In this documentary-style interview, David Kalmusky talks with OWC RADiO host, Cirina Catania about his life from his early days as a young boy living and performing with a musical father, to his life today working with the world’s greatest musicians, all while living in quarantine during the age of Covid.

David is a multi-platinum, multiple Billboard #1 charting Nashville based producer, songwriter, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist, engineer & mixer, who grew up with a famous musician father. His past and current works include hundreds of artists such as Shawn Mendes, Keith Urban, Megan Trainor, Justin Bieber, Journey, Joe Bonamassa, Tenille Townes, Carrie Underwood, The Sisterhood, Vince Gill, John Oates (From Hall & Oates) Motley Crue, and many, many others, who have asked David to work with them.

He has also been asked to engineer for some of the top producers making music today, including Jacquire King (Mutemath, James Bay, Kings Of Leon), Glenn Rosenstein (Madonna, U2, Talking Heads, Ziggy Marley), Kevin Shirley (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin) Rob Fraboni (The Band, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones), Bob Rock (Metallica, Aerosmith)  Greg Wells (Katy Perry, Adele, One Republic). 

David co-designed and built Addiction Sound Studios in Nashville, with partner Jonathan Cain (The Baby’s, Bad English, Journey) and Engineer Chris Huston (The Who, Led Zeppelin) where Kalmusky and Cain host their world-class tracking room and individual private production rooms.


Welcome back to OWC Radio. If you’ve ever thought about getting into the world of music producing or performing, or if you’re just curious about how things work behind the scenes, today’s conversation with David Kalmusky will be fun and rewarding. David is a superstar, multi-Platinum, multi-Billboard, number one charting music producer, songwriter, guitarist, engineer, and mixer. He lives in Nashville and runs Addiction Sound Studios with his partner, Jonathan Cain. Jonathan is the piano player for Journey and the writer of such notable songs as Don’t Stop Believing, Faithfully, and Open Arms. 

You know, in my career, I’ve had the good fortune to meet and sometimes work with some of the world’s greatest actors, musicians, and tech creators. And I found that most of the truly gifted stars are incredibly modest. You could say that David Kalmusky falls into that category on both counts. He’s gifted and understated about his life and his successes and his craft. I recently met him through the team at OWC and wanted to share our conversation with you. 

David is sought out by acts such as Shawn Mendes, Keith Urban, Meghan Trainor, Justin Bieber, Journey, Joe Bonamassa, Tenille Townes, Carrie Underwood, John Legend, The Sisterhood, Vince Gill, John Oates of Hall & Oates, Mötley Crüe, and many others. Despite that, however, he’s also very proud of his ability to recognize and work with new talent. He loves that and will showcase some of those projects as well. 

We talked about David’s life growing up with music all around, thanks to his father, Kenny Kalmusky. We also talked about how to work successfully in the time of COVID. That was a topic for us and he has some incredible new work to share with us. You will not be able to typecast as work, however, as David Kalmusky is nothing if not extremely diverse. Put your feet up, relax, and enjoy. And if you like what you hear, please subscribe to our podcast, give us a review, and share. Our thanks to Other World Computing for sponsoring our show. We are pleased that you are here. One more thing regarding the music that we play for you in this interview, all of the copyrights remain with the original holders and we make no claims for copyright. Enjoy.

I mean a cool community and that’s nestled in the center of Nashville called Berry Hill. I think there are more studios in three or four city blocks here than any other neighborhood in the world. My neighbors are Blackbird Studios, Universal Studios, which was previously House of Blues, Vance Powell has Sputnik Studios next door. I’ve got Race Horse. I’ve got seven or eight studios within which I could throw a rock and smash my neighbor’s windows in lots of studios around. Very lucky to be nestled in such a musical community in a musical city. We’ve been here keeping busy for the last decade or so I don’t know. I head up every once in a while and try to figure out what year it is.

You are one of the most prolific people I think I’ve run across. You have thousands and thousands of tracks that you’ve worked on over the years. And looking at your resume, I think you’d be about 80 years old and you’re not.

I’m close. 

Or maybe you just feel like it. How has the quarantine treated you?

It’s different. We all have to reinvent everything we do. And I’ve been enough of a nerd and sort of on the edge of technology that I was dabbling in. I’ve been doing Zoom and Skype calls for a decade and been dabbling in technologies for streaming audio over the internet for a decade. There was Source Connect, we’ve got Audiomovers, there are all kinds of solutions for us to be able to do high-quality audio work remotely that I already had under my belt. So I feel like I had a little bit of an advantage where I had some friends and music makers kind of coming to me for some solutions for us to continue some projects that we started that otherwise would have been shelved, and some are still shelved. There are lots of areas in the music industry, I’m a guitar player as well. So I haven’t been out, I haven’t played a live show since February. I work in LA and New York quite a bit every year, and I haven’t been on a plane since February. 

