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Shawn Sahm

One sign that popular music has matured is that we’re now hearing excellent music from the children of many stars of the 1960s and ‘70s. Whether it’s Jakob Dylan, Jason Bonham, Derek Trucks, Hank Williams III (the son and grandson of legends), or Ziggy Marley, the next generation is in full flower. A prime example of this phenomenon is guitarist and singer Shawn Sahm, the son of the late, great Tex-Mex pioneer Doug Sahm, who passed away in November 1999.

Shawn Sahm is more than the son of a famous musician who is making it on his own; he performed for years with his father and his band full of great Tex-Mex stars, so he has been at the heart of the Austin, Texas, scene since he was 13 years old. Shawn literally grew up among, and learned from, the legends of Tex-Mex. And when the elder Sahm’s supergroup the Texas Tornados reformed a few years ago, Shawn Sahm became a key member, essentially taking his father’s musical role in the band. That meant he was playing with the great Freddie Fender (who, sadly, has since passed on), Augie Meyers, and Flaco Jiménez—and having a blast doing it! Original Texas Tornados Louie Ortega, Speedy Sparks, and Ernie Durawa have also rejoined the band, so Sahm is playing with lifelong friends.

For the new Texas Tornados CD, Esta Bueno (Bismeaux Records), Sahm worked on each track in great detail, constantly soliciting feedback from his fellow Tornados. “It is not done until you are happy,” he told them. After all, these guys helped pioneer this music; they ought to know what works!

Having learned his music from the best, Sahm knows the sound he wants. And PreSonus plays a steadily increasing part in his rig. “I’m currently using a DigiMax FS eight-channel preamp,” Sahm begins. “My studio really changed when I brought in the PreSonus Class A preamps. It used to be a demo studio, although I have a good drum room. With the addition of PreSonus preamps, I can record all my tracks with that nice, smooth sound that you expect at professional studios. You can mold the sound any way you want to with these preamps. That’s what really sold me! Now I record all of my tracks here at home, then mix them at Wire Recording in Austin, Texas, so I don’t have to spend all that bread tracking at commercial studios. Our new single, ‘Who’s to Blame, Señorita’ [cowritten by Doug and Shawn] was recorded 100 percent with PreSonus preamps, as was our Doug Sahm tribute record Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm.

“Now, I can spend most of my time being creative and getting the sounds I hear in my head, as opposed to having to hit a snare for hours just to get it even close,” Sahm continues. “The PreSonus Class A preamps turned my studio into a place where the drum sounds are not an issue because I can count on a good sound every time. For me, that’s big, because I’m old school, and my music is about acoustic and classic electric instruments. I do very little MIDI stuff. Since I already have a good room, it’s all about mic selection, mic placement, and a great preamp—and of course the performance!”

Recently, Sahm added the PreSonus BlueTube DP dual-path tube/solid-state preamp, which he uses on guitar and bass, and an HP60 headphone-amplification system. “The HP60 has been a great addition to my home studio,” says Sahm. “It’s a new piece of gear around here but I’ve already used it on a few sessions with a full band blasting. It’s punchy-clean and has the headroom I needed!“