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RSR057 – Nick Devan – G.E.D. Soul Records

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RSR007 - David Glenn - The Mix Academy

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RSR057 - Nick Devan - G.E.D. Soul Records

My guest today is Nick Devan, a drummer, producer, mixer, and lover of old school soul music. In 2007 he started G.E.D. Soul Records with Dave Singleton, which allows him to write, record, and play drums for the label. He also owns and operates Poor Man Studio in Madison, TN.

Nick Currently performs with Magic in Threes, who are currently recording, mixing, and releasing a song every week in 2016. He also plays with DeRobert & the Half-Truths who have just added the new singer, Du'Juan Mandell.

I was first introduced to Nick a couple of years ago when I reached out through Craigslist to hire him not for his drumming skills, but for his impeccable lawn service skills! In fact I was only introduced to his music later when he called in to quit one day, saying the yard work was too tough on his wrists which he needed for his drumming.

The following week as I was begrudgingly hauling brush around my back yard I thought the least I could do was check out Nick’s music while I worked. So I texted him to ask his band name. I then cued up Magic In Threes on Spotify and it instantly became the only thing I wanted to listen to all week. I’m talking about the kind of excitement when you hear something new and feel like you’ve finally found the music you’ve been looking for! Deep funky soul grooves that sounds completely like the real deal.

Only in Nashville right? The grass is now up to my knees and the hedges out front look like fourth of July fireworks. But man I don’t care, I just don’t care, because I am chilling to a new groove called Nick Devan the grass man.

“You can get a publicist and really hype something up, but it won’t grow legs unless it’s a good record” - Nick Devan

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How Did You Start Your Own Label?

We were doing a radio show when it started. Dave and I had a radio show at MTSU doing the GED Soul Review, just spinnin records. There’s the defunk program here in town that Doyle Davis runs, we were really inspired by him; he’s been on for years and years. It was just a funk and soul format radio show and we had a couple bands that formed out of that. Dave’s usually played bass and I’ve usually played drums. We were pressing our records ourselves and getting them distributed by someone else. Really I’ve always kinda said, “All you have to do to start a label is put the name on a record and you’ve created a label.” That really was as simple as it was when we started and we’ve learned a whole lot as we’ve gone along

After Creating a Label What Are the Next Steps?

Well we were doing it in a way where we were producing and recording pretty much everything instrumentally and just getting singers. In that instance all you need to do is get your singer and you can kind of invent your band. Later on we got the Coolant System, AJ and the Jiggawatts, and Oliver James, so we’ve had other artists who were self-contained outside of what we do. We started off just doing 45’s. We did about 6 of those before we did a full length album and now we’re on our 12th full length. When we started off doing 45s in 2007 digital was starting but it wasn’t what it is now. Now we go for every outlet we possibly can and digital is definietly a good portion of income for us.

“Every record I get out is a success” - Nick Devan

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What Was Your Business Model?

We never took out a loan. Dave and I, for the first 45’s, would both just throw in and sell them so it was just an investment for us. We did it where we paid for ourselves. Once we did do a kickstarter campaign and we got the money. It was helpful, but the three records we had out didn’t sell quite as well as we wanted, but that’s with any label. Even if you think you have a “sure thing” sometimes it doesn’t work, and vice versa. Sometimes you think you don’t have anything and it starts rollin’.

“Even if you think you have a “sure thing” sometimes it doesn’t work” - Nick Devan

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How Do You Tell If A Record Is Doing Well?

First it has to be really good. You can get a publicist and really hype something up, but it won’t grow legs unless it’s a good record. Because if it’s really good it’s easier to catch a buzz about it. You have to show it to everybody. Sometimes you don’t want to show it because you don’t want to hear what people have to say about it. But even in the mixing process I’ve found that to be so crucial, I’ll show anybody and even if they say they like it, you can visually see if they’re feeling it or not.

Jam Session 

Q- What was holding you back at the start?
A -Definitely lack of gear. At that time I was running a couple mins and really had a poor setup, but it’s really built from there.

Q- What was some of the best advice you got early on?
A - I think using what you have has gone a long way with me because you could really wait forever for the right scenario of any recording and you really just got to get it out there and do it and make the best of it. Make the best of every recording that you do, I feel like that’s how you get to where you want to be is by just starting somewhere no matter how little you know about it.

“Make the best of every recording that you do” - Nick Devan

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Q - Q- Share with us a recording tip, hack, or secret sauce.
 Delay! Get a reel to reel tape machine and use it for your delay or even mixing down for that going back into ProTools, that could have a huge impact on your sound. Another one is the Auratone. Get yourself and Auratone and mix in mono and really listen to a lot of music on it.

Q -Share a favorite hardware tool for the studio
 Having a couple nice instruments around! I love the Rhodes that we have here. I feel like the one thing a lot of studios don’t have now is a real piano and you can get those for free! Just look at craigslist and get a free piano and get it tuned up! I personally hate digital piano. I feel like on the digital side they can do a pretty good everything except for horns and piano. That Unidyne 57 is very useful as well if you want an old school sound that sounds great into ProTools as well.

“I think every small labels biggest problem is money” - Nick Devan

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Q -Share with us a tip for the business side of the recording studio

A - Google Docs is one of the coolest things businesses have available for any business now because you used to have to pay a lot of money for those excel and word programs and now they’re offering it free and it's all cloud based, worry free. Beyond that if you put out 15 releases and they have artists and you try to think about the royalty calculations and they differ for digital and physical and individual songs with different writers, that gets very complicated very quickly. So we started using Label Worx, we started using the Royalty Worx section of it. It’s set up so great you can get everybody on it, put the information in in a simple format and it gets rid of all that complicated stuff.

Q - If you had to start over what gear would you need?

A - I feel like especially now the analog equipment is your best investment. I would say get an 8 track Tascam machine and some sort of analog machine if you’re going that route. If you’re going ProTools get a nice converter, preamp and a mic and you’re on your way.

“They say the two things that set the time period of the song is the vocal and snare sound” - Nick Devan

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Q- If you could go back and give yourself advice for when you were starting out, what’s the single most important thing you would tell yourself about becoming a rockstar of the recording studio?

A- I wish I hadn’t focused so much on getting gear, I really liked my first setup. I’ve still got the Tascam 8 track machine and I had this Tascam board that sounded great and I could have really kept on going with that for a long time. I felt like sometimes I would really focus on moving on with the gear when I really should’ve focused on making more music with what I had. You don’t really have a perspective for that until you put music out. Stick with your gut, for sure.

Nick Devan Facebook

Big Thanks to Tyler Cuidon & Merissa Marx for this week's episode!!