Most of the genuinely gifted stars are incredibly modest and encouraging of others. Click To Tweet

It’s hard, isn’t it?

Yeah. For me, being locked down in a room and trying to stay connected to the global music industry has its challenges. But we’re lucky the technology is where it is. I’m lucky to be in the recording side of the business, more than the touring side of the business. I have a lot of friends and a lot of artists that are supposed to be out on the road right now, touring their records and making their livings that aren’t as fortunate. I get to wear a lot of different hats and remain very busy. So we try to pull together, and Nashville is a great community, we’re creating live streaming venues for artists to be able to do YouTube Live and set up a tip jar. As things are busy, I’m still taking time aside to reserve to work with some independent artists, who aren’t out on the road or live shows. And just developing new material and doing a lot more writing and a lot more creative behind the scenes work than full force churning out. Things on the sort of the regular schedule as well, too. 

I think it’s hard for creative people to sit still. And I mean, you spend a lot of time in your production studio, but you’re also on the road, you’re playing. You’ve got interaction with human beings with other human beings, and that reinforces creativity. I find it very tough. I’m being very patient with it, but I traveled probably nine months out of every year, and here I am since COVID hit San Diego.

Yeah, it’s rough. I’ve got friends, some bands that have the legacy acts that I’ve been working with pretty much my entire career that have been awed their full lives. I just had John Oates of Hall & Oates over here yesterday, who’s been on the road for 45 years. He never slowed down, never stopped. Lucky, we picked up a movie soundtrack. He wrote all this music and we did internet collaborations with Spanish artists from Mexico, the things that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for COVID. But I understand the privilege that it is to be an established artist and comfortable enough to be able to expand. By the same token, John is taking his time and writing with young independent artists who don’t have the record deal yet and helping. He found an artist, Cervon Campbell, who’s an amazing artist, and we all masked up and isolated in different rooms in the studio and brought him into the movie soundtrack. His mom drove him here and a young, really cool hip hop artist. 

We’re not just trying to fill our calendar with the privilege that we’re living in, we’re just trying to find ways to, this is a music community, this industry up and down the rungs of ladder and success in established artists. And this is art. And I know a lot of the artists that I work with, that aren’t financially devastated by this, are sort of reaching in and finding creative ways to find new collaborations that can help artists that are a little bit financially devastated by this. Getting some opportunities to participate in some writing and some sync licenses and launching some material that they, otherwise in a normal world, may not have gotten the opportunity to create. They would have needed to participate more in a system that was in place before all of this. So it’s evolving. 

But yeah, I understand your frustration, just being anchored. I’m frustrated, anchored in this building. That human interaction is something early in COVID, I have a big balcony upstairs and we have a big parking lot, then four recording studios share the same parking lot. Some of my very close friends are in the studio two doors down, so we just get together and have lunch. I work with young artists, Tenille Townes, who was supposed to be out on the road this year, she came over in a pickup truck and sat on her tailgate in the parking lot and ate a sandwich. We’re just trying to see each other, we all crave that human interaction. Even though people accuse us of cave-dwelling and living in these little production rooms and call it the batcave. We weren’t meant to just completely self isolate ourselves. This music, entertainment, even technology, it’s collaboration. It’s a collaborative effort about us sort of getting together and sharing ideas. That’s the hardest thing for us trying to figure out and navigate. Interestingly enough, the work itself isn’t hard to do, because it comes naturally to us-creation, writing, making music. I can just reach over and pick up a guitar, whether I’m sitting in this room, or whether I’m sitting under a palm tree beach. The hard part is to keep these emotional connections.

Yeah, music is so important. A lot of people are feeling the stresses of COVID. And I’ve been telling everybody, listen to music, if you’re feeling down, pick up a piece of music, go listen to some beautiful music, and it’ll help you. I love that your work is so diversified. But before we go too much further, will you tell people who may not know what Addiction Sound Studios is? What do they do? And who do you do it for?

Well, there’s no bay. Addiction is just a building in Nashville full of instruments and equipment that myself and my partner, Jonathan Cain, who’s the piano player for Journey. He wrote Don’t Stop Believing, Faithfully, Open Arms. He co-wrote all the songs. He’s one of the main core members of the band Journey. About a decade ago, I was working with Journey in the studio and producing with his daughter. He and I produced a couple of records together. And we’re just working so much together in other people’s studios. We both had studios in our homes, we both had separate studios. In that day and age, it just made sense for us to just put our stuff together and just go for it. And so we did that about 10 years ago. 

