Kevin Kadish at The Carriage House.

inside track
Kevin Kadish at The Carriage House.
Secrets Of The Mix Engineers:
Kevin Kadish
Channelling their shared love of ’50s kitsch,
Kevin Kadish and Meghan Trainor created 2014’s
most talked-about hit single — and turned
Trainor into a superstar overnight.
Paul Tingen
eghan Trainor’s ‘All About
That Bass’ has topped hit
parades in two dozen countries,
including the US — where it went four
times platinum, with well over four million
sales, and was recently nominated for two
Grammy Awards — and the UK, where
it went ‘only’ platinum with more than
half a million sales. During its extended
reign at the top, ‘All About That Bass’
also was the world’s most discussed
song, its celebration of big bass, aka big
booty, aka big bum, proving the source of
endless controversy.
The song’s staggering success has
catapulted the two protagonists behind it
from relative obscurity into the limelight.
Singer Meghan Trainor was only 20 when
it was released, and had until then not
really aimed at being an artist. Originally
from Massachusetts, her ambition was
to be a songwriter, and she was signed
to Big Yellow Dog Music, a Nashville
publisher, after winning the 2011 Sonicbids
February 2015 / w w w . s o u n d o n s o u n d . c o m
‘All About That Bass’
Written by Meghan Trainor &
Kevin Kadish
Produced by Kevin Kadish
Tennessee song contest at the age of 17.
In the Spring of 2013 her publisher Carla
Wallace had the bright idea of introducing
Trainor to musician, writer, engineer, mixer
and producer Kevin Kadish. Wallace must
still be feeling pretty pleased with herself,
for a couple of hours into their first writing
session together, Trainor and Kadish had
co-written and recorded most of ‘All
About That Bass’.
Kevin Kadish’s rise to the top has also
been the subject of a sizeable number
of articles, with the press sometimes
No Concept, No Song
Over many years as a professional songwriter, Kevin Kadish has
evolved his own methods. “I keep a list of all the ideas I get, at
any point, wherever I am, which mostly consist of titles, a few
lines or concepts that I think could be a good idea for a song. In
some cases I also may have a melody, but for the most part they
are lyrical concepts. If there’s no concept, like just a word that
sounds cool, I don’t keep it. I need to know what I am writing
about, what I am going to do. If you’re going on vacation you
don’t just hit the highway and drive in whatever direction. You
could drive for hours and still not arrive anywhere worthwhile.
The destination is crucially important. These titles and
concepts serve as sparks of inspiration, and they will morph
into something bigger. And then the hard work comes in: they
say that songwriting is five percent inspiration and 95 percent
perspiration, and I think this is true.”
presenting his as a rags-to-riches tale. On the phone from
his Nashville studio, Kadish admits that the success of
‘AATB’ has turned his life upside-down, but stories of a
dramatic transition from zero to hero have been greatly
exaggerated. “This is my first global number one, so yes,
it is a life-changer! And yes, I may have slept on friends’
couches and been totally broke at one point, but that was a
long time ago. The success of ‘All About That Bass’ did not
Kevin Kadish: “There were
people in Epic who asked
whether our version of ‘All
About That Bass’ should be
sent to a top mixer or tweaked
in other ways. But LA Reid just
said: ‘No, don’t touch it! Just
master it.’”
come out of the blue. I’ve been making a living for 15 years
as a songwriter and a producer and even before the release
of ‘All About That Bass’ I had sold around 15 million records
and had enjoyed several hit singles, including top five and
top 10 songs.”
Don’t Worry About The Radio
Kadish’s studio, called The Carriage House, is a state-ofthe-art facility located in his property near Nashville. It’s
professionally designed by Ross Alexander and fitted with
exquisite kit, such as an 8:2 tube Dymaxion sidecar desk
made by Ian Gardiner of Boutique Audio & Design and
Steve Firlotte of Inward Connections, as well as mic pres
and compressors by Chandler (LTD1), Daking (52270), Burl
(B1D), Classic API (VP28), Tube-Tech (CL1B), and outboard
by Retro Instruments (Sta Level), Empirical Labs (Distressors),
Helios (F760), Chandler (TG1) and more, plus Adam S3A
and Yamaha NS10 monitors.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Kadish
studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and
the University of Maryland, graduating in 1993 in Music
w w w . s o u n d o n s o u n d . c o m / February 2015
inside track
Kevin Kadish • Meghan Trainor
Management. As an artist in his own right,
he toured in support of some pretty big
names in the ’90s, and he got his first
big break when meeting producer Matt
Serletic (Cher, Stacie Orrico) in 2000. He
worked with Serletic for 10 years, acting as
the producer’s staff writer and co-writing
songs for the likes of Willie Nelson and
Stacie Orrico (including her worldwide
hits ‘(There’s Gotta Be) More To Life’ and
‘Stuck’. Kadish also collaborated with
Jason Mraz on the latter’s Mr A-Z album in
2005, which earned him his first Grammy
Award nomination, for Best Engineered
Album. In addition, Kadish has co-written
songs for and with a wide range of artists
from Miley Cyrus to Meat Loaf, and Joe
Jonas to Skillet.
