Jimbo Mathus Reveals How He Cut Three Tunes a Day for White Buffalo

September 18, 2013

“First, I utilize the strength of my band, rather than me dictating, ‘I want this record to sound like x or y,’” says Jimbo Mathus. “I mean, this is an experienced band. We’ve played thousands of hours of music to all black audiences, all redneck audiences, art centers, crawdad boils—we’ve done it all. I have a Tele man, Matt Pierce, who is steeped in Americana but also can play like Hendrix, and he just throws these things out over a three-chord song and they sound great—signature hook right there! My keyboard player, Eric Carlton, has sort of a behind-the-beat style—not real aggressive. And my rhythm section— drummer Ryan Rogers and bassist Terrance Bishop—is very pocket oriented. So I was using our dynamic control, our control of space, and really locking down the bass and drums in a Southern studio- type way.

“Then, we used our experience and confidence to pile up together in one room and record everything live. No headphones, no isolation, minimal overdubs—just showcasing the band. We’re literally quiet enough where I can hear myself singing, and I’m five feet from the drums. It takes a lot of control as a drummer and as a band to perform like that. You know, don’t be a dick and have your sh*t turned up!

“We rehearsed considerably right there in the studio before Roscoe [Ambel, producer] got here. He was here for one week, and we cut about three songs a day—ten total. We usually do 12 songs a day [laughs]. Now, to record this fast, you have to trust each other and not let ego feed your self-doubt. You don’t want to commit, because you don’t know, and you don’t want to admit you don’t know because you’ve got this ego. That’s a tricky deal, and it just stops you dead from getting things done.”

Former Squirrel Nut Zippers guitarist Jimbo Mathus was also a major contributor to Buddy Guy’s Sweet Tea. White Buffalo [Fat Possum] was recorded at his own Delta Recording Services studio in Como, Mississippi, with producer Eric “Roscoe” Ambel. His gear for White Buffalo was pretty much what he used on Sweet Tea—a ’67 Gibson ES-330, a Nash T Guitar, a Victoria 1x15 combo, a ’70s Fender Champ, and a late-’40s or early-’50s Gibson amp. “Those things have been sort of my trademark sound for 15 or 20 years now,” says Mathus.

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