It’s not a commercial studio, by the sense of a lot of the studios that are empty, that you can go rent and bring your stuff. I mean, I can accommodate that here. But the idea here is that we’ve got a Fazioli grand piano, seven to nine synthesizers wired up at any time. There are 70 guitars on stands and set up throughout the building. There are 15 or 20 vintage guitar amplifiers in every room with microphones on them. This room, I’m in this mix room, is pre-wired, pre-dialed up for my mixing workflow. And then Studio A is sort of pre-dialed and wired up. There are two drum kits set up in the room at all times, and it’s set up for my recording workflow. So between recording and mixing, there’s no setup, it’s not a big empty space, it’s the opposite. It’s full of everything that I need to be creative 100% of the time. It completely removed the logistics of making records, which is let’s book a studio, book an engineer, then book a musician and have their carnage delivered, and then their setup time. You add that up over decades, it’s amazing how much prep time goes into just hitting record on a single song.

After years and years of collecting enough equipment to facilitate a lot of that stuff, between John and myself, we certainly have more than enough equipment between us for probably three studios since 10 years ago, and it still makes sense now. As long as it continues to still make sense, there was a moment in time where we didn’t know if during COVID, if it would still make sense. John and I had an early talk in March about, “Okay, what’s going to happen? Do we close the place down? What do we do?” It was like, “Well, let’s just roll with it and see what happens.” And then we found out that it’s very valid, and that people one-on-one, and we can do live streams from the studio. I’ve done so many new things and new ideas for artists here in the studio that is only possible because of a place like this.  It can’t necessarily be done from a living room or a boardroom. I’ve got a fully dialed studio with isolation and great internet. For us to do live feed and filming for content, and isolating between us and a few people and making a world-class record.

This place might even be more valid than ever. People don’t have other people over to their homes to collaborate, but I can have somebody, I can be in this room, and I’ve got a big, isolated piano room with its HVAC system, its air intake. I even had a drummer walk into the studio out on the floor, four panes of glass, four rooms away with perfect line of sight through us, play a drum track, and then leave out the back door and I never even came within contact or breathing air with him. And I do that kind of work here with a great friend of mine from LA, who is in town without a lot of his session work and he’s getting a lot of phones. So it’s like, man, we don’t even have to come in contact, you can just walk in the back door. Interestingly enough, I think that there’s a weird era where a lot of people are just making music on laptops, and sometimes we reevaluate the need for really big studios all the time. Boy, this place has come in handy this year.

Yeah, it’s beautiful. Take me on a little tour of what you have around you. Everybody wants to know what equipment you’re using because you do some amazing work.

I’m sitting in a room with about half a million dollars worth of outboard. There’s lots of gear, burned an hour on just going individually piece by piece. I have everything from a record cutter from 1938, sitting beside an iPad running alpha software that won’t be released till 2021. It’s something a little bit like the Noah’s Ark of recording. I’m not a vintage snob, I’m a technologist. I work with a lot of cutting edge technology companies, I help develop plugins. I work with DOD companies. I do public work with Avid and OWC. But I also have a Fairchild and a UA 175. And a bunch of great old tube compressors that I use on my two mixers and my vocals, I’m sitting at a large format console, which is a trident TSM console from 1978 that is just the great sound of great records. It’s all like comfort food. I don’t need any of this stuff. I do records on my laptop. I pre-produced, mixed, and mastered a song for a new product launch that will be out next month, completely 100% in the box and I’m super proud of that piece of music and it’s going to do well.

Okay, so you just did a product launch. Since we’re talking about equipment, a little bird told me you use OWC equipment, and those guys over there are excited about it. Can you talk to me about what you have and how you use it?

I discovered OWC from buying refurbished Macs and things. I come from a world where I want to have multiple workstations, and an editing workstation, and a mixing rig, and a laptop to take on the road. Rather than just always going out and dropping a credit card on the biggest most brand new Mac, I was always amazed at current models, the deals that I could get from buying computers through OWC years ago. And custom ram packages, and then hard drives and just outfitting everything. I got pretty deep into the OWC culture. 

