Recording engineer David Hewitt pioneered the art of remote recording. Over the past 40+ years, he has recorded live broadcasts, records, and audio for film and video, earning him multiple TEC Awards, Grammys, Emmys and Cinema Audio Society awards in the process, as well as the industry’s respect.
Known for both his skill and easygoing manner, David once served as director of remote services for the legendary Record Plant studio in New York, where he later founded Hewitt Recording Services. He was one of the first to develop the mobile truck into a premiere studio environment, integrating sonic isolation, top-level equipment, and technological adaptability fit to record a vast array of projects. David’s credits include Pink Floyd’s The Delicate Sound of Thunder; the Academy Awards; Live Aid; PBS’s Live from the Met series The Three Tenors; Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones' Live at the Checkerboard Lounge; Eagles Live from Melbourne; and The Classic Neil Young Rust Never Sleeps.
We spoke with David and asked him to tell us more about this prolific career.
The best piece of advice anyone ever gave me was to listen…that really says it all. If you’re in the music business, that’s what you need to do.
I first got involved in music thanks to a very attractive folk singer in back the ‘60s. I wasn’t a good enough guitar player to make it into the band, so I became their recording engineer. The relationship didn’t last, but the career did.
Working at the legendary Record Plant was the beginning of a long and wonderful career. It was a launching pad for me––a phenomenal place that came at the right time. It really kicked off my remote recording. I spent 12 years there.
My favorite part of the recording process is the live show. It’s the downbeat. Kicking off a live show, it’s not over until it’s over. That’s the magic of live music. I’ve also done a lot of shows that have were seen around the world, such as Live Aid, the Grammys and the Oscars, and there’s a lot of adrenaline that goes into it.
While I’ve worked on a lot of records, I’d have to say my favorite is one I did back in 1974 for the Modern Jazz Quartet or MJQ called The Last Concert. It was actually very successful for a jazz record; so successful in fact, they decided to keep playing. Another would be one I did for Neil Young: Rust Never Sleeps. He remains one of the few musical heroes I have left.
If I weren’t a recording engineer, I’d be a sports car driver. That was my first career so I’d probably still be doing that.
One thing that would surprise people about me is that for someone who’s made a career of live recording, including at a record-setting concert where 600,000 people showed up to watch The Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers and The Band, I hate crowds and I do everything I can to get away from them.
I am most proud of having put three wonderful children into this world who are all leading successful lives. People in this business might be familiar with one of them: my son Ryan Hewitt, who works in recording, mixing and producing.
The key to great engineering is people and preamps…the basics. If you don’t have those, you don’t have anything.
When I’m not behind the mixing board, you can find me out in the country. l like being home with my music, my books and my family. I’m pretty much a homebody.
My favorite TEC Awards memory is some of those early shows, where I’d hang out with old mates, make some new friends and have people like Les Paul show up at the after-party. I remember there was a VIP, invite-only party that started around one a.m., so I went up for a few minutes to say hi and just about the time I was leaving, here comes 80-something year old Les Paul––and he was just arriving at the party. He had an outstanding constitution well into his 90s.