Roy Salmond has produced hundreds of records, and engineered, played on, or written for countless more. Still, ask him which one is his favorite, and he’s likely to give you a grin and tell you a story about one of his many creative heroes, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. When Wright was asked which of his own designs he liked the best, he always answered, ‘The Next One’, Salmond will explain, just before he tells you that for him, too, his favorite project is The Next One.
It’s not that Salmond isn’t proud of the work done to date. On the contrary, a visit to his office reveals an enormous music library that spans decades, crosses genres, and defies stereotypes, but, additionally, includes all the artists he’s worked with over the years. Ask him about a few of those titles and it’s easy to see the pride he takes in the music he’s involved with, as well as the great affection he has for the musicians who cross his path. Listen to this! he’ll say, popping in a disc from last week or 5 years ago. Check out what we did with the bass on this track! Isn’t this guy a killer writer? Wait, wait, you’ve got to hear this one tom hit …
It’s just that there is a creative restlessness, a hunger, a passion that has kept Salmond curious, playful and almost indefatigably engaged in the music his entire life. I remember being 13, 14, Salmond confesses, and listening to CSN&Y’s DÉJÀ VU and Stephen Stills’ MANASAS. I listened to the guitar tones and the drums and wondered how they mic’d them and what guitars they used and whether I liked the vocals or not. That started a long obsession with how albums are made. Three decades of music making have not diminished Salmond’s fascination. If you’ve got time, he’ll play you any number of other discs from that collection of his, things he didn’t work on – old stuff, new stuff, hits and obscurities. Listen to this! he’ll say. Check out what they did with the string section! Isn’t this guy a great producer? Wait, wait you’ve got to hear this one guitar tone …
Salmond’s obsession with music -- with the way it’s made, how it moves people and the community it creates – led first to a stint as a writer and recording artist in his early twenties. As one half of the seminal acoustic duo Salmond and Mulder Roy recorded 4 albums and performed about 1500 concerts over a busy seven-year span. (Anyone who’s watched Salmond produce vocal sessions will tell you his artist years on the vulnerable side of the microphone are well used in his current vocation.) After Salmond and Mulder, Roy recorded a solo project, but his focus was already turning to production. By 1983 he had produced his first “outside” project (an album for Ruth Dallas Rich), and by ’86 he had worked on his first major label release (Morgan Cryar’s Pray in the USA for Starsong). His home midi-studio had outgrown his home, so Salmond set up Whitewater Studios in Steveston (near Vancouver, BC). He became highly in-demand, known as a producer who could draw the best out of an artist, but could also engineer, write, arrange, program and perform (guitars, keyboards, percussion, vocals) to whatever extent was needed.
A decade into his production career, Salmond’s creative curiosity led him to a stint in Nashville, including a position in A&R at Benson records. He returned to Whitewater in Steveston in 1996, and by 2000 had made the decision to build a new Whitewater in Surrey, BC. Word spread quickly about this new place to make music – a comfortable, inspiring space chock-full of world-class gear and instruments (not to mention that great cd collection, matched only by the DVD and book libraries) – and there hasn’t really been a quiet moment since. Which is just the way Salmond likes it.
Still, having a great facility has not kept Salmond off of airplanes. Over the years he’s recorded in Houston, Seattle, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Manchester, London, Liverpool, Nashville, LA, Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Muscle Shoals, and now the availability of top-notch portable gear has allowed him to regularly bring a mini-version of Whitewater to artists in the UK and Central Canada. And when he’s not traveling to the artists, the artists are traveling to him, which is how he ended up with a recent nomination for Producer of the Year at the Austin [TX] Music Awards. Salmond’s work has additionally been recognized with Juno, Dove, CGMA, NAMMY (Native American Music Awards), Vibe, Shai, and Angel nominations and awards.
For Salmond, vintage tube pre-amps and world-class EQ strips aren’t really gear, they’re tools for building something beautiful. He refers to his astonishing collection of diverse, rare, and highly playable guitars as his “crayons”. He is as serious as they come about making music, but he has not forgotten that music is something we “play”. I still love creating, analyzing and producing music. I’m never tired of it. People are so diverse – everyone who comes into the studio has something different to offer, as individuals and musicians. I love tapping into that. It’s what gets me up in the morning, Salmond confesses, and from the look in his eye, you know that as thankful as he is for all the great music that’s come before, he’s already dreaming about The Next One.
Roy Salmond lives in Surrey, BC with Gayle Salmond (a talented singer/songwriter in her own right), their two daughters Kalia (17) and Janaya (12), and Zoe (their dog).