Music Production lecturer links up with Nouel for new album
Pete Smith, Music Production lecturer at BIMM Institute Berlin, has been involved in the music industry for the past 30 years. Starting his career in 1979 as an engineer at Utopia Studios, he has worked with The Boomtown Rats, The Police, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, Duran Duran, and many more. Now, he’s helped produce BIMM graduate Nouel’s dream album.
Pete Smith’s Career
Pete developed a working relationship with Sting during demo recordings for the Synchronicity album and was invited to mix the ‘Live in Atlanta’ video for The Police. In the mid-80s, he undertook the producer’s role on Sting’s Grammy-nominated debut solo record The Dream of the Blue Turtles and later won a Grammy for the live recording of the same album.
“There is a real story here”.
In 2017, Pete was mentoring singer-songwriters in BIMM Brighton when he first crossed paths with Nouel, the Swedish-born singer who was in her second year. Pete introduced Nouel to another BIMM student, Jazz guitarist Jacob Taylor, believing that they would work well together as a duet. Here at BIMM, we always encourage collaboration between students, and students and lecturers, and projects like this show that it clearly pays off.
Pete explains that: “her voice, her songs, the sentiments, and how endearing they were – we were amazed at how mature her lyrics were for someone so young. She’d obviously been through some s**t. Good s**t and bad s**t, and she went through it early. There is a real story here”.
Recording Nouel’s Album
Nouel travelled to Sweden with Jacob and practised and wrote for quite some time until they knew her songs inside out. They travelled to Mill Factory – Danish songwriter and producer Boe Larsen’s studio in Copenhagen – to record the album.
Between the four of them, they chose which songs to include. Pete and Boe decided that the two guitars were beautifully interconnected. Jacob complemented Nouel so well that they would record the tracks in a very unusual way: Nouel recorded her lead vocals within 18 hours in the warm, whispery style that she feels is quintessentially Scandinavian.
They visited Mill Factory three times in total. On the third trip, Nouel slept on mattresses on the studio floor, an experience she describes as “so quiet, and nice, and isolated”.
Pete and Boe completed the album. They were finished producing it within the week, adding the minimum double bass and drums, and being very careful not to overtake the beauty of the interaction between the guitars and the vocals’ clarity. In less than a month, the team had created a ten-track album that they all love, with a collaborative, thoughtful process from beginning to end.
Listen to Milky Way below.
More About the Album from Nouel, Pete and Boe
What’s the importance of collaboration when making music?
Boe: For me, the beauty of making songs and albums is it not just coming from one person, but lots of strange influences. So Jacob’s idea of theory, and Nouel’s of simplicity, and mine of engineering – it all comes together.
Nouel: It’s kind of meeting in the middle. It’s having your idea of what something should sound like, and you only know if you love it when you hear it. I was thrilled with the arrangement –even with adding more than we had planned originally. We made them fun and cheeky.
“It’s an ageless record.”
What makes the single so special?
Boe: I like the simplicity of it – that’s the kind of albums I want to make, where you can see the ingredients and space in between. I put it on, and it’s an instant vibe and a gentle vibe that wraps around you and makes you feel.
Nouel: I feel like the production is immaculate. Milky Way is very clean. There could be so much, but you can still hear everything. It is very airy in its production.
Pete: Because we didn’t put anything on it that was current or trendy, it was just all about the vocals and guitars and the elements we added. It’s an ageless record. It was a lovely, fantastic time we had together, and you can hear it in the record.
Nouel: Production-wise, I’m delighted. I love a vocal that’s so close you can almost grab the words. We captured that sound that I was looking for.
You can check out the single below:
The second single from Nouel’s debut album is out now too:
Nouel Photo Credit: @sarajosefin_fotografi_