Fast forward 10 years into having a multi-room, multi-million dollar facility with seven or eight rigs around the building. My chassis is all OWC. My hard drives are all OWC. My computers all came from OWC. All of the IO, I have every version of their doc for interfacing with every version of Mac and computer. My Mac usage goes back pretty much to the beginning. I have a Mac classic that’s still running in the studio. My console is still running on system 753 on a Mac Performa 460. It’s still in daily use, it still runs the faders on my console. The company that made my faders kind of went out of business in the 90s, and their software, the last update was for system 753, so that’s where we run. There are all kinds of fun modern hacks. There’s a local tech in town who took the whiny, old scuzzy drive out of it and put a micro SD scuzzy two controllers on that computer. And that whole Old Mac is running off a micro SD from staples. And the capacity on a four gig drive means that I can store a million sessions on the desktop because these files are so tiny. From the 80s and 90s. 

Take this time to explore what you love doing. Discover talents you never knew existed.
Take this time to explore what you love doing. Discover talents you never knew existed.

Yeah, that’s amazing.

So yeah, my relationship with Mac goes right back to the beginning. I got my first computer which was a Commodore VIC 20 in 1976 or 1978, by the time I could have, there was such a thing as a home computer. I had some early PCs and some Mac G3s, and then G3s, G4s, G5s, sort of all the way up. So OWC probably fell in line probably about 10 years ago with the need for that. And I developed a pretty great relationship with the company out of my admiration for their product line and their website and what they do and I met some people in the company and so on. I help evangelize their products and I also help kind of brainstorm and whiteboard with the team about interfacing and maybe some products in the future as well, too. I tend to stick my nose in where it doesn’t belong with a lot of companies and technologists. And I’ve brought a lot of products to the market just by being too nosy and opinionated.

Well, being smart about it, you’ve got both the right and the left side of the brain going. I love that. So I kind of started with OWC In the same way, I’ve been using their products for years, and then I got to know them. And here we are doing OWC Radio. Okay, so tell me about this latest project of yours. I know you can’t talk about who it was for. But you can talk about the artists in song, right?

Yeah, we worked with a couple of technology companies that are releasing products shortly that I can’t certainly mention by name because they haven’t done their product launches yet. But I got together with an artist, who I’ve been writing and co-producing with for years, named Amy Peters. She has a residency here at the studio, she has a production room upstairs. And sort of instead of being able to come in during COVID, and us collaborating over Zoom and various other technologies. We decided to capture the process of the making of her next single, which is a song called Friends Over Feelings. By the time this interview comes out, if you just look up, Amy Peters’ Friends Over Feelings, I’m sure you’ll see some prompts and some technology companies sort of tagging it and you’ll find some behind the scenes footage of us working on that song in the studio using some of the new technology that’s around. That was fun to take my sort of nerdery and invited into the process, where she’s at her apartment, playing piano, programming beat contributions, writing the top line, and singing vocal tracks. And I’m at the studio playing bass and drums, mixing, editing, and programming. We’re putting a song together and we’re closing the mix together over headphones and streaming it over Audiomovers without skipping a beat. We’re just doing what we do.

I’m gonna play a little bit of Amy’s song, Friends Over Feelings. So our listeners can get a feel for what it’s all about.

[Amy Peter’s Friends Over Feelings playing]

And we’re back. Was there anything about recording that that was a particular challenge? You’re such a technologist and she was in one location, you were in another. But can you think of a part of the song that was a challenge for you, particularly? Or some part of it that you want to tell us a story about?

It was surprisingly pretty easy. I think that the hardest part of technology, honestly, is getting to know someone over technology. I have a harder time meeting someone on Zoom, and really getting a couple of layers deep into their personality and their likes and dislikes, and joking around, and just having that sort of natural sort of playful way that we kind of collaborate and get to know one another. That’s always been the biggest obstacle for me working in this environment. With Amy and I, the walls were broken down. We’re old friends, we’ve made lots of music together. Honestly, I expected a lot more hurdles. I guess the biggest hurdle was connection dropping, which happened once or twice, just wandering around with iPhones and FaceTime, and cobbling together a few different versions of technology to sort of stay connected in the room. Those are just the natural frustrations of a WiFi signal switching or something like that. So, you know, a pretty low obstacle threshold. 

Yes, because you’re good at it. You’re being incredibly modest. One of your most recent sessions was with Carrie Underwood on a new song she has coming up. I did see that on Instagram.

We did an entire record, it wasn’t just a song. We did a whole album in quarantine together. What that was, was that her and Greg Wells, who’s a very close friend. Greg and I. Greg flies to Nashville, comes to Addiction, hangs out with all of the artists in town, we break bread here, we bring in dinner sometimes. We go out for dinner, and he lectures at the schools while he’s here during his off time, and we work in the whole facility. Greg is such an amazing multi-instrumentalist, plays drums, bass, guitar, everything, and can kind of just wander around the building, with the artist here and with me here to help. Sometimes, I play guitar for Greg. Sometimes, I’ll engineer while he’s running around the building. And that all went away with COVID. And he had already started with Carrie, and he was here, I think in February, I remember it was such a busy start to the year. 

