Imaging Motor City or meet Terry Phillips

Terry Phillips Header

Last week I met Terry on twitter, we started chatting, he sent me some pieces of his work and now I am gonna interview him here… Terry  works for CBS and handles imaging for 99.5WYCD / 104.3 WOMC. If you work in the Country or Classic Hits Format you have to read this, if not: you have to read it, too as Terry gives us some great insight how he handles Country and Classic Hits imaging in Detroit, shares awesome PlugIn Presets, Screen Caps, Studio Pics and much more….

1. Which production system do you use and why?

I use Audition 3.0 as my main DAW for all production and 60-70% sound design, with some bouncing over to Ableton Live 9 Suite, and Pro Tools 11 when doing remixes and beat based things and workparts.

2. What are your favorite PlugIns? What is the perfect VO chain?

a. I am a HUGE Universal Audio Fan, I have a UAD2 Solo on my work and home studio computers, and a UAD2 Duo Satellite that I carry back and forth… I’m currently drooling over the UAD Apollo (and Apollo Twin, just a bit more freelance money needed HA). Also mad love for iZotope and they’re stuff, in every session I use Ozone in the final mix.

b. An “Ideal” mic chain I cannot afford (yet), but this is what I’m using now, and it’s plugs… on the hardware side, here at CBS (and echoed at my home studio) is a airtools 2x, Rode Broadcaster at CBS Radio Detroit, 416 at home studio. For the plugin chain, everything goes through multiple plugs, the settings and amount depend on the voice.

c. For WYCD’s Brian Lee, he goes through an 1176, then a CS1 Channel strip on the VO bus, then another 1176 and iZotope Ozone on the master bus (along with the full mix)

d. For WOMC’s Steve Kamer, he goes through a 1176, then a CS1, and another 1176, then just a single iZotope Ozone on the master bus (along with the full mix)

e. For me, it’s closer to Brian’s presets, an 1176, then an iZotope Ozone, then CS1… same master bus as WYCD

f. Playing with SSL channel strip, massive passive, and shadow hills mastering compressor but I only have those on my home rig and laptop… If I can’t use it everywhere it doesn’t make the templates for the stations.

i. WHY do I use so many plugs???? Compression is multiplicative, so instead of slamming with 20x and sounding super squashed, putting light Compression and EQ where I want it and working in step by step I get the sound I want…

3. How do you schedule your work?

By the biggest building on fire…. No seriously. Every week I have a “A” contest (mon-fri) and a weekend contest of each station. So that’s four contests a week… Plus special events, concerts, imaging updates, sales projects, etc. I use outlook heavily to schedule and remind me of what’s needed to do, and what’s coming up, but when something comes down the pike, or needs to air ASAP, the biggest, baddest, and/or client who spends the most money wins…

4. What do you love about imaging a country station like WYCD?

I have an AMAZING amount of freedom, and the BEST bosses in the industry! I took over WYCD 14 years ago, and I’ve stayed in Detroit so far for that one reason! I’m from Dallas so I’m not married to Detroit, but it’s such a proud town, such an underdog with a huge heart. Plus the fact that I get to write just about everything for WYCD and WOMC (95% plus for both). The creative freedom I have is a gift, and the trust of my bosses is gold… I will never forget to appreciate that!

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5. What is the best protools or production trick anybody should know?

Layer, layer, layer… even something lightly produced can use some sweetening, and learning when, and how to pull back can only be well learned by overdoing it. Go too far, go to light, add to much then take it away step by step, make something to light and let it breathe. And for the love of all that is holy use more than synthetic noise, a fishing reel cast, car motor, etc can have a great effect in the right place.

6. How do you get inspired and what do you use as scource of creativity?

Everything, from a web video I found at random, things my kids or wife say off hand, random sales people stuff, and things I overhear listeners say at events or picking up prizes… and what’s the towns pulse of the moment…. sure pop culture things too, but that’s too easy to rely on because everyone mines that one.

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7. What means the term “creative Imaging” to you in terms of country imaging?

