SOPHIA, NORTH CAROLINA ― With their home serving as a pastoral, inspirational setting, Christian music duo Jonathan and Melissa Helser chose to record their latest live worship album at their farm, alongside family and friends. To enhance the album, entitled The Land I’m Livin’ In, the duo also chose to film the sessions, which added a personal touch. The Helsers turned to Brad King, engineer and co-owner of worship sound production studio Creak Music, for all the recording and mixing work necessary to achieve their artistic vision. Knowing it was imperative to capture the Helser’s vocal stylings as well as the unique environment in which they were recording, King turned to DPA Microphones for the natural sound and clarity the new album deserved.
Having previously used DPA mics on live recording projects, King knew that the brand would be the best option for miking both the vocals and instruments properly. “I’ve loved every mic I’ve ever used,” he says. “So, for this project, we started chatting with DPA about what to use, and we put together a whole list, which turned out great. Among the many benefits of using DPA is the small form-factor of the mics.”
King selected the DPA d:facto™ 4018V Vocal mics for each of the Helsers’ vocals, 2011C Twin Diaphragm Cardioids on kick and snare; 4099 CORE Instrument mics on toms and hi-hats; 4011A Cardioids for drum overheads; and a pair of stereo 4099s on piano. To help fight the reverb and pick up the overall sound and ambience of the room, King also deployed a pair of 4006A Omnidirectional mics overhead.
As worship musicians, vocals are often at the forefront of the Helsers’ music and, King says, “the d:facto is amazing. It is one of those microphones that you just kind of start using and don’t have to do much to it. We’ve used that mic in the studio a bunch. For the right singer, it just shines on their voice. It sounds really great.” Having the d:factos also helped King obtain isolated vocals in the wide open space, comprised of concrete floors, drywall, windows and a metal ceiling, which all reflected sound, despite attempts at enhancing the sound reinforcement and adding acoustical treatment.
The ability to hide the variety of mics proved essential during the album and video recording, which had an audience of about 70 people, to add to the live feeling. “When you’re capturing a crowd, you don’t want the video to just have a bunch of mic stands and cables,” explains King. “Being able to hide the microphones contributed so much to the energy and vibe of the environment while we were recording. It didn’t feel so much like a traditional studio recording, it felt like an experience.”
King says that using the 4099s on drums was helpful because they were able to obscure the mics and cables cleanly and eliminated the need for mic stands. The 4099s were equally as effective with the piano, where the mics were hidden inside and the cable was run along the side, giving the illusion of it being completely acoustic.
As for the barn where they recorded, King installed 4006As to the outer edge of a second-floor loft space overlooking the large, rectangular main room. “Those mics helped us attain a different, more even sound in the space,” he continues. “Being able to get the room a little more balanced was amazing. I love the capsule that comes on the 4006A; it gives a flatter response, which is really nice. Having the tight polar pattern and pickup of the DPA mics saved this project. Had we been using anything else, there would have been so much bleed. We would have had to overdub everything. Instead, we just sent the whole project to mix.”
It was while working on a radio edit of one song that King discovered the true benefits of the mics on the end project. “I was just isolating the drums and vocals, and there was almost no bleed. The amount of isolation we were able to achieve just by placing everybody correctly and using those microphones really made it all possible.”
Best known for their 2016 album Beautiful Surrender, which peaked on The Billboard 200 at No. 54, Christian Albums at No. 1 and Canadian Albums at No. 67, Jonathan and Melissa Helser have been recording together since 2013. Their new live album, The Land I’m Livin’ In is available on all major streaming platforms, including Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube and Pandora.
Creak Music was founded by Brad King, David Leonard and Seth Talley. The team has worked with worship artists such as NeedToBreathe, Baldwin, Brandon Lake, Maverick City, Brandon Heath and Cody Carnes, among others. The trio also produced their own instrumental cover music album commissioned by Integrity Music.