And then, of course, the idea was for him to come back to Nashville and finish the record sometime in April or May. And it was on everybody’s radar, it was on Carrie’s radar, Greg’s radar, and mine. And then COVID hit, and it didn’t look like it was going to happen until, you know, enter technology. Greg was sort of like, “Do you think we could do it effectively?” Again, like your previous line of question, what was the worst thing? What’s the biggest obstacle? We didn’t know. Carrie was kind of interestingly enough the guinea pig of the test. Like, how well is this gonna go with Carrie and I here in the studio, and Greg in LA, producing the session and him playing instruments over there? 

So we decided to book one day as a trial, and a lot was riding on it. So the night before, we just shut everything else off in the building, checked our internet connection, I set up the vocal booth with an iPad and a private Zoom call for Carrie. And then I’m in my room here, we’re not sharing the same air supply. We disinfected the entire studio with UV light and ozone gas. And we just kind of like did the maximum amount of preparation we possibly could. And Carrie came in on her first day and sang like, four songs for six or seven or eight hours. I mean, she was so into it and had such a great time. 

Greg was blown away, and everybody was just sort of like, this went better than expected. She was elated to continue and so we did 12 songs, and we kind of created a little quarantine bubble, and it was just her and her manager and a camera guy. And so there’s lots of footage if you go looking around all of the footage, it’s coming out around her current Christmas album. It’s all shot here with very few of us in the studio, and then Greg over Zoom. They cut strings at East West Studios in LA with the part of the LA Symphony all over Zoom. There was a lot that went on. I brought in the McCreary Sisters and we did a choir and background vocals with everyone completely separated, isolated wearing masks and stuff like that. We got through a record. I played a little guitar here on the John Legend and Carrie duet.

[Carrie Underwood’s song playing]

And I think kind of the last thing to go down on it. And Greg had Cervon mix everything, everything remotely just listening over the internet. It was a great exercise in the process of it.

You have a reputation for being incredibly easy to get along with, people just love you. 

Who said that?

I heard rumors. Yeah, I think you would not have been working with all of these amazing artists over the years if you weren’t. 

I think you just talked to the right people.

Yeah. Did you pay for them? You paid them to say that ,right?

I don’t know. I get along with some people.

Take me back to growing up with a father who was in the business. What was that like? I mean, your dad was in a group and you grew up around this kind of thing.

Yeah, it was normal for me. I didn’t notice a difference. But my grandfather played sax in the 30s and 40s and 50s. My dad played in the 50s, 60s, 70s through the 90s. It ended in about 2005. He had a great long career. Yeah, it was an amazing childhood. It’s vivid to me. It was vibrant, and we had all the musicians at our house all the time. My dad had a studio, a little back room of the house. It was a soundproof, professionally done studio. That’s where all the jam sessions and recording and stuff would happen in our house. But they were Woodstock hippies and there was a lot of crazy stuff going on back there. So my mom wouldn’t let me go back there sometimes, I didn’t know why. 

Being locked down because of the pandemic and trying to stay connected to the global music industry has its challenges, but we're lucky the technology is where it is. Click To Tweet

Yeah, just drinking and popping acid or whatever, probably at times, but it wasn’t too wild. No, I’ve joked about it, that’s more of a joke than anything. Honestly, inspiring, just constantly surrounded by music, music playing in the house every day, live music happening in the house constantly. Grandparents always play music, us breaking out and jamming around the kitchen table regularly, which is such a core part of daily life. It was just normal. By the time I was six or seven, everyone wanted toy cars or toys, I wanted microphones and guitars and reel to reel tape recorders, and I got them. Dad would give me stuff, and sometimes I’d take it apart, and ruin it. And get mad for not giving me stuff for a while but I always got. I always had some stuff and just make music; I was overdubbing. Honestly, when I was six or seven years old in my bedroom, I understood how the sound on a reel to reel tape recorder worked and I could make my echo, and I could play a couple of chords and hold a beat on drums, and I kind of went from there. And by the time I was a young teenager, I was playing in clubs with 40-year-olds. I was like I had jumped immediately into professionally making music for money. I just sort of bypassed the typical trajectory that it took. I think it would take a normal upbringing to get there. I just kind of grew up on stage.

Did you study music in school? Or did you study music by watching and listening?