Kadish moved to Nashville in 2006, and
it was here that the magic that resulted
in ‘All About That Bass’ took place. “The
thing with Meghan happened completely
out of the blue,” recalls Kadish, “and the
songs also came out of the blue. She did
not have a record deal, we just wrote
songs that we liked, and didn’t worry
about the radio. I love 1950s and early
1960s music, and had wanted to make
February 2015 / w w w . s o u n d o n s o u n d . c o m
an EP of music inspired by that era for a
long time. Meghan and I bonded over our
mutual love of the Jimmy Soul song ‘If You
Want To Be Happy’, and we decided to do
an EP inspired by the 1950s and then find
out whether anyone would like it.”
The Reluctant Engineer
“I am primarily a guitar player and singer,”
elaborates Kadish. “And I can program
drums and keys. I learned engineering out
of necessity. I got my first Pro Tools rig
when working with Matt Serletic, a Digi
001. I had never used Pro Tools, or really
The complete Pro Tools session for ‘All About
That Bass’. Drum parts are at the top, followed by
an audio render of the all-important upright bass
track, the other pitched instruments, then the four
lead vocal tracks and, finally, vocal harmonies.
do is retro. I can do retro, or non-retro, in
my studio, as I prefer.
“More often than not people come to
my studio to work with me, but it is not a
requirement. For me writing here is easy,
of course, because I have all my favourite
gear. I often start with programming a
beat so I know what the groove is going
to be and it helps to keep the melodies
consistent phrasing-wise. You want to
make sure that things are not dragging.
These days I program drums in Native
Instrument’s Maschine. I make my own
kits, using my own samples, and I love
it. It has taken my drum programming
to a whole other place. I work with both
the software and the controller, and I
exclusively work in Pro Tools. Also, I don’t
have an assistant. I do everything by
myself here, writing, recording, editing,
and mixing.”
A Chorus Of Choruses
engineered, before that. I had owned
some ADATs and four-track cassette
recorders when I was at high school, but
never considered myself an engineer. But
since that first Pro Tools system I have
definitely learned a lot about engineering,
and what I like and don’t like.
“As a result I now have a setup that
could be considered old-school in that it’s
not a laptop studio but actually a proper
recording studio, with a full tracking
setup, including a drum room, a vocal
booth, an amp booth and so on. I love
my analogue gear and my Dymaxion
desk, which has eight 610 preamps that
sound incredible and Abbey Road Studio
airplane-style faders. I use it purely for
tracking. I also am a fan of the Classic
API stuff, which comes as a kit and you
then have a tech build it for you. These
Classic API kits sound incredible. But do I
need all this gear to make records? No. I
personally just like having the options of
the preamps and compressors and mics.
I tend to track pretty clean. I like to get
good sounds at source and if I want it
distorted or otherwise processed, I can do
this after the fact. Also, not everything I
Because Kadish and Trainor were under
no pressure whatsoever, they felt free
to experiment, leading ‘AATB’ to be, in
Kadish’s words, “sort of an anti-chorus
song. There’s no clear structure to the
song. The first verse is nothing like the
second verse, the two are completely
different rhythmically and melodically. The
‘all about that bass’ line is a chorus, but
really it functions as a breakdown chorus
every time. The most traditional part of
the song is the pre-chorus. So the song is
sort of free-form. I think it was something
that was new for Meghan as a writer. As a
typical song structure it is hard to do, but
it might be part of the reason the song
worked, because it is so unpredictable.
“I think it was Clive Davis who once said
that your first verse should be a chorus,
your chorus should be a chorus, your prechorus should be a chorus, your bridge
should be a chorus, and so on. In other
words, every part of the song should be
memorable. That is what makes a hit song.
It’s true, and I feel that it’s the case with
‘AATB’. Lyrically too, it is very memorable.
