When a person is asked what they do for a living, often it is not what they answer but how they answer the question that is the most telling. ~ by Floro
Ask Grammy award-winning Mixer David Odlum what he does for a living, and he will answer, "I make music". Simply put. To the point. Before, the "." comes the word "music" and before the word "music" comes the word "make".
The making or the doing, came way before David actually knew how to play an instrument. At a very tender age, David was drawn to his father’s guitar propped up against the door-frame outside his bedroom. Sitting there strumming it for hours, he discovered that pull, that unknown quality and sensation that drew him to want to make something out of nothing, something out of nothing that was musical. Perhaps inherent in this force were the origins of what many musicians who have worked with David would later pay compliment. This force, so esoteric that only the word “feel” could best describe it, was something that would compel David into all areas of making music.
Born out of the vibrant busker scene in Dublin, David became a musician in his own right, formed his own musical community and fell in love with the making of it, hearing of it, releasing of it, helping others make and build upon it. It became a world in itself.
Busking led to meeting Glen Hansard who asked him to be the guitarist in his band, The Frames. The Frames grew in popularity in their native land, and when the band found itself with no manager, he also took that role on. The Frames grew more popular, eventually landing a record deal with producer Trevor Horn at the helm. The band spoke about recording Dance the Devil on their own. So when it came time to demo the songs, David volunteered to engineer it.
Playing guitar in the band brought him all over the continent, across the Atlantic, performing, recording and eventually acquiring the expertise of the science-meets-art skills of engineering.
When engineer/producer Steve Albini recommended that The Frames record at Black Box Studios, David found himself in a very remote converted 18th century farmhouse in rural France. Perhaps the cultural roots of the Brittany town were enough to link him back to his home, because he never unpacked his bags. He became a permanent fixture recording albums by award-winning artists from ￼all over the world; Tinariwen, Josh Ritter, Jape, Gemma Hayes to name a few.
Years later, he would become co-owner of the Black Box Studios. One could argue that David’s path to recording and making music is a path that may seem anything but “straight to the point”. But the common thread has always been this pull, his love for music, a love for making music and the love of bringing science together to make art. It’s almost as if that same curiosity that drew his young fingers to strum his father’s guitar for hours upon hours has birthed an energy of its own. This energy has fuelled an insatiable curiosity for discovering the beauty behind music while at the same time exploring the infinite technical details of audio gear to help call upon an artist’s true sound and spirit. The discovery process of teasing apart what makes an artist’s music authentic is what has always gratified David and driven him to great lengths - eventually earning him a Grammy and a Meteor Choice Music Prize award for albums he mixed and/or produced.
Without consideration of any end-goal in mind other than making something nothing short of beautiful, David set out with the band Tinariwen to mix their album Tassili in the spring of 2011. A full year later the band would win a Grammy for the album.
“We spent a couple of weeks at a studio in Paris and later at Black Box building the mixes, listening through the various takes of songs with the producers passionately arguing over where the record should get to. Passions ran high from time to time, it was indicative how how much we all believed in the band. The songs were recorded under the desert-sky in Africa. And while I couldn’t understand a word that was sung to me, the music was incredible and it left me with such a strong feeling and impression. I'm fortunate to be from a musical background that places a huge value on performance and during the mixing of Tassili I was struck many times by the potency of the band's performances. It's really gratifying to see that kind of authenticity being acknowledged”, says David.
David’s musicianship; years of playing, time on the road, managing a band, engineering, directing music and running a recording studio are all bundled into what he does for a living. It’s as if David has acquired an even greater sense of “feel” in all these musical experiences that has led him to be able to interpret the musical language that many musicians struggle to convey.
Engineering, recording, producing, birthing a song....many musicians and appreciators of art have been wonderstruck by this process.
￼Some call it illusion.
...Some call it “making music”.