This week we’re turning on our mics with Marc Pinansky, singer-songwriter, solo artist, band member, writer, and everything in between. Hailing from Massachusetts, Pinansky has been a guitarist and singer in the band Township for several years, and more recently has been pursuing solo work as well. Read on to learn about his approach to recording, his background with music licensing, and his thoughts on label versus manager.
Without using the words “alternative,” “pop,” or “rock,” or “hip-hop,” describe your sound.
To throw some tags on it, it is certainly very folky and country, but I feel that more than anything else they are merely “songs” in the purest sense. Although it has been a natural progression, my sound is very bare bones, often with just acoustic guitar and voice. It is what I understand and what I feel music is moving farther and farther away from. I don’t want my songs to challenge, I want them to be easily enjoyed.
Describe your ideal studio environment.
At the moment, it is my bedroom. With the huge leaps in the quality and simplicity of home digital recording, recording at home is not only a cheap option, but also fantastic for the comfort that inspires strong, honest performances. Unless you have a good friendship and working relationship with an engineer and a particularly comfortable studio, the performance greatly benefits by not having to worry about the ticking clock marking dollars leaving your savings account.
How often do you try to put in studio time?
Since most of my recording is done at home, I try and put in some recording every day or every other day, but I never force it. Songs and ideas tend to come in batches and I enjoy getting things down quickly to capture that initial energy and feel. For more professional studios, it varies. I like to have everything all worked out before I go in to not waste time and to keep me on task. This may be once a month or a few weeks each year to make a rock record or something. I do this studio time once a month, since I put out an EP every month.
What kind of studio equipment do you use to record?
As simple as you can get, all of which has been donated to me:
– Mac PowerBook G4
– ProTools LE 7.4
– Digidesign Mbox2
– 1 Shure SM57
– External Hardrive
How do you approach recording a song?
When I am recording at home, I finish the song and let it sit in my brain for a moment or two and think about what I would like to put on it. I will start with acoustic and vocal (usually separately) and embellish from there. Technically, I put the mic 8-10 inches from the guitar, between the sound hole and bridge and angle it slightly towards the neck. For vocals, I don’t have a pop screen, so I angle the microphone and sing next to it as opposed to into it. This may sacrifice a little warmth and tone, but it prevents plosive “p” and “b” pops. For electric instruments, I usually go direct and manipulate the tone with EQ, reverb, delay, etc. If I have a song that truly needs proper electric instruments, I will do it at a larger studio through an amp.
What do you do if you’re trying to record and it’s just not working for you?
I leave it alone. I often write things that are beyond my ability at the moment, i.e. finger picking or vocal range, but if I feel the song is strong enough, I’ll practice and keep trying it every now and then until I get it down or adapt it to my abilities. I don’t stress out if it’s not working, because songs always come and go and I don’t want to put myself in a place where I am frustrated and angry. Good things rarely come from an arduous place when writing and recording a song.
You have been signed to a label (with an old band) and you currently work with a manager – do you feel you’ve found more success with one or the other?
Both are extremely helpful, because they are working to bring you to more people and open up more opportunities. I have had more frustrations with labels because there is so much more involved and that means a lot of time to try and do things right. It is hard to remain excited and fresh when your album requires 6 months promotion before it is even released and those are songs that were written a year ago and recorded not long after that.
Working with a manager is far more useful for what I do and what I have done. Having a cheerleader that is representing you is a huge stress reliever. We are at a point where most people can sidestep the label process, but a manager and agent are now more useful than ever, because it means more time must be spent searching out opportunities and building one’s web presence.
How did you get into music licensing for commercials?
When I was doing a decent amount of it it came from a scout from an ad firm at CMJ. Initially, I did some work for them with my band and then I was singled out to do some writing and performing on my own. I was lucky enough to be “discovered” and from there worked as best I could to make myself relevant to them. In addition to the advertising work, my music has been licensed to several television programs and movies, which came from a few different sources – my label at the time making the right connections, random meetings with different people along the way. As most folks say, it’s good work if you can get it, but it has been my experience that it’s damn hard work to keep.