By KRISTIN M. HALL
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — Contained in the Nashville basement studio of audio engineer Gena Johnson, she has mementos from lots of the artists she’s helped to report and who’ve additionally formed her personal profession.
A flip of the century upright piano that Ben Folds helped her discover sits subsequent to the doorway. Polaroids of her and singer Ashley Monroe are scattered on her mixing board, and an indication within the lounge gives a cocktail known as Good-looking Johnny, a signature vodka drink that the late John Prine named after himself.
Johnson works behind the boards on the premiere studios on the town, however her own residence studio has the laid-back consolation of a pal’s home with sufficient reminders that Johnson is among the many metropolis’s prime engineers.
However she was nonetheless stunned to get woken up with calls one latest morning to study that not solely was she nominated for engineer of the yr by the Academy of Nation Music, she was additionally the primary feminine engineer to ever be nominated. The ACM Awards are airing on Sunday on CBS and the studio award winners will likely be introduced at a later date.
“It looks like I’ve been seen by my neighborhood and that what I’ve been working for is paying off,” stated Johnson.
Johnson has labored on hit information by Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Brandi Carlile and The Highwomen. A pal and fan of Prine’s for years, she was in his dwelling to report his final track, “I Keep in mind All the things,” which earned Prine two posthumous Grammy Awards this yr.
A yr after his dying from COVID-19 problems, Prine continues to be an enormous a part of Johnson’s life. She simply recounts humorous tales of the witty and smart songwriter, who adored Johnson’s tiny Chihuahua combine breed pup named June. June slept in slightly doggie mattress below Johnson’s mixing board whereas she labored on an upcoming Prine stay venture.
“I really had tears in my eyes after we have been recording as a result of it simply felt particular,” Johnson stated. “I didn’t assume it was the final time that John would report something.”
The Mankato, Minnesota-native got here to Nashville after faculty to work as an intern in a studio, slowly shifting up the rungs by studying nearly any job there was to do in a studio. Her first huge break was working with Michael Wagener, a producer and engineer who has labored with Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Skid Row and plenty of different onerous rock bands. He confirmed her lots of the technical expertise and ideas of audio engineering.
She then began working with Folds, who was working the historic RCA Studio A on Music Row, the place Dolly Parton had first reduce “Jolene.” Later Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb took over the studio and has continued its legacy, with Johnson by his facet for a number of of the albums he’s produced, together with Stapleton’s 2020 report “Beginning Over,” which is nominated for album of the yr on the ACM Awards.
Monroe, one-third of the nation supergroup Pistol Annies, remembered the primary time she confirmed up at RCA Studio A to report vocals for her 2018 solo album “Sparrow.” Johnson had put a tiny Zen backyard with rocks within the vocal sales space for her, together with a recent bouquet of flowers. The 2 of them labored collectively once more for Monroe’s upcoming album “Rosegold” popping out on April 30.
“She’s simply so smart,” Monroe stated. “She cares in regards to the phrases, the songs.”
Her nomination comes because the music business has been inspecting the gender gaps and obstacles to ladies and folks of colour. The Recording Academy began an inclusion initiative in 2019 asking artists, labels and producers to decide to hiring extra ladies for his or her tasks. A research by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative discovered that amongst standard songs on the Scorching 100 Yr-Finish Charts from 2012-2017, solely 2.6% of engineers/mixers have been ladies, a ratio of 38 males to each one girl engineer.
Regardless of being in a principally male dominated discipline, Johnson has labored with different feminine engineers, Leslie Richter and Sorrel Brigman, at RCA Studio A. She’s additionally fast to notice pioneers within the discipline that got here earlier than her, like Trina Shoemaker, the Grammy-winning engineer for Sheryl Crow’s 1998 hit album “The Globe Periods,” and Susan Rogers, an engineer who labored for Prince in the course of the Nineteen Eighties.
“It’s larger than me as a result of I must signify in a method and supply house additionally,” stated Johnson.
Johnson has been working with and mentoring different new engineers who’re simply beginning their careers. Her recommendation to these youthful engineers is to deal with every report they work on like an funding and decide to caring deeply in regards to the music.
“I’m nonetheless going to hustle and I’m nonetheless going to like what I do. It doesn’t change who I’m,” stated Johnson. “After which additionally on prime of it, being the primary girl feels actually good, but it surely additionally looks like now we have much more work to do.”