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Charles Macdonald
Charles MacDonald playing live
Charles playing live
Charles MacDonald

Charles Macdonald

Professional Session Guitarist
Chalres Macdonald

Charles Macdonald has toured the world and played some incredibly high profile gigs as guitarist with The Shires. As a session player he has also worked with Callum Beattie, scoring a top 40 hit with Man Behind The Sun. From reading Kerrang! to playing Wembley it's been a fantastic journey so far, as Charles reveals…

Milly Pye, The Shires, Callum Beattie, High Contrast, Nina Nesbitt, Ward Thomas, Catherine McGrath, Sam Palladio, Tina Guo, Mike Walker
Charles is using...
Spirit
Metal and country?!


When I was young I used to read my brother's Kerrang! magazines and hear him listening to Punk-O-Rama CDs. He got a bass and I got a Stagg BC Rich copy and we started playing in metal bands. I remember the head teacher at our school Battle Of The Bands competition stopping us playing because of the mosh pit we caused.

I began to realize I wanted to take music seriously and become a session musician. I actually think it was because I didn’t want to be centre of attention – I just wanted to perform all over the world and play as best as I could. This led to studying music at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester which is currently the only conservatoire level Popular Music course in the UK. It helped me build loads of confidence and meet like-minded people and was where I first started playing for signed artists.

After sending a video recording to the management of Milly Pye with some friends we were quickly contacted as the manager had loved the way we had decided to approach trying to get the gig. After a year's worth of working with Milly, both live and in the studio (Angelic Studios), her manager asked “do you play country?” to which I responded “of course!” and that’s when he put me in touch with The Shires. This has led to many headline tours; playing Wembley Stadium supporting Jeff Lynne's ELO; supporting The Corrs (their White Light Tour across the UK and Germany); BST Hyde Park supporting Rod Stewart; over to Australia for CMC Rocks Brisbane, and many more fun times.

 

 

 

Simple, quick and effective vibes

More recently, I have also started working with Singer/Songwriter Callum Beattie who I have worked with in the studio recording with Ken Nelson (who produced Coldplay), Cam Blackwood (George Ezra) and Steve Chrisanthou (Corinne Bailey Rae) which has been such a great experience. I also had my first co-write released with Callum, Man Behind The Sun, which reached the Top 40 in the UK radio charts and the BBC Radio 2 A-List.

I use a fairly simple set-up when writing and recording. Currently I’m mainly using the Aston Spirit, which you can use on anything and gets you an amazing sound straight away. That’s straight into a Focusrite Scarlett interface running Logic. I use all the Native Instruments Komplete plug---ins for my compression and reverbs as well as for any sounds I use to build a vibe. I find it’s a quick and effective set-up. Usually I start with either a guitar part I’d record in, some MIDI drums or percussion to get a feel I like. I enjoy the fact that you can rely on the Spirit to be consistent, you can then shape the sound with different mic positions or post EQ.

Liam's drummer told me...

I was turned towards the Aston mics by Dan McDougall (Liam Gallagher's drummer) as he said the Aston Spirit was the definite go-to mic, compared to any he was using, for high-end recording quality. I decided to buy one for my writing and recording work with the aim to use it live. I love how quickly you can place the mic and get a great sound, it just makes being creative so much easier and that is what you’re wanting to capture. Other mics I have used needed to be messed with before I would get a sound I was happy with and by then you’ve lost the mojo.

So I’ve compared the Spirit to other vocal mics and it blew them out the water. Its response and dynamic range was immense. It’s just allowed me to place sounds together much more easily without the extra tweaking. For vocals it gets that lovely crisp sound that pushes to the front.

 I'm actually pretty open to experimenting with the placement of the Spirit when used with an acoustic guitar. It sounds great placed a foot or so away aimed somewhere between the sound hole and 12th fret of my Gibson L-001 (my current favourite acoustic). I enjoy recording the low and high-end sounds from the guitar separately so I can pan them and then they sound lovely together.

I really am a big supporter of British companies. I think it’s very important for people to back companies like Aston and hopefully it’ll only help make the jobs of UK musicians easier when it comes to getting help and support with regards to using their mics.

 

 

Out-takes

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?
A. “Ha ha, I really don’t know. I was once made to decide on a back-up career at school – I said 'landscape gardener'. I don’t think my hands would be too pleased now though!”

Q. What would your fantasy mic be?
A. “A mic that would record a whole selection of placements from the one point would be pretty c Maybe you could use a computer image to decide on the placement post recording. I’m waiting to see/hear the Aston 'SM58' (better than) contender that will take over the live vocal mic world by storm!”

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand?
A. “Friendly, reliable, crisp and stylish!”

Q. What was the first song that made you cry?
A. "Hmmm, I actually don’t know when I’ve cried to music… I guess “Warning Sign” (by Coldplay) is something I'd listen to on a down day."

Credits

"I’ve gone through a few different phases of genres – metal, jazz, guitar-led music – but I'm really into finding new artists as well as better known artists. Currently I’m listening to Coldplay, Nothing But Thieves, Rae Morris, Little Big Town, Everything Everything, London Grammar and Maren Morris. My favourite guitar players would be John Mayer, Brent Mason and Hunter Hayes."

The Shires

Callum Beattie

High Contrast

 

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