NILES, IL, July 21, 2011 — Record producer Ken Caillat has a long list of recording credits that include classic recordings from artists like Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, and Michael Jackson. As it happens, he is also the father of recording artist Colbie Caillat. “That’s a pretty special feeling,” says Ken. “It was a lot of fun to help break her as an artist. But she’s the one in control. I’m just one of her producers.”
On Colbie’s new album, All of You, Ken was one of eight producers, manning the controls on four of the 12 songs. Shure microphones played a pivotal role on two of those tunes, “Make It Rain” and “Like Yesterday,” recorded at Ken Caillat’s Studio E facility at The Village recording studio in Los Angeles, with some additional tracking at his home studio. On these songs, Colbie’s lead vocal was captured using the Shure SM27, a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone. For the artist’s signature acoustic guitar sound, Ken selected the KSM353 ribbon microphone.
“I’ve been a big fan of ribbon mics my whole career, especially on acoustic guitar,” relates Ken Caillat. “The KSM353 reminded me of some classic ribbons I’ve used, with just a little more ‘pop’ in the mid-range that gave us a nice, warm sound. Colbie was playing a steel-stringed acoustic, and I just put the mic right above the 12th fret, about two or three inches away from the guitar. I used the front capsule, and it really brought out the mids and upper mids nicely, which was perfect, just what we were looking for.”
Caillat is a huge proponent of proper mic positioning to get the sound he seeks without resorting to EQ and processing. “Us old guys can go on and on about it,” he chuckles, “but it’s an important tool. Mic positioning lets you do things like change the size of the image, go for a more distant sound, control the bass response with proximity effect… all kinds of things.”
Interestingly, using the Shure SM27 for lead vocals was not Ken Caillat’s original plan. “I was actually using a classic tube mic on her vocal, but it seemed like it was acting up,” he recalls. “So we put the Shure SM27 up and the sound was beautiful, with a great midrange and a little bit better bottom end from the proximity effect. It worked out perfect.”
The first side-address microphone in Shure’s vaunted SM line, the SM27 features a low 9.5 dB SPL self-noise and a wide dynamic range of 123.5 dB, with added control through a three-way low frequency rolloff switch and 15 dB pad. Its sub-$300 street price puts it within reach of any studio, but it was the sound that impressed Caillat.
“I grew up judging mics by their sound, not their price tag. We would line up a bunch of mics in the studio and listen to them to see which was right for each instrument and vocal,” Caillat states. “This project was no different. I always kid my fellow engineers that they listen with their wallets instead of their ears. Most engineers feel that if they use a $10,000 mic, that will give them a better sound. I’m from the old school. Whichever mic sounds the best is the one I use. And over the years, many of my lead vocals on hit records have been recorded with dynamic microphones, and many of them from Shure.”
In fact, Caillat used SM57 microphones in recording some of the vocals on the classic Fleetwood Mac albums he produced (Rumors, Tusk, and Mirage). “I got some really great vocals with that mic,” he recalls. “People thought I was using a very expensive tube mic, but I wasn’t. I think it’s hysterical. I would tell anyone: don’t think about what the microphone costs. Just pick the one that sounds best for that job. You’ll be surprised how often you end up with a Shure product.”