Longtime Canadian Musician contributor Kevin Young had plenty of leftover material from his extensive interviews for "The Evolution of the Art," his feature story on the past, present, and future of music and production technologies and workflows for our March/April 2019 40th Anniversary issue.
Here's more from his conversation with powerhouse vocalist and songwriter Nuela Charles, slightly edited for length and clarity.
When there isn’t an abundance, you make do with what you’ve got. As Alberta-based singer/songwriter Nuela Charles mentioned in the CM 40th article, it was the gift of a refurbished laptop with an early version of GarageBand that kick-started her recording career.
CM: So you started out on Mac and GarageBand. What platform do you work on now?
NC: Still Mac – a MacBook Pro with the UA Apollo Twin interface. I run Logic just because I like to quickly jot down what’s in my head and I don’t really care how the session is set up. Logic is intuitive and easier for me to get my thoughts down and build on than ProTools.
CM: Are there any other new pieces of gear, instruments, apps, or otherwise that you use currently?
NC: Nothing really portable, but it’s funny because I’m on all Mac computers, but I switched to a Samsung phone. They used to have this app called Soundcamp where you can import your session and record to your phone – like a mini version of Logic but for your phone. They discontinued it, but I really enjoyed being able to create mini-mixes on the go.
CM: If you hadn’t had the chance to record yourself early on, do you think you would’ve been able to get as far as you have?
NC: Probably not. 100 per cent of the people I’ve worked with, in terms of my final songs that are out there in the world, that came from these technological advances and these controllers. A lot of my songs have strings and horns – instruments that you think are very organic, but everything is done in the box.
CM: Do you wish you had the opportunity to go the old-school route and work in a studio to, for example, take all the time you want to get the right acoustic drum sounds?
NC: I do. On the computer, it’s scrolling through thousands of options. I wish I could experience that, because I’ve never actually done it that way.
CM: As time goes on and AR/VR environments become more immersive, do you think we may see entirely convincing virtual studio environments that allows the same kind of collaboration with others the real thing does?
NC: There are probably people already doing that. I don’t know if I’d like it because there’s the tangible feeling you get when you’re in the room with somebody and you’re vibing off the same song. You’re not saying anything, but you know it’s working. I don’t know if you could feel that same way via VR. I do think it could be a cool way to bring your audience in on a session to see how a song is made though.
CM: Some people I’ve spoken to have said that, until that experience becomes identical to the real thing, it won’t be a viable alternative to actually being in a room together. Your thoughts?
NC: That’s fair. A lot of my songwriting collaborations have been like first dates. I’ve never met the people, or the person. We’re introduced online. When I get to their house or studio, the first hour or so is just getting to know each other on a personal level. I feel like if you did that through AR or VR, you might lose the organic connection, unless you already know them and have established a relationship. For example, it’s easier to FaceTime someone you know as opposed to a complete stranger.
CM: What do you want to see in the future – total sci-fi or just practical – in terms of a future device, instrument, app or program?
NC: You know how people always make voice memos when they’re inspired, right? I think it would be cool if you were able to record something, and an app would not only tab out what you played, but transcribe the lyrics – or the mumbles – so that you’re able to import that into a session. That would eliminate having to figure out, you know, "What was that I played at 3 o’clock in the morning?"