“I had put up a beat before Meghan
came into the room. I did not know what
kind of song we would be writing, I just
thought, ‘I like this groove, and let’s see
what happens.’ I had my acoustic guitar, to
add chords and give things more structure,
w w w . s o u n d o n s o u n d . c o m / February 2015
inside track
Kevin Kadish • Meghan Trainor
Kevin Kadish makes extensive
use of the Metric Halo
Channel Strip plug-in, as here
on the upright bass track.
and when she came in
we went through my title
ideas and then it just sort
of happened. We just
jammed in the room. ‘All
Bass No Treble’ was one
of the song titles on my
list, and I knew that bass
was about booty. But
my thinking was that the
song idea was for a male
rapper or urban artist of
some kind. I nevertheless
mentioned the title for
her, and she was like,
‘Yeah, for sure,’ and just
started singing, ‘Because
you know I am all about
that bass,’ and I went, ‘No
treble!’ We were just riffing and having fun.
“We finished the lyrics and writing the
actual song in a couple of hours, and I
then programmed an upright bass part,
and after this she sang all her vocals to the
upright bass and drums. She did the lead
vocal and we cut her backgrounds right
after. Everything was done very fast. I went
back in later on and arranged a couple
of things, but not much. What we did the
day that we wrote the song is pretty much
what’s on the record. I might have taken a
word out here or there, and I might have
edited some of her harmonies, maybe I put
them on the second pre-chorus but not
on the first, things like that. But they were
just minor things. The essence of the song
was recorded that first day. And I was really
impressed with Meghan. She was seen as
purely a songwriter when I met her, but on
hearing her sing I was like, ‘You also need
to be the artist; your voice is incredible!’
All About That Double Bass
“I programmed the double bass in
Maschine. The gist of the bass is sort of a
loop, but it’s not very consistent because
it gets a little busier in places and there
are some transitional notes to keep
the rhythm going and to get from one
section to another. I recorded Meghan
with an AKG C12VR mic, which I think
went through the Chandler LTD1 mic pre
and then a Tube-Tech CL1B compressor,
and then straight into the Pro Tools 192,
at 48kHz/24-bit. After we laid down her
Why Can’t You Say That?
As mentioned in the main article, there’s quite
a bit of controversy regarding the big-bootycelebrating lyrics of ‘All About That Bass’.
Kevin Kadish reflects: “To me the whole idea
that the song discriminates against skinny
people is people totally over-thinking things.
We were not being mean. We did not write
the song for overweight people or to target
skinny people. We wrote it for Meghan, and
we did not know that she was going to get a
record deal. In fact, we did not think anyone
was ever going to hear the song apart from us
and friends and family. We wanted the song
to be funny, and fun. We just wrote it. At one
point Meghan was like: ‘You can’t say that!’
And I was like: ‘Why? It is our song, why can’t
we say that?’ I think it was the ‘skinny bitches’
line that she was uncomfortable about, which
came from me. But I have heard skinny girls
call other girls ‘skinny bitches’ — it was not
meant to be mean. It was meant to be funny,
and guess what, it is funny.
“Maybe some people just need to grow
a sense of humour! I’m very surprised that
people are more offended by the song than
they are by, say, Nicki Minaj shaking her
behind in a video, and literally talking about
genitalia in her lyrics. I would much rather that
my kids hear ‘AATB’ than some of the other
things that are out there. And for Meghan
it’s a great song. When I look at her I see her
as the fun Adèle. I love Adèle’s music, but
it’s intense. By contrast, Meghan’s stuff is
February 2015 / w w w . s o u n d o n s o u n d . c o m
vocals I added my favourite guitar, which is
a Fender Custom Shop Telecaster. I played
it through an At Mars Specialist head into
a Mojotone 1x12 with a Scumback M65
speaker, and recorded that with a Shure
SM57, going into a Classic API VP28 mic
pre, no compression. I used a Lightfoot
Labs Goatkeeper pedal to get the tremolo
effect that I was after.
“My next step was to send the session
to a buddy of mine, Dave Baron, who lives
in New York, and regularly works with
Lenny Kravitz. I have an exchange with
him: when he needs me to play guitar or
sing on something, he sends his sessions
to me, and when I need someone to play
keyboards or program things I send them
to him. We just send the song and the
other person arranges as he sees fit. In the
case of ‘All About That Bass’ I asked him
to add keyboards and sax, and he sent
me back B3 organ, piano and baritone
sax parts. He played through the entire
song, and I chopped and rearranged his
parts the way I wanted, but his original
inspiration is still there. I wanted the song
to build, so until the vocals come in it is
essentially just drums and bass, and then
the Tele enters, and still later the piano and
baritone sax, and finally towards the end
the organ.
“The final mix did not take long,
because I mix while tracking. When
overdubbing I want people to play or sing
to what sounds like a finished record. I
want them to be inspired by what comes
out of their headphones. So I get the
inside track
sounds I want and add EQ and effects as
I go, and that seems to work well. The
thing that is important is to know when the
record is done and to stop adding stuff.
