Mike Piersante is a talented “top-to-bottom” recording and mixing engineer, perhaps most widely recognized for his work on the Grammy Award-winning Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Mike and I caught up for a few moments at NAMM this past January, during which he had a whirlwind convention–mixing until the wee hours and rushing to the show the following morning to speak on panels! Luckily, we were able to meet in Studio B of The Village (at a less hectic pace) and have the conversation below.
Mike has worked on many incredible projects alongside producer T-Bone Burnett, including Gregg Allman’s final album, Low Country Blues. He also contributed to Willie Nelson’s 2010 release, Country Music, and Elvis Costello’s National Ransom. Early on as an assistant engineer, Mike honed his craft on projects by the likes of Barry Manilow and Tom Jones. He also assisted on Danny Elfman’s Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack and Break Like the Wind by Spinal Tap!
Mike Piersante got his start as a hungry runner at Sunset Sound.
Before all of that, though, Mike finished a two-year program at a recording arts institute while working part-time for a courier service. After graduating and sending résumés all over town, Sunset Sound general manager Craig Hubler called him with an offer. Mike calls it pure “luck,” but Craig felt he could trust a guy like him over other candidates, simply because the courier service often dealt with high-value items! From there, he started as a runner “making fruit bowls and getting goodies for Prince” before being allowed in a studio for the first time to untangle an engineer’s post-session spaghetti.
Just before our chat, Mike was mixing the last song on a reggae project by Zak Starkey. The album features a host of incredible artists, including the amazing Jamaican rhythm duo, Sly and Robbie. One thing that caught my attention about the mix was Mike’s respect of the original recordings. He wasn’t using any of the console’s dynamics section, admittedly because it didn’t sound good to his ears, and instead was relying on just a sampling of outboard processors and plug-ins while letting the recordings be themselves as much as possible. He’ll dig into and really manipulate tracks when necessary, but ultimately likes letting a great performance be a great performance…
Please enjoy this talk with the wonderful Mike Piersante, and never stop learning!
Have a marvelous time recording and mixing,