When vocalist and blues guitarist Jones Nelson moved to Nashville to break into the music industry, he knew he needed two things: to polish his mixing skills and to get connected within the business. That’s why he enrolled in the Recording Connection. But little did he know at the time just where that opportunity would land him.
“I was supposed to be meeting with my mentor on a Wednesday,” says Jones, “and I got a text message from him that morning that said, ‘Hey, we’re actually going to be doing a tracking session this evening if you’d like to swing by.’ It was just kind of ad hoc, but I thought, ‘Well yeah. We’ll swing over there.’ I went in and…it was that moment that I realized that I was standing among giants and really had at least somewhat stumbled into the big leagues.”
The recording studio was The Rukkus Room in Nashville, Tennessee. The mentor who had invited Jones to sit in was Grammy-winning producer/engineer Jamie Tate (Taylor Swift, Alan Jackson). And the musicians were established Nashville session players who had played with some of the biggest names in the industry.
“If you even accidentally have listened to country music over the last 10 years or 15 years, you likely heard some of these folks on the record,” says Jones. “The drummer, I know his work, toured and worked with Reba McEntyre for like 15 years. The guitarist that was in the recording, I think he got the Nashville Guitarist of the Year or something last year.”
As Jones began studying with Jamie in the studio, he began learning quickly how much he needed to learn about mixing. “I’ve been in and around production rooms and audio studios since I was 15 years old,” he says. “I just kind of gleaned different tips and tricks over the years, but this is my first time in a real professional studio to where my sole objective is to learn…You think that you kind of have a handle on how sound is put together and how a mix is put together. When you see somebody do it just completely differently and much better than what you’re used to, it’s just like very awe-inspiring.”
Perhaps the most important thing he’s been learning is what goes into making a great mix, versus just a good one. He’s learned a lot, he says, by just watching Jamie work. He recalls one time in particular:
“[Jamie] was actually remixing something that he’d done earlier, trying to beat an earlier mix that he had done.” he says. “It was really neat to be able to see that deconstruction occurring…to see kind of how he can breathe new life into something else, and kind of make it better…He even said during the course of mixing it, ‘You know I’m spending all this time for something that really and truly I’m probably the only person that can tell the difference, from mix A and mix B,’ but he said, ‘I know, personally, that it’s going to be better by the time I’m done with it.’ I just think that’s awesome.”
Jones is already seeing improvement in his own recordings, he says. “I feel like my vocals are able to float a little bit better within the mix, going into it kind of with the idea of how the compressor is going to work or work with my voice.”
Not only is Jones learning how to be more competitive with his mixes in the Nashville scene—he’s also getting more connected with it, forming relationships with the musicians coming through the studio. He tells us he’s working on a solo record due to come out early next year, and he’s procuring the services of some of these top-shelf musicians to play on it!
Yes, thanks to the Recording Connection, Jones Nelson hasn’t just found himself in the big leagues—he’s in the on-deck circle.