Veteran audio engineer George Cowan relies on a variety of company’s mics to capture folk-singer’s artistry
Whether folk-rocker Natalie Merchant is on tour or in the studio, the musician’s long-time audio engineer, George Cowan, relies on DPA Microphones’ d:facto™ Vocal Microphone to provide the singer with the purest sound possible. Additionally, a combination of the company’s d:vote™ 4099 Instrument Microphones highlight the supporting live-string quartet, while d:dicate™ 4011A Cardioid and 4006A Omnidirectional Microphones have been used for the musician’s recent recording projects.

Cowan was first introduced to DPA Microphones while engineering at the renowned Bearsville Studios near Woodstock, NY. It was there, in 1989, that he met Merchant and the two have been working together ever since. For Merchant’s current tour, the singer added a new element, a string quartet, which required proper amplification. Cowan turned to DPA to find a low-profile miking solution with high-quality sound.

“I have mixed for a variety of live audiences, from stadiums to small clubs, so I know the importance of having a good microphone,” says Cowan. “Based off my experience and the company’s reputation, I knew that DPA would be the best solution for close-miking the quartet as the d:vote mics allowed us to get an isolated sound on the string instruments, which can be difficult to do with other brands. The d:votes solved every problem we had and are great microphones for live music because they just sound clearer. We prefer a subtle attachment mic, and its unobtrusive design allows us to eliminate clutter from the stage.”

In addition to the 2014 summer tour, Merchant, Cowan and co-engineer Eli Walker were busy working on the 20th anniversary re-recording of the singer-songwriter’s hit album, Tigerlily which features new arrangements and sensibilities.

“We used a d:dicate 4011A on the viola and seven d:dicate 4006As on the strings for the recording session for Tigerlily,” continues Cowan. “We also used the 4006As for ambience at the Club House, a studio in Rhinebeck, NY. The string mount that comes with the mics is the best in the business; I’ve never seen anything better. They’re not clumsy at all and they are really well thought out.”

In addition to using DPA to isolate the instruments, Cowan switched Merchant to DPA’s d:facto Vocal Microphone. “It was a no brainer when we tried the d:facto capsule on Natalie’s vocals,” adds Cowan. “It sounded better than anything we were using prior. I’m a big fan of DPA, every time I hear a performance using their mics, I’ve been impressed. I want to thank the crew at DPA for being so wonderful to work with. Natalie was also very appreciative and she plans on crediting the company on her next record.” Cowan additionally expressed interest in trying out more of DPA’s mics for future applications. With more than 30 years of experience in the music business, Cowan has toured the world live-mixing for the likes of Joe Jackson, Joan Baez, Aimee Mann and Todd Rundgren. In addition to his work as a FOH engineer, Cowan served as a studio engineer for many years.

Merchant released her sixth solo album (also recorded with Cowan and Walker, using DPA microphones) in May, a self-titled and self-produced collection of 10 new and original songs, named Album of the Week by The Daily Telegraph, along with a debut at number 20 on Billboard’s Top 200. Additional albums include Tigerlily (1995), Ophelia (1998), Motherland (2001), The House Carpenter’s Daughter (2003) and Leave Your Sleep (2010). The 20th anniversary release of Tigerlily, due out next year, will also be accompanied by a live concert video that was filmed over two days at the Tarrytown Music Hall.


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