Kelly’s Lot Captures Power and Feeling with Mojave Microphones on ‘Where and When’

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Lockdown acoustic blues album co-produced by guitarists Doug Pettibone and Perry Robertson

No strangers to productivity after 27 years of touring and recording with their LA-based folk/blues group Kelly’s Lot, singer/songwriter Kelly Zirbes and guitarist/producer Perry Robertson already had one ‘COVID album’ completed coming into 2021 when they began dreaming of their next project — a raw acoustic blues album that would embody the classic ‘live in the room’ recordings that defined the genre. With that in mind, the duo teamed up with renowned guitarist/producer Doug Pettibone [Lucinda Williams, Keith Richards, Steve Earle, Joan Baez] and bassist David Glover to record ‘Where and When’, an 11-song collection of originals and covers tracked live. To ensure that listeners would be able to hear and feel the music as if they were in the room with the group, Robertson and Pettibone utilized a clutch of Mojave Audio microphones chosen specifically to capture all of the intimate details of the performances.

Intimate sounds and emotional detail

In order to capture the right mood and vibe for ‘Where and When’, it was important for the musicians to get into the right emotional headspace. In order to accomplish this, they chose to record live as an ensemble in Zirbes’ and Robertson’s living room in their house in Oxnard, CA. Doing so allowed them to create a sense of intimacy and connection between the performers that they pulled from the feel of the early acoustic blues recordings that inspired them. “The sound of the room is incredibly important to these kinds of recordings, it’s what gives them life and vibe,” Pettibone explained. “When Kelly and Perry approached me to produce, we all knew that we wanted that ‘in the room’ feel, and that we needed the right equipment to make you feel like you were in the room with us, listening. Mojave microphones were my first choice for doing exactly that.”

Another important aspect of capturing the mood also involved the group’s playing style. Zirbes, a spirited performer with a powerful voice, realized quickly that she needed to hone the aching intensity of her vocals and channel her performance energy into embodying the emotions of the material without sounding like she was shooting for the rafters. “It’s a delicate dance because I truly give everything as a performer, and in this instance, I needed to put that into my emotional delivery rather than my live energy,” she said. “It really helped in that instance to sing into the Mojave MA-1000 because it captured all that nuance in my voice and really put the power behind those emotions without me having to belt it out.”

Pettibone agrees, noting how important it was to match the energy of the performances with the right microphones. “The best performances happen when you’re holding back a bit and have some room to move, dynamically,” he said. “I’ve loved Mojave microphones for a long time because of how dynamic and detailed they are, and in this case using them lets us express a lot without needing a lot of volume.”

Tools of the trade

Robertson and Pettibone tracked the entire session in ProTools using Millenia Mic Pres. In addition to the Mojave Audio MA-1000 on Zirbes’ vocals, Robertson and Pettibone used MA-100s on their acoustic guitars, an MA-200 on Glover’s standup bass, and a pair of Royer microphones as overheads. The setup gave them all the detail they needed to capture the most important aspects of the performances. “It wasn’t about getting ‘a sound’ so much as it was just hearing,” explained Robertson. “You get someone like Kelly on the mic or a guitar player of the caliber like Doug is and you just want to hear them. You want to let the magic come out and equipment that won’t miss any of that. I was impressed right away with how beautiful sounding the Mojave mics were and they gave the recording a big, comfortable feel.”

Pettibone has been a longtime user of the MA-100, miking his ’52 Gibson LG1 and ’64 Martin D28 with it and a Royer 121. Recording in this setting with Robertson, he wanted to ensure that he had body in his sound without being overpowering. “This setup has been the go-to for acoustic guitar recording for years and I love how great it sounds — there’s so much depth,” he said. “Perry is such a fantastic sound engineer, so I knew we were going to get the right sounds in the room, but I was quickly reminded of how great they sound without requiring any EQ to get exactly what I wanted.”

Robertson concurred, noting that once the mics were set, all that needed to happen was pressing Record. “This is what we’d wanted from the get-go, something that sounded beautiful without too much setup and allowed us to really play as an ensemble and capture that feel and feeling that you can only really get from that. That’s what I loved about these Mojave mics; it puts you right in the middle of the music so you can hear all the little details. It sounds real, and that’s exactly what we were after.”