Watching and listening. Dad and one of dad’s closest friends, John Till. Interestingly, you’re asking me about this. I just got word today that the mayor of our hometown is going to my uncle’s house and going to John Till, who was my father’s bandmate in 1958, with Richard Manuel from The Band. They were in a band called The Rebels, and they later became a version of The Hawks, with Levon Helm and Ronnie Hawkins and all kinds of famous things broke out through the 60s and became The Band. Bob Dylan‘s backup band and John Till ended up in Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band

My dad came to Nashville in 1968 with Ian & Sylvia. He made records here with young Todd Rundgren producing. They had just such a wild crazy life even before I was born. Our hometown has the Stratford Festival, a lot of famous actors come through our theaters that are in that town. They started extending that to musicians. And Justin Bieber is from my hometown, that’s why I worked with Justin Bieber. He’s part of my credits. He was just a kid in my hometown. I was a partner in the only studio in town. One of my studio partners’ wife, who is a vocal coach and also awarded artists, singer,  was teaching Justin vocal lessons and he was part of her community choir and things like that. 

Anyway, that town, we have our own Hollywood Walk of Fame star system, and the city is awarding my father and John Till, who I just spoke to on the phone from Janis Joplin stand, a star on the Walk of Fame, which is nice.

That’s nice. 

I’m not able to attend a dedication or anything because of COVID up in Canada, but that’s a nice sort of like, it’s an honor to have Dad and that whole generation of amazing music and chaos still resonating and being recognized by authors and history books and stuff. They weren’t recognized for a long time around that hometown. By the time I was sort of a young adult, it just wasn’t a lot of that historical sort of sensibility, but now it feels great. They’ve got a section of the local museum, they’ve got a star on the Walk of Fame. They’ve got a  bandshell in our hometown, it is named after them as well, too. That’s the history that I come from. It’s very music rich, and it’s based around that town, the city of Stratford, Ontario. It’s a very musical town.

Wonderful memories, isn’t it? He must be incredibly proud of you that you took up the torch, and that you’re still doing something that he loves. Does he ever come to visit you here in Nashville?

Well, we lost him in 2005. 

I’m sorry. 

It’s all right. The last picture he saw me was playing the Grand Ole Opry with an artist, and that was kind of full circle. Because he was here in 1968 with Ian & Sylvia kind of doing the same thing, just a young guy coming in Nashville making his rounds. And he was hanging around Woodstock, New York a lot. And a lot of the places that I had started to go and I was working in New York, and my career was starting to come up a bit. So he got to see a little bit of that he never got to see Addiction Sound Studios or sort of this space or anything like that. But I think he knew the trajectory I was on. My father and I always made music together. I was bringing him into the studio near the end of my years in Canada before I started traveling a lot. So yeah, it’s all a great full-circle story.

Take advantage of the online world. We are more connected than we think we are.
Take advantage of the online world. We are more connected than we think we are.

Yeah, it’s amazing. We started talking about it today with good timing. Things happen like that in the world, don’t they?


You connect with people for reasons. Well, you’re doing some amazing, amazing work there. I wanted to ask you about two or three of the songs you’ve worked on recently.

Well, yeah, we mentioned Friends Over Feelings, that’s the newest thing, literally to just come off the desk today, which is an Amy Peters track. Check out Carrie Underwood’s Christmas record, we did all of that record in quarantine during this season. And then if I dig back, sort of one of the more interesting things I got to participate in was contributing a song to the soundtrack for an independent movie called Met While Incarcerated, which is a movie about prison wives dating their lives to men on death row and people with a life sentence. We got asked to do a version of Amazing Grace for the film with a great Canadian artist named Jadea Kelly. And immediately we’re stuck with, “Well, what can we do with that song?” I mean, it’s just been recorded so much. We’re never going to beat Ray Charles or what we can do with writing.

[Amazing Grace playing]

And I had an interesting idea. The way I described this room as I have a record cutter from 1938. I have an analog tape machine from the 70s. In Studio A, I have iPads, I have old synthesizers from the 80s. And so I would urge people to maybe dig through my social media, and look for the making of extras in the movie, Met While Incarcerated. We had a camera crew here filmed the making of our version of that song, which we started by recording a version just like we were in 1947, set up in a circle in a room and cut our song right-back or record. And then we reset the room up and recorded just like we were in 1961. And like The Wrecking Crew, all the instruments, all the musicians in the room, no headphones just playing live in the room. And then we struck the room and recorded a version on a plaque-like it was 1978 and very sped it like an old Beatles trick, like people in the 60s and 70s were playing with analog tape. 

