Producer Phil Donnelly Revels in Modern Day Music Diversity

Producer Phil Donnelly Revels in Modern Day Music Diversity

Phil Donnelly - photo courtesy of Blackham Images
Phil Donnelly – photo courtesy of Blackham Images

 Music is more of a canvas than a vocation for Phil Donnelly. Depending on the day or the season, you’ll find him on stage in front of thousands with the Damian Lewis Band (yes, the award–winning actor and musician known for films like Quentin Tarantino’s multiple Oscar winner Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and HBO’s Primetime Emmy Award–winning series Band of Brothers) or seated behind the desk (recording console) of a studio producing an orchestra. Embracing both the performative and conceptual opportunities of music is what keeps Donnelly engaged and honestly, spread a bit thin. There are only so many hours in the day for this musical talent to make available and he’ll admit to burning the candle at both ends while taking advantage of the numerous projects that continue to come his way. Until such a time as he is steered into one specific role, Phil is enthusiastic about making the most of being able to wear the hats of performer and of producer. He declares, “I am certainly guilty of never really taking a day off. The hardest thing about being a musician is balancing all the different parts of life. I can be doing a full blown tour, producing a record, or playing a small jazz club in London, and so happy doing it that I’ll let time just fly by. I guess that is the pitfall of loving what you do so much.”

  Those who have witnessed Donnelly laying down an infectious groove on stage at a massive music festival might be surprised to see him producing a full blown orchestra as he did with the London Concertante orchestra at World Heart Beat Studios in September of this year. The yet to be released full recording was comprised of some of the UKs finest instrumentalists and singers. The head engineer for the session was Matt Butler, former head of Air Studios London which gave the world such iconic recordings as The Rolling Stones’ “Steel Wheels”, “Synchronicity” by The Police, and others. Mr. Donnelly confirms, “We were so lucky to have a fantastic team at WHB lead by Jim Sorensen and Nick Cohen, but also very lucky to have Matt Butler engineering for these sessions too.”

  The recording consists of a wide lineage of musicals such as Guys and Dolls, South Pacific, West Side Story, and even modern Disney songs. To accommodate the large numbers of songs within the brief schedule, Phil opted for a digital approach but notes that he’s equally fond of analogue depending on the project. He communicates, “I’ve been lucky enough to do sessions to tape and to protools/daw. I honestly don’t mind what the track is printed onto. Tape certainly has a vibe and a magic, and protools is obviously very useful in the different tools it can offer. I am all about what makes the session go as smoothly as possible, and what captures the best performances from the musicians.” It’s obvious from his own description of the recording process that, as a musician of international repute himself, Phil feels a powerful connection with those whom he produces in the studio. He remarks, “It was great to have that time with musicians who are so malleable. Of course they could all sing and play the notes first time through, which meant my job was so thrilling- working to get as much out of the ensemble as possible, working with the singers to really get all the character of the performance captured with just audio, and finding those key moments for the orchestral players to really shine, and support the soloists. So refreshing to just have fun with the music making rather than correcting or fixing inaccuracies.”

 This forthcoming album consists of eighteen arrangements (specifically arranged for this orchestra), eleven instrumentalists, and four singers. Sonically expansive and cinematic in tone, it promises to be dynamic theater for the ears as well as the mind. Phil Donnelly insists, “As soon as we started, I knew we were going to have an amazing record on our hands. It’s an incredible feeling as a producer when all the fears disappear and you know you’re in for a fun one…..it doesn’t always happen that way! I am excited for the public to hear the incredible moments we captured for this record.”

Writer : Winston Scott

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