WOLFVILLE – Mixing sound while making music is a recipe that soundman Kory Bayer knows well.
So well, in fact, he’s got two East Coast Music Award nominations to prove it. The soundman and bass player, who’s a fixture in Wolfville’s live music and recording scenes, is up for the Live Sound Engineer of the Year award again this year.
Whether changing levels at Paddy’s Open Mic or reconfiguring his entire SoundMarket studio for a musician, Bayer puts everything he’s got into ensuring the sound somes out right.
“Music makes sense, and music is music. It doesn’t matter what a musician’s background is – we’re going to bring their best sound out,” he says.
From classical to cover musician
Bayer got his musical start in junior high. Swept up in the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Rush, he gravitated toward the bass – something he now finds odd.
“You’d think, as a kid, I’d have wanted to play guitar, or drums, but no. I went straight for the bass, and looking back, I really don’t even know why,” Bayer laughs.
In high school, he discovered the upright bass and bought himself his own. Soon after, he was accepted into the music program McGill University and went on to play with both the Calgary Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra.
After years of practicing and performance, Bayer suddenly felt burned out, and took a hiatus.
He didn’t pick up the bass again until moving from Korea, where he taught English with his wife, Kelly, to Japan, where he had his brother send all of this basses to him.
It was the beginning of his cover band phase, which he said was a natural move, even on the other side of the world.
“There are so many people there that there is a crowd for every musical genre. We played at Irish pubs, mostly, but we really covered a lot of musical ground,” he says.
‘He’s kind of like my Google’: Bayer
Bayer and his wife spent 15 years in Japan and eventually decided to move to Wolfville to be closer to Kelly’s father.
They stumbled across a large sort-of farmhouse, and Bayer began thinking the additional space could mean some kind of creative, musical space.
The idea came to life after Bayer graduated from the five years ago from the Nova Scotia Community College’s then-sound engineering program, where he met his now-partner Terry Pulliam was an instructor.
The two paired up each morning to commute to the campus and talked music and sound along the way, and now work together at SoundMarket Recording Studios, which is owned by Pulliam and housed in Bayer’s home.
Bayer credits Pulliam as his mentor, and says the experienced producer, who was a major influencer and sound producer in the Halifax music scene in the 1990s, is like a musical encyclopedia.
"He's kind of like my Google - I know he’s always got the answer to any random question I’ve got," says Bayer.
Diligence leads to nomination for live sound
And now, with his studio set up in his house, Bayer is at home with sound mixing.
He configures the space for each artist he works with, often setting towels over hard objects and creating ad hoc booth spaces to suit the needs of each musician and their particular sound.
“It’s funny, because you’ll see producers like Mark Ronson, who I saw in a documentary, and you realize they do the same things, use the same techniques,” he says.
He also runs sound at Paddy's Open Mic on Mondays in Wolfville, and carries out several other live sound mixing projects, where he is just as diligent.
It's a diligence that's been noticed. Bayer is nominated for an East Coast Music Award for Live Sound Engineer of the Year, which is his second nomination.
Two nominations in five years of producing is quite the feat, but Bayer stays humble, crediting the recognition to his encyclopaedic mentor and what he’s learned from him.
"It's an honour to be nominated. It's a category that's full of great mixers," he said.
“It’s great recognition, and to know I’ve earned that is an amazing feeling.”
Did you know:
Kory Bayer is not the only East Coast Music Awards nominee from Wolfville.
Acadia professor of composition Derek Charke has two nominations for Classical Composition of the Year and Classical Recording of the Year. For a full list of nominees, see the ECMAs website: East Coast Music Awards.