On the record: Welcome to Apple country

Grace Robinson
15 April, 2013
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Australian country music act O’SHEA chalk up their quality music and commercial success to a toolkit of Apple technology.

Australian musicians Mark and Jay O’Shea have an impressive string of individual writing and artist credits that span the globe. But the husband and wife also combine their talents as one of Australia’s top country music bands, O’SHEA.

Currently signed to Sony Music Australia, O’SHEA were the recipient of the 2012 CMAA New Talent of the Year Award, among a host of other accolades. The debut album Mr. and Mrs. was ranked Top 10 in the Australian Country Charts, and the second album release One + One is now looking to reach the same heights. But, as we’re about to discover, there’s more to O’SHEA than just performing.

Mark O’Shea – a self-confessed ‘tech-head’ – also works behind the scenes, taking creative control of the band’s recording and editing processes with the help of a Mac, an iPhone and a number of other tech tools.

As O’SHEA wrap up an Australian tour alongside Cliff Richard, Grace Robinson speaks to Mark to find out about the technology he uses for audio and video production, why he prefers Apple to other platforms and the power of social media.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AN APPLE USER?

For 14 years.

WHICH APPLE DEVICES DO YOU CURRENTLY OWN?

An iPhone and a 13in MacBook Pro.

WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU USE TO RECORD, EDIT AND PRODUCE YOUR MUSIC?

As the cost of studios is cheaper and the process of recording is so easy in Nashville, I generally just use my iPhone to record a rough work tape as a song is being written.

Sometimes I’ll fire up Pro Tools LE on the laptop, which I run through an Mbox by AVID. I’ve also used GarageBand from time to time when I need access to samples quickly. It’s pretty good for that.

SIMILARLY, WHAT DO YOU USE TO SHOOT AND EDIT MUSIC VIDEOS?

I shoot on a Canon 7D and edit on Final Cut Pro version 6. I also do colour corrections on a mate’s 27in iMac using Apple’s (now-discontinued) program, Color.

HOW HAVE THESE METHODS CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED IN THE INDUSTRY? WHAT DID YOU PREVIOUSLY USE TO PRODUCE AUDIO AND VIDEO?

Well firstly, I didn’t used to use anything for video as I had absolutely no idea what was going on… I’d just smile and try to not mess up my lip-synching! Some would probably argue that is still the case.

But, in all seriousness, the digital revolution has completely redefined the music video business. I’m not saying anything anyone doesn’t already know here, but what blows me out is that it’s all happened in my lifetime.

My first music video was shot on film which, apart from being very difficult to manipulate and edit, was very expensive to even buy. These days, the idea of film stock as an expense has completely disappeared. For a few thousand dollars you can buy a decent DSLR camera and FCP and you’re rockin’!

Mark O'Shea and his portable creative studio.

WHY IS APPLE YOUR CHOSEN PLATFORM TO HANDLE THE PRODUCTION SIDE OF THE MUSIC?

In the entertainment business, Apple is far and away the standard. When I first started home recording in the late ’90s, I was originally using a PC and I had so many problems not only with the getting the platform to run smoothly, but also when it came to sharing files among other musicians and producers. It was a nightmare. I’ve never thought for a second of going back to a PC.

GIVEN THAT YOU’RE BASED IN NASHVILLE, HOW IMPORTANT IS SOCIAL MEDIA TO STAY IN TOUCH WITH YOUR AUSTRALIAN AND INTERNATIONAL FANS?

It’s critical for us. We don’t see our role as artists to just shove music down people’s throats. It’s more of a road trip that we’re all on together. Facebook, Twitter and email are the best ways for us to keep peeps updated with what we’re up to, both the highs and the lows.

WHAT SORTS OF THINGS DO YOU USE YOUR iPHONE FOR IN THE STUDIO?

My iPhone is critical for songwriting. I’d go so far as to say that I don’t know one Nashville songwriter who doesn’t use their iPhone to record a work tape when co-writing.

DO YOU USE ANY iOS APPS TO TAKE PHOTOS OF THE BAND FOR THINGS LIKE PROMO SHOTS, OR ALBUM COVERS?

I haven’t used an app for an album cover yet, but we certainly use our iPhones to snap pics for our social pages. Camera+ and 8mm are two great apps that I swear by!

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE PEOPLE WANTING TO TRY THEIR HAND AT RECORDING AND EDITING MUSIC WITH A MAC?

Just dive in and do it… I always do things in reverse. I’ll just start trying functions and seeing if I can get from A to B on a program myself. If I get stuck, then I’ll refer to the manual. Given the amount of free advice and tutorials on the web these days, there’s really no excuse for not having a go.

Technology has definitely made it easier to take an idea from conception to execution.

LOOKING AHEAD, WHAT CHANGES DO YOU EXPECT FOR THE MUSIC INDUSTRY IN TERMS OF PRODUCTION TECHNOLOGY AND SOFTWARE?

I’ve seen that joke image floating around of the new iPhone 6 and it’s just a photo of a DSLR… kinda true, though, in some respects. I think the Average Joe is only going to have access to more and more amazing opportunities to be creative.

I’m blown away by guys like Mystery Guitar Man and Rhett and Link, and I’m constantly inspired by the new wave of do-it-yourselfers.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT USING TECHNOLOGY TO PRODUCE MUSIC AND INTERACT WITH AUDIENCES?

Technology has definitely made it easier to take an idea from conception to execution. Not saying that it’s ‘easy’ – it’s just ‘easier’ to do it now than 20 years ago when I first started in the music business. It then, of course, becomes all about the most important part of the equation, which is ‘The Idea’ itself.

HOW WOULD YOU BEST DESCRIBE O’SHEA’S SOUND?

We write and sing songs about life, love, loss and everything in between.

To find out more about O’SHEA’s music and upcoming touring information go to www.therealoshea.com

 

@grace_robinson_

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