Billy Bob Thornton recently released his third solo album, Hobo, on Big Deal Records. The Academy Award-winning actor is a noted songwriter and musician. Hobo features Audio-Technica’s AT4060 Cardioid Condenser Tube Microphone, chosen to capture the essence of Thornton’s rich vocals.
The album is co-written and co-produced by Thornton and songwriter/guitarist Randy Mitchell. It is also co-mixed and co-produced by Grammy® Award-winning engineer Jimmy Mitchell, known for his work with Guns N' Roses, Slash, and Poe.
When evaluating microphones to record vocals, Thornton tried a number of different mics by various manufacturers, but the AT4060 was the clear winner. “Billy noticed the difference immediately when he put his headphones on and sang the first song into the 4060,” says Jimmy Mitchell. “Once Billy heard his voice he said, ‘We don’t need to look any further.’”
Recorded and mixed in Thornton's state-of-the-art recording studio, The Cave, by Randy Mitchell, with overdubs and mixes by Jimmy Mitchell, the album reflects on experiences in California, the entertainment industry, and Thornton's past twenty years immersed in the Los Angeles lifestyle and music scene. "It is a record about joy, sadness, success, and failure–the realization of dreams and not realizing your dreams,” explains Thornton. “Every track, whether it’s a quiet moody song or more up-tempo rock, has an incredible feel to it, and the Audio-Technica 4060 helped me convey that in every one of my vocals. On the moodier songs, I sing at a lower vocal level, so I needed a mic that allowed my vocals to keep their edge without becoming muffled. The 4060 has a real fat, round sound with the detail and the edge I’m looking for.”
Jimmy Mitchell, who has engineered and co-produced with Thornton for the past five years, talks about the creative and technical aspects of capturing Thornton's vocals on the album: “The record has a heartfelt story-telling, left of center, incredible mood to it and creating a sonic landscape to match is exactly what Billy expressed he wanted for its sound. Billy was looking to get the feel of his voice to sound big and ominous, to have it sound thick and rich, yet keep the breathiness and openness. I think with the 4060, we've nailed the true essence of Billy's vocals on this record. When he sings the real quiet passages with a low, soft breathy voice, you feel like he's singing directly into your ear. And with the more rockin’ songs, he’s powerful, up-front and right in your face creating a dialog between the guitars and vocals.”
Randy Mitchell also used the AT4060 to record his vintage Martin acoustic guitar. Mitchell placed the AT4060 close in on the guitar, midway between the sound hole and the neck joint by the 12th fret. “I put the 4060 up and recorded the guitar basically flat. This allowed me to capture the entire guitar sound without the boominess that sometimes occurs recording acoustics in the studio. When we played that track it back, it sounds like you’re in the room listening to it live. It’s just a great, great microphone,” he explains.
Thornton has received critical acclaim from journalists and musicians alike for his songwriting and vocal performances on his last two albums. With the release of Hobo, Billy Bob Thornton continues to break the mold as a songwriter and musician while living on the cutting edge, creating powerful songs and lyrics reflecting his love for music and life itself.