We set out to find a guitar-playing Nashville
songwriter with a nifty office recording setup,
perhaps with a few racks of particularly guitar-specific gear, to bring some variety to this
series of recording profiles. The idea was to
break down the recording setup of a guitar
player who writes songs for a living. These are
the people who toss ideas around in “
appointments” with other songwriters, mold them in a
DAW and cut demos that get shopped around
to hopefully become a hit song on someone
else’s record. We wanted to explore the utility
of a professional, yet simple, setup.
Imagine our surprise when many of the songwriters we talked to pointed to the Macs in their
offices and said, “well, there it is!” Sure, stand-alone multi-track recorders, professional DAWs
and a wide variety of devices marrying mixing
consoles to interfaces have evolved, but so have
laptop computers. GarageBand, the freebie
program on Macs, isn’t just for beginners, either.
It has become quite the workhorse in the songwriting capital of the U.S.
So you cut an initial GarageBand demo
that ends up being a reference for a pro
demo cut in a real studio?
Yes, but sometimes there are GarageBand-captured moments that you can’t recreate
in the big studio. We had a cool vocal riff
down on the GarageBand demo for a song
called “Funky in the Country” that we were
having trouble capturing in the studio when
I was working on my own album recently.
We wanted to start the song with the riff
but we just couldn’t recreate the vibe
and make it sound as good as we did on
GarageBand. We ended up recording the
GarageBand riff being played through a
speaker with an air conditioner in the background for some extra ambience and that’s
what you hear at the top of that song on
my album Sex. Church & Chicken.
It was one of the flukes that you kind of run
up on every now and then. Sometimes when
I run GarageBand I record the whole session
foundation going. One of my partners,
John Goodman, got a loop going once
and we just kept building off of it and we
ended up with a phenomenal song that
sounds like something you would get
out of a studio. Sometimes you get lucky
enough to be able to do that. Like anything else, when you’re dealing with something that has samples on it and loops on
it, sometimes you get great things and
sometimes you don’t get what you need.
But sometimes you luck out and get
exactly what you need.
Anything on the radio right now
that started off in your Mac?
Yeah, Jason Aldean’s current single, “She’s
Country,” started off on GarageBand. One
of my writing partners, Danny Myrick, and
I laid down most of the eventual demo
directly on GarageBand with a just few other
guitar parts and drum loops added later.
We asked singer/songwriter Bridgette Tatum
to explain how she’s using a laptap with
GarageBand to carve out a career in Nashville.
It’s probably the main tool I use to get everything started. I used to record on a little cassette
tape player—we all had those—and then I discovered GarageBand and got proficient with it.
What about your interface and other gear?
I usually go directly into my Mac and even use
my laptop’s built-in mics. You’ll see a lot of
people using the USB-powered Snowball mic
[Blue Microphones] at sessions. I play a Martin
Alternative X with an aluminum top and a
Voyage Air acoustic—they sound great through
the snowball. That’s all I need to record and
print a decent demo for taking into to the
studio to track with. The only problem with the
snowball is that it is bulky; it can be hard to lug
from writing session to writing session.
with my songwriting partners because you
get these great little outtake things that you
can actually put on a demo or your album or
whatever you’re working on.
I guess writing in a big studio just to capture
spontaneity can get expensive.
Here’s a good example—I have a song
called “Hold On To Me,” that we laid down
in GarageBand and I almost wanted to
include that recording as an extra hidden
track on the album because it was so raw
and so real when we captured it. We took
it and re-did it for the album, and it’s great,
but I just don’t think we captured that
moment again like we did in GarageBand
with just acoustic guitars.
How does the program itself come into play?
There are some easy-to-use looping
features in there with drums and percussion that are great for getting a song’s
So how common is it for Nashville
songwriters to use GarageBand?
Oh, it’s huge! I would guess that for seven out
of ten writing appointments that I’m going to
go into, we’re going to use GarageBand.
Considering what else is out there,
why do you think that is?
For me, I’m very simple when I write and
GarageBand is as simple as it gets. You just
set it up and go. I use some effects, like
reverb, but I try to keep it simple.
Go to premierguitar.com to hear the
evolution (GarageBand demo and stu-
dio version) of Tatum’s song, “Funky in