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American Routes Shortcuts: Dan Auerbach

Dan Auerbach
American Routes

Dan Auerbach first recorded his own duo, the Black Keys in a basement with a four-track tape machine. He has since released ten albums with the band and two solo records. These days, Auerbach is more focused on working the mixing board than the crowd. He puts in long hours recording other artists at his Nashville studio and label, Easy Eye Sound. We spoke to Dan about his journey in music, beginning at home in Akron, Ohio.

Dan Auerbach: My dad had a huge record collection, he would play everything from the Beatles to Louis Jordan to Louis Prima, to Son House recordings and Robert Johnson recordings, and then on top of it my mom’s family all played bluegrass. Definitely a lot of who I am I absorbed from just kind of being around that music growing up.

Nick Spitzer: When do you first find your way to Nashville, is that a family trip?

DA: Yeah I would get into the habit sort of in my late teens of making these long treks from Akron, Ohio, down to Mississippi, and we’d go through Tennessee. We’d stop in Nashville, hang out in Lower Broad, go see the Don Kelley band at Robert’s. Also I went to the Station Inn, which is the White House of bluegrass.

NS: What is it that drew you there to create a studio?

DA: Well I mean, you know, I was introduced to recording by Pat Carney with the cassette four-track, and ever since then, I was hooked. I mean that was kind of the thing that Pat and I bonded over was recording. We both really loved it, and over the years I’ve just sort of built my studio and collected gear, and it’s sort of based on gear of people who made records that I really love used.

NS: Well you have an enormous dedication also I think to the idea of these session players as great players.

DA: I feel just honored to even be around them, and I don’t take it lightly. I want to be around them as much as I can.

NS: And you have Bubba Chrisman on drums.

DA: Gene Chrisman on drums who played on Bobby Womack’s “Woman’s Gotta Have It” and “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley, and “Son of a Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield.

NS: You also had Duane Eddy, what did Duane Eddy do for you on Waiting on a Song?

DA: Duane Eddy is Duane Eddy. Duane Eddy invented a guitar sound in the ‘50s and it’s his sound. He owns it, it’s his brand, so he comes in and he does the Duane Eddy sound.

NS: How do you see it at this point in terms of musician, producer, touring. How do these things fit together for you?

DA: You have to decide what you want to do, you know, and to make a living being a musician, you have to be on the road all the time. If you want to make a great record, you have to be in the studio all the time, and you can’t do both. You can’t do both because in order to be really deep into it in the studio, you can’t be living a lifestyle where you’re waking up and moving every single day. It just doesn’t work, your brain never settles. You give up certain things to gain in other places I guess.

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