Kutless, Disciple, Building 429…
Producer Robert Venable Discusses His Craft
Robert Venable is the man to know in Christian music. He has worked with everybody from Building 429 to Jennifer Lopez and everywhere in between. He is a GMA Dove award-winning producer, mixer, and engineer. He has also been Grammy award-nominated. His world famous “Off The Wall Studios” — his private studio — is located in Franklin, Tennessee. This is where he produces and mixes Christian contemporary, pop, rock, R&B, metal, hip hop, gospel and country. Robert is renowned for his ability to work with a wide variety of genres and for developing a personalized sound for each of his artists. In addition to his producing and mixing, he is also actively involved in artist development. In 2012, he made his debut as an actor, portraying himself as a producer in the pilot episode of the ABC hit drama television series Nashville. With years of experience in the studio, Robert has worked with a multitude if artists like P.O.D., Seventh Day Slumber, Disciple, and Kutless, just to name a couple. His home base is in Nashville, Tennessee, and I was lucky enough to get to speak with him.
What did you win your Dove award for?
I engineered the Disciple album “Horseshoes & Hand Grenades,” which won Rock Album of the Year in 2010.
And your Grammy nomination?
I engineered Kim Burrell’s “The Love Album,” which was nominated for Best Gospel Album.
Explain what your jobs are as far as mixing, engineering, and producing to someone who may not be familiar with the craft?
That’s a tough one. Engineering is a broad term used to describe the act of recording the instruments and vocals, running Pro Tools and all the buttons and knobs you see in the movies. Basically, I try to capture the sounds that the band is making. Producing means I take the song and make it, in my opinion, better. I’ll say “let’s make this part shorter,” or “how about going to this note instead of that one”– stuff like that. Mixing is taking all the different parts of the song (the drums, bass, guitars, vocals, etc.) and processing them a little bit more (with EQ and compression, delay and reverb) and adjusting the volumes of all those parts, panning them left and right, and making it sound like what you hear on the radio.
What projects are you working on right now?
I just finished up a rock record for Devin Williams. If you like rock music, this is an album you’ll want to hear. I hired Joe Rickard (from RED) to play on a couple songs, and Lester Estelle Jr (Pillar, Kelly Clarkson) to play on some. Josh Schwartz (Seventh Day Slumber) played bass — it’s a killer album. I’m also working on a few projects I can’t really disclose…yet.
Do you prefer to work with Christian artists?
Honestly, I do. It’s nice to have something in common with the artists I work with, right off the bat. These days, I don’t know if many bands are calling themselves “Christian bands” as much as they are calling themselves “Christian people in a band.” Why? Because they will reach a broader audience that way. People, for so many years, have written off Christian music as “cheesy” and have been so turned off to the idea of listening to any new music coming out. So, bands keep the same lyrical content and end up crossing over into the general market. That’s the idea, right? To spread the message to the masses? Look at RED, Switchfoot, TFK, Mat Kearney, Skillet…they did it.
Who have you helped as an artist developer?
Wow, so many people. Probably all of the people I’ve worked with, in some fashion. As a producer, I offer so much input and so many ideas to the artists — probably a lot of it is stuff they don’t want to hear — but I still say it. Hopefully that will help them grow as an artist, and their next album will be better than the last.
What is your favorite Bible verse?
Colossians 3:23 — “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”