Vance Powell is 6x GRAMMY winning recording/mixing engineer and record producer. He’s based in Nashville where he works out of Sputnik Sound alongside studio owner and fellow GRAMMY-winning producer, engineer, and songwriter, Mitch Dane. We met with Vance to talk about the origins of his career and tour his amazing room at Sputnik!
Vance’s extensive credits cover a wide range of genres from rock, blues, and country to hard rock/metal, pop, and rap.
A handful of artists he’s worked with include Chris Stapleton, Jack White, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, Jessica Simpson, Clutch, Red Fang, Wolfmother, Seasick Steve, Black Prairie, The Revivalists, Tinariwen, JEFF the Brotherhood, Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes, and Martina McBride. He’s even worked with such diverse acts as Insane Clown Posse!
Vance Powell got his start in live sound going on tour with local Missouri bands as FOH engineer.
As is the case with lots of other incredible engineers, stepping foot into the engineering world begins with doing live work until he/she discovers a love for the studio. In 1986, Vance had his first shot at engineering a recording session at Rick Massey’s studio.
He filled in for an engineer who was out sick that day and found that he had actually gotten himself a job at the studio later that year!
In the early ’90s, he took the gig he’d been waiting for at Lou Whitney’s Column One Studio in Springfield, MO.
He became second engineer there, recording tons of local musicians, and also went on the road with Whitney’s band The Skeletons. As Vance recalls it in the prologue to a Tape Op article in which he interviewed Lou Whitney,
“Back when I was first starting out, all my friends’ bands wanted to make their records with Lou Whitney. He was the first ‘Professional Recording Engineer’ I ever met, when a friend brought me to Lou’s Column One Recording… We toured the studio, and Lou was cordial, funny, and had plenty of good advice for a young engineer, (i.e., become a lawyer).
As time went on we became good friends, and when he hired me to work for him at the studio and on the road with his band The Skeletons, it was the gig I had been waiting for. The things I learned there were innumerable, but mostly I loved his approach to recording an entire band live in the room and his fantastic sense of humor. He also writes a pretty damn good song now and then…”
Vance continued doing live sound into the late ’90s.
After he moved to Nashville he got a job as monitor engineer for Tammy Wynette. That spot earned him a position as production manager/FOH engineer which he hung onto until 1997 when he joined the global sound reinforcement company, Clair Brothers Audio.
In 1998 he started a successful working relationship with Nashville-based Christian rock band Jars of Clay. He was their FOH engineer for several years until 2002. He doubled as their FOH engineer on the road and their recording engineer in the studio, doing a handful of projects with them over the years.
One of these albums was their incredibly successful full-length The Eleventh Hour for which Vance won his first GRAMMY in 2003.
Vance was chief engineer at Blackbird Studio for 7 years.
Blackbird founder and engineer John McBride originally asked Vance to help build and run Blackbird in early 2002! The studio was initially going to be a single facility for his wife Martina McBride, the country music superstar.
Of course, we all know how that turned out! McBride’s single-studio, semi-private idea turned into one of the finest recording facilities in the world, housing 9 rooms (Studios A-I!) and some of the best equipment imaginable. Needless to say many fantastic artists have walked through Blackbird over the years, and Vance was the Chief Engineer at the studio for 7 years.
Vance has worked extensively with Jack White on his various projects.
Vance has a close working relationship with Jack White and his different musical identities including The Raconteurs, The White Stripes, and The Dead Weather.
He met Jack White for the first time in 2006 when he worked on Danger Mouse and Daniel Luppi’s Rome album—White was a guest musician on the project.
He’s helped on many of White’s production jobs, like Wanda Jackson’s “The Party Ain’t Over” and Jack White/Alicia Keys’ production of “Another Way to Die” which made it to the James Bond film Quantum of Solace.
Powell is the co-owner of Sputnik Sound, which he had the wonderful opportunity to tour! He and Mitch Dane set up recording/mixing studio in 2006.
Over the years, Sputnik Sound has hosted Red Fang, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Wolfmother, Arctic Monkeys, and Chris Stapleton, and of course, many, many more!