Q&A with Will Hensley (Mix Engineer)

Will Hensley is New York City based mix engineer and producer. Learn about the mixing process from Will, as he discusses his approach to “I’ll Be Back,” the new single! DanCharness_LivingRoom-93

What made “I’ll Be Back” a unique song from a mix perspective?

“I’ll Be Back” was a ton of fun to mix. I took a bit of a “kitchen sink” approach with the production, stripping away extra elements in the mix in order to focus on the more crucial elements. Sometimes this is stressful for a mixer, but since all of the elements sounded great and grooved well–in large part thanks to great decisions by Sam Merrick (drums) and Dominic Fallacaro (producer)–it was more about bringing up the subtle ingredients and different flavors, such as the mandolin or shakers, in the right moments. The most important part of the mix was keeping the drums–in particular, the kick drum–driving and leading the track, with the vocal right up front.

What makes working with Dom and Dan a unique experience?

As a producer, Dom knows exactly what he wants, and knows instinctively how to cut right to the core of it. If something is interfering with the spirit of the song (whether it be an instrument, tone, vibe, groove, rhythm, effect…) Dom can usually come up with a solution after hearing only a few measures.

Dan trusts his instincts. And what’s great is that when he hears something he clearly likes, he smiles really big and can’t stop moving. The funniest thing is to see Dan literally losing his mind over how happy some new ingredient is making him, and then glancing immediately towards Dom to make sure it has his approval as well.
Dan and Dom have the kind of Artist/Producer relationship that really thrives. Dan knows when to defer to Dom, and–more often than not–chooses to trust Dom’s instincts over his own. This is important for artists like Dan, who write all of their own material, as they occasionally can lose sight of the bigger picture of the production after they’ve spent so much time writing the song itself.

What hidden trick are you most proud of in this mix?

The (drum) samples tucked under the kick and snare that come in more in the Choruses are a particular favorite. They don’t necessarily make the drums any louder in those sections, they just fill up a touch more space when the mix gets bigger, so the kick goes a little deeper and the snare goes a little wider. And that stereo mandolin squashed with compression and tucked in like a pitched shaker was really fun and helped the first verse really shine.

What kind of mixing techniques did you employ to make this song really explode through the speakers?

The (volume) faders never stopped moving, which keeps the mix in constant development. I also always made sure that the kick (drum) was driving. Most elements were being compressed both before AND after the faders were adjusted, which meant that any volume changes were also affecting how all of the compressors were reacting. This helps keep the mix feeling alive.

At one point did you realize you had achieved the right formula?
Mixing is a process where I let the song take me where it wants to go. When I was thrilled with it, I sent it to Dan and Dom, and they sat with it. A couple days later Dan came over with final little tweaks. When he heard my final changes, he couldn’t stop grinning ear-to-ear. I saw Dom a few days later, and he came charging over, raving about what I’d done to bring the song to life. At that point, I knew that I’d nailed it to the wall.

To learn more about Will Hensley, visit his website at WAH Productions