When I feel that there’s nothing more to
add, the final mix is more a refinement
than a final stage in itself. I may filter some
low end out that I had not done before,
or add some multi-band compression on
some stuff. It depends on the kind of music
that I am doing. This song was very easy
to mix, because there’s so little musical
information in it. It’s not like I have 80
background vocals and 15 pairs of guitars
or keyboards!”
Photo: Sarah McColgan
Kevin Kadish • Meghan Trainor
Nuthin’ Fancy
As Kevin Kadish indicates, the ‘All About
That Bass’ Pro Tools session is nothing if
not simple. At the top of the Edit window
is an effects track with a vocal sample,
followed by 13 drum tracks, which are
bussed to one drum master track. The
‘music’ tracks consist of upright bass,
baritone sax, piano, organ and Telecaster:
five in total. In addition there are four lead
vocal tracks and 10 backing vocal tracks,
bringing the grand total of audio tracks
to 33. Not the most Spartan session that
has ever made an appearance in the Inside
Track series, but certainly economical!
Below the audio tracks are master tracks
for the backing vocals, for all Dave Baron’s
material (DBU), two aux tracks, a master
track and an output track. Going from
top to bottom through the session, Kevin
Kadish reveals all the sweaty details:
“The first thing I did when I got to the
mixing stage was to burn all the MIDI
tracks to audio. After that I got my level
on the drums as a whole, and ran them
through a stereo bus, with a bit of EQ from
the Metric Halo Channel Strip and some
distortion from the SoundToys Decapitator,
to make the drums a bit edgier and
dirtier. It gave the drums some extra
punch. Because I had been mixing while
recording, the levels were kind of there
already. If an outside mixer had received
this track, he’d have gone through the
tracks one by one, starting with the drums
and then adding instruments one by one.
But for me the session was already 90
percent the way I wanted to hear it. My
main focus during the final mix was to ride
the vocals, making sure you can always
hear them, and once the vocals were in a
good place, I’d focus on the instruments. If
there was a moment an instrument needed
to shine, I’d pull it out a little bit.
“You can see in the Edit and Mix
February 2015 / w w w . s o u n d o n s o u n d . c o m
inside track
Kevin Kadish • Meghan Trainor
window screenshots that the
Metric Halo Channel Strip and
Decapitator appear a lot, they
are on almost all the tracks. The
Channel Strip is a really useful EQ
for me. It is my main in-the-box
EQ. It has a great EQ, and also
compression if you need it, and
side-chain and a gate. I use the
Decapitator a lot because I would
rather that things sound too dirty
than too nice. But it gives different
degrees of distortion on every
track. The drum bus also has a
send to the Altiverb aux track
at the bottom, which was set to
the Bill Putnam echo chamber in
Cello Studios. In fact, I also had
another Altiverb reverb set up at
the bottom of the session, with
an EMT 250 plate, as well as a
slapback echo from the standard
Pro Tools Extra Long Delay II, set
to 68.58ms.
“Just above the drums, right at the
top, is the effects track, which is just a
vocal effect, ‘bassbassbassbass’ to create
some interest, which has the [McDSP]
CB1 CompressorBank on it. I did that in
Maschine, sampling a vocal and giving it
different pitches.”
Upright Top Ranking
“Below the drums is the upright bass track,
and just like the drum bus just above it,
it has the Channel Strip, the Decapitator
and a send to the Altiverb Putnam echo
chamber. The bass is pretty much the
most prominent instrument in the track. It
sounds big, even though I am filtering it
below 100Hz. The sample was a bit boomy
and as a result the whole bass part a bit
woolly below 100Hz, so I took it out. But
I still had to EQ the kick drum to make
space for the upright bass. It’s not only the
level of the bass that makes it important in
the track, but also the fact that it’s upright,
which adds a lot of character. Meghan’s
touring band tried to play our songs with
an electric bass, and it did not work. The
sound of the upright is just too distinctive,
and really fits the musical direction we
took. I think I used it on every song on
Meghan’s album.
“The next track is the baritone sax,
which has the Waves Puigchild 670, just
to smooth it out a bit, and then again
the Decapitator, to add some extra grit.