Then we did a 1984 version, where it was all done on synthesizers from the 80s that were laying around and I have some famous synthesizers here. I have a synthesizer that was used on all the Journey records. It was in a separate ways video. I have a drum machine here that was lent to me by John Oates from Hall & Oates. That was the drum machine used on a bunch of original holidays tracks. So we did a version of the song that way and then I took six different versions of that song, and I lined them up on the console. And then I didn’t mix like drums from 1947 with bass from 1961, I just had the finished versions up on the console. And I mixed the versions like I was mixing a time travel orchestra. So I could go from like 1962, back into 1947, into 1983 in the verse and bridge, and I could combine them all, and I mixed it to three and a half minute segment in that movie to picture. 

That’s probably the most interesting thing I’ve ever gotten to do. And we did that a few years ago, I think in 2017, where I, as someone who is a bit of an audio historian and fan of the history of recording, I got to use all my stuff and play with it all being sort of era-specific. And, of course, we couldn’t have done the end product without the computer technology, which was current, 2017 was probably the most important piece because how else do you sync up all of these other recordings from other areas without using elastic audio, and computers to set markers and sync and edit things up together? It was a real way to start a session in 1937 and ended in 2017? 

Gosh, that’s amazing. What an amazing imagination you have, I can feel the spirits of all the people that played on those instruments and use that equipment they have. It’s pretty nice. It must be wonderful to be sitting in the middle of all of that. Where can people go to learn more about you on the internet? Where should we send them?

Oh, boy, everything’s probably completely out of date. I think it’s just out there. I think that if you google me, you’ll find an all music page that’s got a bit of a limited discography of maybe some of the more label releases. I think there’s a Discogs site that might have some of the independent records. I did a whole run of records with a band called The Small Town Pistols when I first came to Nashville. I think if you google most stuff up, I have a website that doesn’t have too much information on it. And my social media pages seem to be, I don’t post pictures of food and cute kitty pictures and stuff like that, and dogs and birds fighting. I think it’s mostly like a couple of posts a year of some projects and stuff in the studio. So it’s pretty, you could just scroll through that and see probably the last 10 years of music that’s happened in this building pretty effectively. But yeah, I don’t have any kind of one resource of anything.

Well, you’re busy creating other things. You’re busy creating beautiful music. So what’s up next for you?

We’re doing a bunch of things that are like pre-records for the Late Show. And I’m doing some pre-records for the CMA Awards. And I’ve had a lot of artists would typically be in the studio with their whole crew in camp for weeks at a time, doing a whole record that or maybe just doing like a single or one song at a time and things like that. So it’s really interesting. I have about nine or 10 artists doing really small various things. I’m playing guitar on a bunch of records. I have a lot of songs, open and stuff that aren’t full projects. They’re just like this song. This artist needs a guitar track and I’m mixing this group of songs and then there’s someone coming in tomorrow to track some new things. So it looks like the end of this year is just sort of like a pretty wide cast net of a lot of music makers wrapping up some projects for COVID. I did a track during quarantine with an artist’s name Leah Marlene. And it’s a song called Today.

Music is so important. A lot of people are feeling the stresses of COVID. Creating and listening to music tends to help a lot during trying times. Click To Tweet

[Leah Marlene’s Today playing]

Social media, Spotify, and things. Amy Peters track is coming out. There’s some new music from supergroup Journey that may or may not come out before the New Year. I’m not sure. They’ve been public about the fact that we’ve kind of been working behind the scenes on a few things. All that works on my plate right now. It’s interesting, you can be busy and have a lot of projects. I can’t give away certain things and titles and names of things about to hit the streets because we don’t know if they will. Sometimes they get set aside for something else. Or some people have promotional strategies that don’t conflict with one another. So I would just say keep an eye on my socials if something funny or cool happens.

I call that the creative chaos process. Because it’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. That’s energy all around you and creativity, and you’re making beautiful music and with people that you care about. I think that you have a great life looking in on you. Thank you for letting us into your private world for just a little while. I know you’re so busy. 

Yeah, but I’m busy doing this. It’s all just part of the general thing. 

People want to hear it. And I think there are a lot of young people that are going to listen in. Do you have anything you want to say to somebody that wants to be sitting in your chair or a chair like yours at some point?

Well, a lot of people will look at you, the young people that asked me questions and do Q&A and stuff like that. They want to know the shortcuts, they want to know how to kind of become established and get hired for cool things and work on cool projects. And, of course, you and I when we get together we’re going to talk about the notable things and work with Carrie Underwood, Journey, and John Legend, and drop big producer names like Greg Wells and stuff. But that’s all the byproduct of working on that. And 150 or 200 other things as well too. And you never really know what is going to be the body of your work, working with something that you believe in, you can help it become successful. And if you are someone that is just sort of chasing popularity, or better gigs, and it’s not about doing great, amazing work on everything along the way. You may never get either. And so I guess the thing is to just make a lot of content like don’t wait for permission for someone to hire you to do something cool. Do something cool today. 

