour it is about $50 which is quite cheap. On top of that, you have to pay the musicians. The sound engineer is usually included in the fee, but I always pay him a bit extra to make sure that he is always available.
Tell me about the studio, you said it was opened in the 60s?
There was a guy called Jack Logan who owned the studio first. Then Scotty Moore (Elvis) bought it. There were a lot of great records made here. Ringo Starr recorded his country album here. John Connelly recorded his hit “Rose-Colored Glasses”. Marcus Hammond and other great songwriters came here to write and record. They would rent the studio for weeks. The studio was fully booked in the 70s and 80s. It slowed down in the 90s when people started recording at home.
What’s the future of the recording studios, are they going to disappear?
Some of them have disappeared. When you walk through town you’ll see a lot of “For sale” signs. Some of them have been converted to condominiums. It’s a little sad.
How did you learn to play pedal steel guitar?
I bought a pedal steel guitar in 1986 at a music store for $150. It was a beginner’s model. I spent 16 hours learning how the pedals work. Back then there were no books. I learned mostly from records. I play also Dobro, lap steel, mandolin, guitar and banjo.
What is the fee of a session player in Nashville?
It varies. The actual union card session for a demo would be 3 hours. It ends up to be about 190 bucks for each player. There is a musician union directory where players like me are listed.
What do you like about country music? Why are you in it?
I like the older country music. The new one sounds like 80s rock. People took too much advantage of the technology. It suck the life out of it.
What other genres do you play?
Jazz, bluegrass. I play with Irene Kelly.
Thanks, Scott, that was very informative!