Mia Johnson – Ambiguous

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Mia Johnson – Ambiguous

2014 is off to a great start with the release of “Ambiguous” by Mia Johnson. This 3 song EP is as creative as it is raw, as catchy as it is unique. Mia’s songwriting sits somewhere between alternative and pop, bridging her influences ranging from Avril Lavigne to Copeland. Producing and mixing this project was a creative experiment in balancing the raw, roomy qualities influencing indie rock today with the respected traditions of popular music such as a perfected vocal and powerful form. With her first studio release, Mia Johnson has already proven that she has the raw talent and work ethic needed to stick around in this business.
The recording process began with Mia emailing some rough demos of each song to me. We talked about her influences and what we heard for each song, what we could bring out, what we could do without. This pre-production process included re-working arrangements, determining the best tempos, and just getting a clear understanding of the overall form, progression, and function of each section of each song. I hired Elliot Weiner as our session drummer. Elliot’s expertise and preparation for these songs was awesome. We were able to experiment with multiple groove ideas until we had the best fit for each song. I used several room mics on our Signia Premier kit, including AKG 414’s in a mid-side configuration for an extra wide, roomy sound. Used in combination with tight, close-micing techniques, we had the flexibility to be roomy and ambient or tight and punchy. You can hear the range of drum sounds in “Like You Do,” particularly with the jam at the end, slowly transitioning to room-only mics.

Once the drums were edited, we laid down Mia’s acoustic guitar. Mia uses lots of alternative tunings, giving her songs color and dissonance at times. We made sure to be relentless with tuning for perfect intonation.
Following acoustic guitar, I recorded bass guitar. Using our incredible Universal Audio 6176 for a direct sound and our Beyerdynamic M160 through the Martech preamp and Summit Compressor, I had a seriously nice bass tone.
We recorded vocals next, my favorite part. We broke down each song into small sections and took advantage of Mia’s vocal range and depth. We captured the breathy, the aggressive, the powerful and the vulnerable qualities of each lyric and assembled what I hope, is an honest representation of each song. Take a listen to the verses of “Boy” and you can hear a vocal room mic providing an eerie ambience, particularly as Mia becomes louder and resonates our live room. Then all of the room disappears as the chorus hits and we return to an up-close and personal sound, crisp and present through our Neumann U87.
Patrick Vogl provided the final layer of instrumentation on keys. We worked together to develop some really great arrangements that not only provide a bigger sound and layered texture, but also support and respond to Mia’s vocals perfectly.
Mixing this EP was a lot of fun. I used my array of EQs, delays, compressors, and room sounds to craft a raw, but still polished soundscape that fits between indie rock and acoustic pop. I am very happy with the final product and I feel all of our expectations were satisfied. I can’t wait to hear what Mia writes next. Please take some time to check out Mia’s Facebook and listen to her music. She was recently accepted into Berklee College of Music, I know she has much more ahead.