The sax is sent to both the EMT 250 and
Putnam echo chamber. Then there’s the
piano, which has the Channel Strip, filtering
As well as compression
from McDSP’s
Compressor Bank,
Kevin Kadish used
Nomad Factory’s
Retro-Vox plug-in
to provide additional
dynamic control on
Meghan Trainor’s vocal.
the piano pretty
high, at 500Hz, the
Nomad Factory
E-Retrovox set to
limit mode to add
some compression
and character, and
the Nomad E-Tube
Tape Warmer,
for some tape
saturation. The piano is sent to the 68.58ms
slapback echo and the two Altiverb
reverbs. Incidentally, I just purchased some
Bricasti M7 units, with the M10 controller,
and I love them. They sound incredible. The
next Meghan record will be Bricasti all the
way! Finally, the organ has the CraneSong
Dark Essence, just to darken it and take
off some brashness, and the Tele has the
Decapitator and the Putnam echo chamber.
“The lead vocals are split over four
tracks, and have the same effects on each,
which is the Channel Strip, the RetroVox, the McDSP CN1 compressor, and
the Decapitator. They all have the same
settings, apart from the output of the
Decapitator which changes a little bit.
When I tracked the vocals I did not pay a
lot of attention to the sound, I just used
the microphone that was up, so I applied
February 2015 / w w w . s o u n d o n s o u n d . c o m
several plug-ins to improve her vocal
sound. The Retro-Vox functions as a gate
and the compressor catches the peaks
while the Decapitator once again adds
some grit. All the lead vocal tracks are
sent to the slapback echo and the Putnam
reverb. I didn’t treat the harmony vocals
individually, but on the BV bus I had the
Channel Strip, the Decapitator, and a send
to the Putnam Altiverb.
“At the bottom of the session is the
master track, on which I have the Waves
L2, bumping the level up, and after that
the stereo mix goes out to my outboard
SSL XLogic G–series compressor and then
my Behringer Edison EX1 Stereo Imager,
both used very sparingly. When I am
mixing in the box, these two units help the
entire mix to feel a bit lighter and more
open. After this I fed my mix back into Pro
Tools and monitored through that, again
with an L2, because the mix was still a bit
quiet. I took the L2 off when I sent the
track to mastering.”
Bad Medicine
Kadish and Trainor wrote and recorded
three songs during their first set of writing
sessions together, and both then went
their own ways, having no inkling of what
lay around the corner. Kadish began work
on the second album by rock band New
Medicine (released in August last year as
Breaking The Model). While working on
that project he received a phone call from
Trainor, saying, “You need to sit down
when you’re hearing this: LA Reid has
just signed me because of ‘All About
That Bass’, and we have to go into the
studio and write an entire album!”
“So we did the rest of the album
while ‘AATB’ was climbing the charts.
The ‘AATB’ session was the template
for maybe three or four songs on the
album. But I did not want to do the
same thing 11 times, so the songs are
all very different, although all songs
are inspired by the 1950s. Some of the
songs are lusher, with a track called
‘What If I’ having live drums, recorded in
my studio, and strings that are both live
and programmed.”
LA Reid, who currently is chairman
and CEO of Epic Records, is one of the
biggest names in the American music
industry, and he took one momentous
decision which Kadish still admires.
“There were people in Epic who asked
whether our version of ‘All About That
Bass’ should be sent to a top mixer or
tweaked in other ways. But LA Reid just
said: ‘No, don’t touch it! Just master
it.’ Paul Pontius, the A&R guy, did call
me and asked me whether I had any
tweaks, but I said, ‘No, this is my mix.’
So it went out exactly as Meghan and
I had done it during our initial writing
session. That was a good call. I mean,
to take a risk like that, and not feel like
he had to put his thumbprint on it or
micro-manage it? That’s impressive.
I owe the man a nice dinner! Is the
mix perfect? Technically, I don’t know.
But for the song, yes, absolutely. The
whole point is that it has to feel right.
You can take the life out of things by
over-analysing them. In any case, for me
it was exciting to know that something
that Meghan and I had created worked
on such a big level. Particularly with
this being a 1950s record, it was also
very validating to have this happen after
all my years of writing songs and making
records. For every song you make that
single, ‘Lips Are Movin’, and her debut
album, called Title, was released in January
of this year. Kadish, meanwhile, has signed
Kevin Kadish: “When I tracked the vocals I did
not pay a lot of attention to the sound, I just
used the microphone that was up, so I applied
several plug-ins to improve her vocal sound.”
works there are five that don’t. And this
worked in a really big way!”
Since the release of ‘All About That
Bass,’ Trainor has enjoyed a second hit
a worldwide administration deal with Sony/
ATV Music, and his phone hasn’t stopped
ringing. We are sure to hear a lot more
from these two. w w w . s o u n d o n s o u n d . c o m / February 2015
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This article was originally published
in Sound On Sound magazine,
February 2015 edition
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