The following interview is taken from a featured article on Rockstar Motel by Cara Hoyler
Don Farwell may have very well been a “band geek” in high school, today he is the co-owner and house engineer at Earwig Studio in Georgetown where he spends nearly all of his waking moments recording local indie bands. Built up by aerospace and brewing companies, Georgetown seems an unlikely draw for any music venture. But in a small, undisclosed building near 1st Ave South I found Don, in-between sessions and brewing a fresh pot of coffee.
Yeah, Don went to Evergreen, and yes he spent his formative years at Bear Creek Studio recording and working with some pretty notable 90’s legends (like the Afghan Whigs, Foo Fighters and Matt Cameron to name a few). But it’s what he’s doing today and planning for tomorrow that is helping guide and define the engineering methods and standards geared towards local artists and their sounds.
Don and co-owner, Eric Batt, share a love of music, artistry, and passion for recording. Originating like most endeavors, the “idea” of Earwig happened over happy hour beers between these two college friends while grousing about the stresses of work. Several years later, they have built (literally built, as in with their own hands) a self-sustaining recording business that now hosts its very own annual festival, Earfest, dedicated to their recorded artists. With reasonable rates, a well-equipped studio and a kick-ass, self- proclaimed, “goof-ball” of a house engineer, here’s the skinny on this hidden gem… What is Earwig? Don: You mean, like what is it, like the bug? Well, I know it’s a bug, and knowing you already I kind of know a little bit of the story behind where Earwig came from… Don: I remember when I was a kid something about earwigs and the myth of it crawling in your ear and laying eggs in your brain and I kind of liked that – there’s the whole audio association. I like creepy things. I like David Lynch. And I’m a huge Guided By Voices fan. In those 3 years you were at Bear Creek, what would you say was your take away, something that you brought and instilled in Earwig? Don: I think there are three things really: getting people recording quickly, troubleshooting extremely quickly, and working with people and understanding how important that is. It’s way more about who I am and if someone feels comfortable with me. I mean, you’re a musician. If you walk into a studio and you don’t connect with the person whose pressing record you’re not going to give your best performance. You’re just not. You find most bands like that? Don: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I definitely have my approach, but I love all kinds of different recordings and of different qualities, low fi and high fi…whatever. And you’re analog and digital? Don: I am although honestly, the analog 4-track here is really almost more of conversation piece. It’s still a hybrid environment, where I am recording digitally and run it out through a lot of analog equipment which helps the sound in my opinion. It’s really not about what equipment I use. I’m not the end-all-be-all of recording engineers; there’s lots of great recording engineers everywhere and I think it’s just a chemistry thing, and hopefully you get along. People are paying their hard-earned money and the clock is ticking. If they don’t feel like they are performing well, people get massively stressed. And so I do whatever I can – that’s part of the whole operating quickly and getting people playing music quickly. It’s way more important to get a good drum sound quickly, and that’s on me, so that people can just have fun and play their music. It’s gotta be fun. What would you say is the defining separation then between what you do at Earwig and say what the amateur music engineer equipped with a Mac and mic does? Don: Recording is an art. And it does not take long for someone to learn how to use Protools and read a few articles to figure out how to mic up a drum set. But it’s nuanced, and there are things that take years to learn how to do properly or to feel like you have control over that art. You can haphazardly record something and it turns out awesome but maybe the next time it doesn’t and you might be wondering why and it just takes a lot of time to figure it out so that you are in control of the recording process. I mean, I started out as a person with cheap equipment recording myself and I encourage people to do it. In fact, I’m gonna start doing workshops where I’m helping my past customers record in their home studios more effectively. Do you think that’s what’s gonna keep Earwig authentic? I mean, are other studios doing that? Don: I guess so. I really don’t know. I think it’s really important not to try to separate yourself from what’s out there, but try to connect yourself to it and try to offer yourself as a resource.