Eric Ambel’s home studio loft in Brooklyn functions as a personal workspace for the noted producer/guitarist to do everything from pre-production, to overdubs and sometimes in the box mixing on projects for his clients. It serves as a satellite facility for Cowboy Technical Services, the more analog compliment studio that Ambel has co-owned with Tim Hatfield since 1999, also located in Brooklyn.
Evie’s is the more digital centric setup where Ambel can have a client over to work on things where Cowboy Technical is a full-on Analog/Digital hybrid set up that can accommodate live tracking with as many as seven players at a time. On the digital side, Pro Tools and Universal Audio have been a mainstay at both locations.
“I was an early Universal Audio user,” Ambel says. “I had their first-generation Apollo and just upgraded to the X6. Thunderbolt 3 is so fast. It’s a whole different ballgame.”
Evie’s is a personal setup where Cowboy handles full band tracking. “With the UA plugs I can set up Evie’s with a workflow that’s very similar to the way we work at Cowboy Technical Services. I set up the console in Pro Tools in a similar manner to the way we use the Neotek we have at Cowboy. I have UA plug-in versions of most of the original analog hardware we have at the Cowboy available to use at both locations.”
“My wife (songwriter Mary Lee Kortes) and I have always had a home studio. Around the New Year, I did a heavy reinvestment, got a new computer and new interfaces. A studio has to be upgraded every once in a while, so I went all in. It’s a really good rig.”
If there’s an Americana, Alt-country, No Depression-sounding band or singer/songwriter artist putting out influential, quality material, chances are that Ambel has worked with them in some capacity.
Raised in the Midwest, Ambel played guitar and toured with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts from the band’s formation in 1979 through 1981. He then formed the acclaimed NYC band Del-Lords, following that with the Yayhoos in 1996. In 2000, he hooked up with Steve Earle and toured, recorded and played guitar with him until 2005.
Along the way, he built up a solid resume as a producer, working with critic’s favorites including The Bottle Rockets, Dan Baird, Blood Oranges, Mary Lee’s Corvette (which features his wife/songwriter Mary Lee Kortes on vocals), Marshall Crenshaw, Blue Mountain, Nils Lofgren and his own Roscoe’s Gang. His latest production credit is Spanking Charlene’s Find Me Out, featuring vocalist Charlene McPherson, a 10-track album released this past February.
“I’m also finishing a project with Andrew Grimm who plays in the band June Star in Baltimore. He’s a home studio guy and we’ve collaborated on a whole album since the pandemic started. So today I’m printing the final mixes. And I’m working on overdubs for Jimbo Mathus and Casey Anderson.”
Ambel also produced New York singer/songwriter Emily Duff’s latest release, which American Songwriter recently featured, and gave it that special Ambel touch. “A lot of times I work with singer/songwriters who want their record to have a band feel and that’s what I tried to bring with Emily’s project. On (her single) “We Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” I played the guitar solo and licks at the end. Sometimes I’ll play on a record and sometimes I’ll just produce. Whatever is needed.”
Ambel’s newest gear obsession is UA’s new Ox Box, a speaker emulator and load box that allows you to use your tube guitar amp at any volume and record without losing the amp’s natural characteristics.
“The Ox Box is a true game-changer. I have plug-ins and emulators, but the Ox Box gets you the sound of your amp right into Pro Tools through their suite of cabinets and microphones. I’ve always been able to get a good guitar sound at home, but a lot of times felt like I might have to redo parts for final tracking at the main studio. But I never feel that way with the Ox Box. It’s super flexible and super easy.”
Eric Ambel’s Home Recording Setup:
iMac 27-inch Retina 5K 3.8 Ghz i5 processor 32 gig of RAM Thunderbolt 3
G-Tech Hard Drives Thunderbolt 3
OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock
UA Apollo X 6 Thunderbolt 3 interface
UAD-2 Satellite Quad
EVE Audio SC 205 active monitors with ribbon tweeters
Headphones from Ultrasone and Audio Technica
Pro Tools 2020
Logic Pro X
Many UA Plugins- “I use the Ampeg B15 plug for DI Bass.”
Mics for vocals and acoustic guitar
Kontakt Complete Sample Library
M-Tron Pro Mellotron
EZ Drummer 2 with many extensions
Native Instruments Komplete Controller
Yamaha weighted keys 88 key digital piano
Dr Z Carmen Ghia Dual EL 84 amp
Fender Pro Jr Dual EL 84 amp
UA Ox Box guitar amp recording system with Attenuator
Home Recording specific pedalboard plus many other effect pedals
“This pedalboard is literally built into my desk. I barely have to move to do anything!”
Many Electric and Acoustic Guitars (at least 30)
12 string guitars electric and acoustic
Baritone electric, Dulcitar, Banjo, Lap Steels
Audio Technica 4060 Large Diaphram Condenser mic
Audio Technica AE5100 Small Diaphram Condenser
Audio Technica ATM89R Hypercardiod
SE Electronics SE 5 Small Diaphram condenser mic
SE Electronics Reflexion Filter