Marcy Marxer made Eva sing again

“When Blix Street Records started running out of material they started looking at rehearsal tapes. Artists all over the Washington, DC area started donating to the cause. Bill Straw (president of Blix Street Records) gave me a cassette of Eva making a practice tape for a tune called ‘Dark Eyed Molly’. It was really meant as a rough tape so the band could learn the song.

The heads on the cassette were out of alignment and there was a terribly loud ground hum.Eva had a mic for singing on one track and the other track was the pickup from her acoustic guitar plugged directly into the cassette machine. There is an electric guitar player in the background playing along that is heard on the vocal track. The song arrangement Eva was playing had different chord changes for every verse but the guitar player didn’t know that in advance so he’s making quite a few mistakes not realizing he was being recorded. It would have been next to impossible for a player to follow along with no chart and not make mistakes.

Marcy Marxer

Marcy Marxer

The tape had a beautiful vocal on it but otherwise it was a real mess. I took it to two of the best engineers in town, Greg Lukens and Bill Wolf who were able to align the heads and roll off some of the bottom of the ground hum.

Then I took the track home to my studio and recorded the 2 tracks 11 times so all of my 24 tracks were full. I turned the EQ faders down on every track to eliminate as much sound as possible. Then I listened to each individual track to find a frequency that came from only Eva’s voice. That process left me with 24 strong tracks of frequencies from Eva’s voice.  It also had the effect of turning the things that were not coming from Eva’s voice down until her voice sat well above the other noises.

Then I used left and right panning knobs to get the audio image of her voice right.  Frequencies that sounded like her nose went in the middle, sounds that came off her cheek bones were panned to the sides, etc. it took a long time but I’ll never forget the moment when the audio image finally popped in front of me. I had my eyes closed with headphones on and her voice sounded like it was surrounding me.The entire process to that point took about two weeks. I kept working in one direction and when it wasn’t right I would start over.



Then it was time to put instruments on the track. I tried to match Eva’s guitar strumming exactly as she had played it. I couldn’t use her guitar because of the hum and poor recording. Then I filled out the song with instruments I knew she liked, 6 and 12 string acoustics recorded in lush stereo, bouzouki. There was still some distant electric guitar playing.  Some of it was good so I kept as much of it as possible. I added tinwhistle to cover up the mistakes in some places.

The whole process including adding instruments took about 3 weeks. I didn’t do any punching in and there was no click track. I played the entire tune over and over learning the small pauses, then played the whole pass to make it sound natural. The process that I developed opened a way to work with the old cassette tapes and I learned a lot in the process. There are computer programs that will do a lot of that work now.  It would be much easier these days!  

I did a final mix that I thought Eva would love and sent it to the record company.  It was the best I could do. Bill Straw remixed it for the American Tune album and added some of the ground hum back in. He likes a dirtier sound and wanted it to sound less polished. Now listeners can hear some of the electric guitar mistakes, too. It’s a matter of personal preference, really.” (Marcy Marxer)

One response to “Marcy Marxer made Eva sing again”

  1. Mac Macdonald says:

    Hi, We the fans are never aware of the amount of work, effort and love spent on Eva’s legacy by other who also love her. Well done and all power to you Marcy a wonderful result and bless you for your efforts – a true work of love regards and best wishes Mac

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