Capturing powerful, passionate vocals with heartfelt lyrics are perhaps the most important element to producing a great song. The song-writing team of Sandra Szabo and Marcus Greenway live by this mantra. Since our last featured artist interview in 2018, Sandra and Marcus have been super-busy honing their craft in their studio in Norway. Sandra Szabo, aka TheRocketQueen90, has over 77,000 YouTube channel subscribers, and has uploaded over 200 songs with over 12 million views! We caught up with Sandra and Marcus to discuss their creative process, new music, recording techniques, and what inspires them.
What have you been up to since our last interview?
Sandra: Since our last chat in 2018 we have done a lot! I believe we talked about our new album “I Sold My Soul to Rock N’ Roll” that we had just started recording and working on back then. In November last year we released it on both physical CDs and on digital platforms. It’s very exciting! All our songs on the album are recorded and mixed with Mixcraft 9. We also made music videos for many of the songs, including "With All Due Respect". They’re all available on YouTube. And of course we are working on new songs and albums already, haha!
Tell us about the creative process behind your tracks.
Sandra: Prior to a recording session, I always get inspired by listening to music from my favorite artists. After tracking the instruments and vocals in Mixcraft, we like to experiment and test various effects on our recorded instruments and vocals. It gives the song that little “extra coolness” if you know what I mean… Lately I’ve fallen for the Fusion Field VST, and using some nice effects on my vocals on “Just Another Song” and “Breathing Water”.
Marcus: For me its often having a general idea in my head, then firing up Mixcraft and just recording stuff and seeing what sticks. I can't play drums at all, but usually mock up something using the bundled drum loops. With the loop library, I can easily search, audition, and drag and drop a loop onto a track. This gives the rest of the band the general direction we want to take the song.
Sandra's vocals always have an impressive delivery. Any tips or techniques you can share with our readers?
Sandra: Ah thank you! My best advice is to sing a lot! Sing every day if you can and get to know your voice. Get full control. Feel comfortable to let your voice out and don’t be afraid to do so.
Marcus: After the obvious "practice giving a good performance before focusing on equipment" advice, try as many different microphones as you can, A certain voice will sound better recorded by the right mic. A good song arrangement can also help. If the guitarist is playing melodies in the same range as the vocal line at the same time, they might be fighting for the same space. But as we know, the absolute hardest thing for a guitarist to play, is nothing at all, haha!
Editor's note: Learn more about recording vocals, watch this new Mixcraft Quick Tip on Vocal Recording.
Marcus' guitars sound excellent. How did you get that tone on the solo?
Marcus: Thank you! I'm using the neck pickup through a mini tube screamer for just a little added smoothness, into a Marshall JCM 2000 dsl into a cab with Vintage 30 speakers, recorded by a Shure SM57.
What are your favorite features in Mixcraft 9?
The new UI and layout looks great. We love the new curve automation features. It saves a lot of time and the result is a much smoother, cleaner pan, fade in or fade out. We use automation a lot for effects, so we can create complex curves for all types of automation. The new master tempo envelope can create a super-smooth tempo transition.
Tell us about your studio setup?
It's a pretty simple setup in our attic, with lots of guitars, a really bad bass, some guitar amps, a keyboard, mostly using a Shure SM57 and Shure SM7B. Everything goes into a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 2nd gen audio interface. Monitors are from Yamaha we picked up years ago. I'm not sure how "good" they are, but we know them well, and that's important for mixing.
Any artists you think others should check out?
Sandra: I get inspired by In This Moment. And there’s a new band from England called Yonaka I listen to a lot. They’re awesome.
Marcus: Joe Bonamassa, Alter Bridge, Shinedown.
What's next for you?
We have lots of new songs with our band Sandmarx! That’s our top priority these days when it comes to new music. Our plan is to record everything ourselves like we did with “I Sold My Soul To Rock N’ Roll”. We are really happy with the songs, and can’t wait to get them recorded and start the mixing process. We totally look forward to more experimenting with some of the cool effects and new features of Mixcraft 9.
Where can we find your music?
You can find our music on almost all digital platforms! Sandra Szabo YouTube, Spotify and iTunes. Connect with us on Instagram and Facebook too if you’d like 😊!
Editor's note: One of our favorite song-writing teams whom we always love to catch up with. Their extensive catalog of music, professional mixes and cinematic videos inspire us. Thank you Sandra and Marcus for sharing your thoughts and musings with our readers.
Jul 31, 2020