Multi-instrumentalist and engineer Brent McDonald expounds about his music/studio career: Think it all started being exposed to music when still in the hopper. Everyone in the family either played an instrument or could sing and that extends to aunts and uncles as well. Started piano lessons at five and admittedly I wasn't a great student. Too distracted by the hits of the day my sister constantly blared in the house. It was far more fun trying to figure out those than practice lessons. That of course, drove my piano teacher crazy but what didn't. I started to put chord combinations together into actual pieces of music. At the encouragement of my teacher, several of those I played for the yearly recitals as opposed to the usual. 12, heard a couple schoolmates playing electric guitars and I was hooked. Folks gave me permission to use lawn mowing money for a quad pickup, Teisco Del Ray guitar. I'm sure they expected that to reside mostly in the case after a week, but fooled them. Piano lessons fell by the wayside as I couldn't put the guitar down. As kids with guitars do, joined a band shortly thereafter and made the first nickel playing at the Kalamazoo YWCA at 13. Played from junior high through first year of college with that same band. College, ran into some excellent musicians who like me, were only interested in music and performing. Yes, yes... not college! At the end of the first year of college, started living out of a suitcase. Think there's only four of the lower 48 states I didn't visit while on the road performing in bands. Did many studio sessions was well which were total magic for me. So much so, this started me thinking about how to get involved with the studio biz. Problem was financial in those days. A 24 track tape machine was in the 50k or more range with even a modest mixing desk, about the same. But enter MIDI:
Somewhat passe' now, but there was a time when MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) was brand new. Few understood it then and knew what it could do. Spent my life savings on a pile of synthesizers, hardware sequencer and drum machine. Purchased initially as a system I could drag around on the road to use for writing. Not long after, stuck my neck out for an EM-U Emulator II. Arguably one of the most sought after sampling keyboards of the day. A machine that was rented almost constantly to all the studios (and others) I'd been kicked in and out of in previous years. I'd accompany the E II when it was a date that needed sampling, programming, etc. When not in the way, I'd ask questions about the how and why. Then by happenstance, was working on a five song EP with a former band-mate. Most of the keys/programming was done in the E II and did final recording at Future Sound, Columbus, OH. Off and on, spent quite a bit of time there. Out of the blue, the owner asked if I was interested in working at Future Sound on days off. Wasn't tons of money, just about enough to cover gas and a place to sleep but hey! Future Sound had an automated Quad 8 console, Sony 24 track, lots of great mics and a good place to learn the ropes. Then an additional happy accident, another demo project where the artist needed a studio in Michigan. Had a friend who was part owner of a studio near Kalamazoo (Masterview Recording) and we went there to finish the project. Became a partner at Masterview shortly after. Bought the partnership in 1990 and rebuilt the studio in its current, Otsego location.
Brent has worked both in studio and as musician with notables Bob Wilson (Bob Dylan, JJ Cale, Charlie Daniels) Michael Cologne (Michael On Fire), Gioia Bruno (Expose'), Ralphe Armstrong (Jean Luc Ponty, Mahvishnu Orchestra), Cheryl Jewel (Rachel, Rachel), Tere Bertke (Black Hawk, Ralph Santola), Phil Garmyn (Shy Talk), Fergie Frederiksen (Toto, La Rue, Monsters of Rock), Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck, Scott Henderson, Dave Matthews), Charlie Huhn (Ted Nugent, Foghat) Additionally, Brent has engineered/produced over 100 album projects and composed several award winning jingles. He's also currently a member of the progressive rock band Straight Light. When asked to sum it all up: "This is all about the music. Sure... great mics, great electronics, flattering acoustics and technical knowledge are nice to have. But first and foremost it's the music. That's what you record, produce and mix for. In actuality, I'm very lucky. Few people can wake up with a smile knowing they'll be spending their day doing something fun, creative and exciting. This is what I was meant to do."