Being something that speaks to the Country listener, sure there is shared listening, blah blah blah. But the Country P1 is different, if you can dial into their life, and lifestyle without being to “inside/in Joke” for the P2’s, you’ll do great… when you’re listening to country music your mind is in a different space and emotional state than CHR/HotAC… not “better” just different.

8. Country Imaging is going more and more hotAC/CHR – lifestyle… what do you think about this personally?

I agree, and disagree… here’s why. Over the years Country music has always been called out by Pop/Top40 peeps as “moving more their way” and saying the music/imaging/jocks are becoming more like Pop/Top40. If this were true Country would have sounded exactly like CHR/HotAC in the late 80s, all of the 90s, 2000’s and the 2010’s. It’s easy to hear the edits and noise and think they are the same, it’s easy when busy to take what you’re doing with little change and apply across the board on all “current hit” formats. Buuut, the listeners are different ages, the music is in different keys, have different BPM (beat per minute), not to mention different tolerance for noise and types of noise… AND lifestyles… Falling into the trap of hearing the superficial and not knowing the difference in Key, Style, and Approach is naive in my opinion… but I’ve been wrong three times today already so you now… I think the writing, the movement, and the noise need to be different… sure there will always be similarities… buuuut there must be differences, because the audience is fractioning out MORE, not Less… if your too much the same, you’re not living up to your potential.

9. Who were your radio production idols? Who influenced your work as a producer?

Right out of the gate I got to work near Brian Wilson at Y95 in Dallas (yes near, not with, I worked there and learned a lot from him and Buzz Bennett, but I was just a kid). What a brilliant writer he is, the stuff blew me away. From there you can shout out the obvious, from Jeff Thomas’ mastery of noise and sound, Dave Foxx’s chopping, chops, and brevity, John Frost’s boundless creativity, in both script and theater of mind, and VO people with RANGE.

10. What would be your 3 key advices for a youngster?

a. Find a Mentor… bounce your work off of them, if they say too many nice things, AND/OR doesn’t give you lots ideas/things to work on, find another mentor… (but remember people are busy, the good peeps are BUSY, don’t expect instant replies lol)

b. Work on your writing skills. The world is full of people who can edit well, there are lots who can edit real well… but your skills as a writer is what makes great promos, even if you didn’t write it… Because being a better writer will help you hear it in your head, and help you make bad or ok writing better in production.

c. Break free from the typical, it’s easy to take that service/library and make something that sounds cool, but it sounds the same cool everywhere and similar at every station. Soooo cut things apart, mess with them, reverse them, layer them, echo them, then do it again, and again, and again… But always keep in mind the goal, if you don’t know the goal of what you’re producing, you’re lost before you start.

More Personal info about Terry:
I’m from Dallas Texas, went to Texas A&M University, and have been in Radio since High School. Started out as an Intern at KZPS (classic rock) and on air at a small town CHR that was KBUS in Paris Texas… also working at misc small market stations on air though high school and college. My first big break was at a CHR, Y95 / Power 95 KHYI in Dallas (Buzz Bennett and Brian Wilson connection) I worked as Morning Show Character Voice, did light editing of morning show stuff, and fill in on air and board op. From there Mornings at KBYB in El Dorado AR, KYQQ in Wichita KS, KIIM FM in Tucson AZ (nights then mornings) where I first did imaging around 1995, moved to sign on WFBE in Flint in 1997 as Production Director for it and a couple of other stations in the group along with Middays, and was hired away by CBS for WYCD in 2000 as Creative Director/Production Director, and added WOMC at the end of 2006, and handled WQYK also 2011-2012… and am there still today. When I was a kid I was one of those dorks who made their own parody songs and fake commercials for fun and am a complete computer geek building all my home studio computers. I’m working with some friends including Drake Donovan on a project called ProdSquad, our first product is Splice which is Video shockingly, Video for business and Radio, everything from TV commercials to web based. You can find me on Twitter as @fmprodguy, on facebook as Terry Phillips (shocker), Xbox Live and PSN (when I can actually unwind) with the gamer tag FMPRODGUY, and online and


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