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Willie Jack and the Northern Light

Pennsylvania’s Willie Jack and the Northern Light have been bringing their genre-bending cocktail of jam band/Americana/psychedlic rootsiness to the masses for ten years, with a heavy focus on the U.S. festival circuit. Sonically speaking, the group is hard to pin down, but upon close listening, one may hear homages to the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Grateful Dead—peppered with a dose of decidedly inorganic synthesizer flourishes.

Willie Jack and the Northern Light have appeared at A Bear’s Picnic Festival every year since its inception, as well as at the NY Harvest Festival, Gas Stock Festival, LibertyFest, Trails End Harvest Fest, Jam along the Creek, Peace of Mind Fest, and, well… too many to list. Armed with festival-circuit tenure, the band was beyond ready when the time came to record their debut album, Where You Want To Be, released in July 2012.

Drummer/producer Joe Ciarvella is no stranger to audio production—it’s in his lineage. “I come from a musical family,” Ciarvella says. “My grandfather was a touring jazz trumpet player, my mother was a classical pianist and vocalist, and my father was a recording engineer.” The “record everything” mindset instilled in him at an early age is clearly reflected in his production work with Willie Jack and the Northern Light. His approach straddles an ever-shortening divide between the traditionally divided studio and live workflows. “A live track we recorded wound up on our album, with no difference in tone,” he muses.

“We perform at music festivals everywhere, and I record every single set that we play via the StudioLive™ 24.4.2 and Capture,” Ciarvella states. “I designed my home studio around PreSonus products with mobility in mind. I use Studio One Professional 2 for recording, composing, and live-show mixdowns.

“I chose the StudioLive 24.4.2 because of the quality of the preamps. After trying out all of the interfaces I could find, the AudioBox USB and StudioLive 24.4.2 sounded the cleanest and delivered the most true tone. They were also very easy to install and set up,” Ciarvella recalls.

“We use our StudioLive 24.4.2 and Capture for recording all basic tracks to a mobile recording rig during our shows, then I bounce everything to another computer for doing overdubs,” Ciarvella states. “I can travel anywhere with this setup—so being in a studio isn’t necessary for basics. The Fat Channel preamps sound crystal clear, so when we record tracks on the StudioLive and then do overdubs via our AudioBox USB, the quality is identical. This method ensures seamless, consistent quality—with the added advantage of not being tethered to a project studio!”

When the time came to start tracking Where You Want To Be, Ciarvella was already well-versed in his PreSonus-heavy toolset, which includes the AudioBox USB, HP60 headphone amp, Studio One Professional 2 DAW, and StudioLive 24.4.2 digital mixer. “We cut our album using what I call ‘guerilla recording,’” Ciarvella states. “We did all the tracks right here in my house. I like the vibe of a recording to be light and easy, and using powerful PreSonus products made this dream a reality.”

Ciarvella is enthusiastic to share some of his favorite features of Studio One Professional. “The plug-ins that ship with Studio One are top notch. I used no third-party plug-ins to produce and master our album; everything was native to Studio One. It’s the best DAW for beginners and pros alike. While it has all of the features that you might find on other DAWs, the real advantage is that, in Studio One, they are well-integrated for ease of use.

“Also, Studio One doesn’t tax my CPU. I can run plenty of plug-ins and effects on multiple tracks and have no problem with processing power, even if I’m using a stock computer with limited RAM. Studio One is optimized to run ‘off the shelf’—everything is intuitive, easy and fast! I’ve never had to make a call to PreSonus tech support.

“Instead of spending big bucks in a commercial studio, we used our money to by PreSonus gear and make records our way,” Ciarvella proclaims. “There were no suits or accountants looking over our shoulder, worrying about time and money.  We were able to take as much time as we needed to make the best record possible, using the best gear available.”

Concludes Ciarvella, “PreSonus user for life! Pro Tools, Shmo Tools. I give it three to five years for PreSonus to become the industry standard!”