My busiest times are when I’m not working on a record. I’m over here writing. I’m creating. I’m making new sounds. That generates all kinds of new things. And once in a blue moon, that will put an artist on the map. Will create something so cool within artists nobody’s ever heard of. Everybody’s super impressed that I worked on this really big thing. And they’ll look at my discography and want to hear all about working with Shawn Mendes or somebody else that’s on that discography. And what I’m working on is so much more a part of the development of something that we’ve created from nothing, rather than maybe just working on a session. Help make great art and music, and make it about that. And if you can be a part of the process that helps launch new music and new things, then you’ll build a career that sort of worth digging through. I always like making sure that I mentioned some of my favorite independent records. So I’m thankful that you did ask about that. And I’m bringing up Amy Peters and Small Town Pistols, and the Jadea Kelly movie soundtrack thing. You have to maybe go digging a little deeper than if you look at all music and you see Journey, Mötley Crüe, Shawn Mendes, and Carrie Underwood, that stuff’s super easy to find. 

But peel the layers back beneath people that creative work and get deep into their body of work, whether it’s a musician that you admire, or an engineer, or a technologist. It’s amazing to meet technologists, finding out other products and projects that they were involved in, as well as, the big thing that is the shiny new plug-in or something trendy that worked. It’s like, “Wow, you were a core part of this cool thing. I remember that technology that led you from here to here.” You wouldn’t have that big thing without that whole path, without creating excellence along the way, using the same bar and the same standard, regardless of how popular the outcome of the end product is. 

Collaborate even  with people far away. While you write songs in the comfort of your own home, someone can compose the chords thousands of miles away.
Collaborate even  with people far away. While you write songs in the comfort of your own home, someone can compose the chords thousands of miles away.

Boy, I agree. I call it the joyous life well lived every day. And I look back at things that people asked me about that I worked on. And at the time, we weren’t thinking about the fact that it was going to become big or famous or whatever, we were just enjoying life and doing what we loved. And now you look back on it. It’s kind of like the patchwork quilt, one piece at a time. 

That’s it. Just trying to do the best he can at that moment, and if you create enough greatness and it gets recognized enough then that’s sort of the foundation you build on and you get a reputation for things. It’s hard work but it’s also a compulsion. So it does not work like I don’t have a choice.  I’m maybe mentally ill, maybe this is all just mental illness.

I get that one.

My brain keeps turning. I walk out of the room for five minutes. And I’m obsessed about hearing something or creating something at the moment. And I can’t leave the building until I fulfill that or dismiss it. So it’s not for everybody. But I think that there’s that component to it as well.

Well, I’m really glad you’re there. Don’t ever stop. We’re loving what you do. And I’m going to be watching. I’m going to call you again in a few months and see how you’re doing. You’re part of the OWC family. You’re on the radar, David, and you’re doing great work and I want to thank you for that. Thanks for sharing all of this with the people who listen in and I wish you the best with everything coming up in the next few months. Everybody, listening in, remember what I always tell you to get up off your chair and you go do something wonderful today. This is Cirina Catania here with David Kalmusky and I am signing off. Thanks, David.

Important Links


  1. Familiarize yourself with how the music industry works. Many sectors can help showcase your talents, such as recording, digital music, live tours, radio, streaming services, and more.
  2. Be more diverse in your work as an artist. It’s important to stay true to your identity as an artist. But, representation and diversity make people feel more included.
  3. Don’t be afraid to reinvent your art. As much as the music industry is all about artistry and passion, it’s a business, too. Be wise with the next move. 
  4. Be adaptable to change. The pandemic is an excellent example of how musicians should be quick on their feet and pivot in times of dire circumstances.
  5. Be more proficient in the digital world. Online streaming is one of the most booming industries today. Take advantage of it.
  6. Express yourself through music. Keep writing songs and creating melodies. It’s not a mystical process that comes to you, and you’re suddenly amazing. Talent in music takes lots of practice and trial and error.
  7. Maintain amicable relationships with the people you work with. The music industry is a small world. The people you’re working with on a current project might be the same ones in future gigs.
  8. Share the passion and teach others to excel in the music industry as well. It’s a bit of a pay it forward system that keeps the drive alive and thriving.
  9. Support up and coming artists. There is so much undiscovered talent in the world. Whenever someone is trying to make it out there, encourage them to keep going after their dreams.
  10. Check out David Kalmusky’s website to learn more about Addiction Sound Studios.

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