You may know Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Fences
(Christopher Mansfield) from his famous collaboration with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
, "Otherside," or you may know him from his own solo material. Reminiscent of Death Cab For Cutie, he creates lyric-heavy, melancholy music with gorgeous melodies. He just released his brand new EP titled To The Tall Trembling Trees
with the catchy standout track, "Pale Paper," which Mansfield says is a "torn-up love letter to New York City."
After observing him from afar and making note of his thoughtfulness, we decided to ask him about his favorite piece of gear. Before answering with the Shure SM7b, he took us more in depth about how the microphone was even created. Mansfield explained, "Music has often been described as a universal language. If you are a participant in this art you are essentially communicating to a large group of people. You can choose what you want to say and how you say it but the fact is you need technology to achieve this. Before we needed amplification for art or vanity there was a desire to increase the volume of the spoken word. The earliest known device to achieve this dates to 600 BC with the invention of masks with specially designed mouth openings that acoustically augmented the voice in amphitheaters."
But of course the human race wasn't trying to wear a mask every time they needed their voice amplified. I mean yeah, for a time when people just invented metal coins, it was probably impressive, but it wasn't until 1665 when English physicist Robert Hooke experimented with a medium other than air. "The invention of the 'lovers telephone' was made of stretched wire with a cup attached at each end. Music is really a lovers telephone. Most music I have written was to a lover whether real or of my own invention."
So then that brings us to the making of the company behind Mansfield's favorite microphone, "Shure was founded by Sidney N. Shure in 1925 as 'The Shure Radio Company.' I know they had an exclusive deal with the US government and they were the main supplier of microphones for WW2. I also know they created the SM7b that Michael Jackson used to record 'Thriller.' War and pop music. That is hard to ignore and very American."
"I have only used one mic on all of my recordings. The SM7b. It's a relatively cheap mic compared to what else is available. I've had producers pull out microphones from velvet boxes that cost as much as a house that didn't sound good for me. The SM7b captures me honestly. It allows no hiding. You get to meet yourself. It's always been my lovers telephone."
Which brings us full circle. We all have different voices which means there's a different microphone out there for everyone. When you get to know a mic, you learn how it works and exactly how it picks up each airwave emitted from your voice. When you find something that works with you well, why would you give it up for something else? Plus, knowing the history behind all of it makes it pretty special, too.