Reared on the Beatles, singer-songwriter Mikal Blue spent his formative years on the treacherous Northeast England club circuit before heading west, ultimately founding his own studio in Southern California. Although Blue set his stakes in Orange County a decade ago, his contract with Emergent Records put mountains between him and the label’s CEO, sound engineers and producers.
He relocated his studio to Westlake in 2002, and, he says, never looked back.
Blue has found considerable commercial success: his single, “Gold,” seemed readymade for ABC’s new nighttime saga #October Road#, and its debut in the sixth episode of the season, as the theme song for protagonist Nick Garrett’s mad dash across town to get the girl, has recommended it for repeat viewings, and over a thousand hits on iTunes.
But the focus on his own music proved a striking contrast from his more recent stint “behind the console,” producing groups like Augustana’s demo tracks (which led to their contract with Epic). MySpace starlet Colbie Callait saw her collaboration with Blue land her a contract with Universal.
“Since I moved to Westlake, in the last four years I’ve managed to get five major label recording contracts,” Blue says. “Colbie was the first one I was actually able to cling onto\” after she signed with a major label. “Even though you’re getting the artists signed, the major [labels] tend to like to go with the producers that have track records with hits.\”
But Blue already had a six-year professional history working with Callait, whom he met during his recording sessions in Ojai with Callait’s father, Ken.
“His daughter would come by, and she’d sing me ideas, and she’d say, ‘What if you sang this line?’ From the first time I heard her voice, I just thought it was magical. Whenever I had a project [or needed] female vocals, I’d bring Colbie in.”
Blue’s gradual transition to producer sprang from two novel interests: perfecting his own sound and introducing more classic equipment to his repertoire.
“I wanted to get some kind of multi-track recorder,” he says. “Initially a reel-to-reel machine … I got pretty good at recording my own music. I really started falling in love with old equipment — old microphones, recording consoles, vintage amplifiers, guitars, keyboards. I started gathering together all this vintage gear but then blending that with the latest engineering technology. You get all these warm tones. It just sounds better.\”