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Vanessa Parr On World Cafe

Vanessa Parr inside Studio B at Village Studios in Los Angeles.
Larry Mah
Courtesy of the artist
Vanessa Parr inside Studio B at Village Studios in Los Angeles.

Normally when a guest sits down for a World Cafe interview, our producers or I help them adjust their microphone to the correct distance and angle. And if a piece of technology is misbehaving, we'll sort it out and hopefully our guest will be none the wiser. Not Vanessa Parr. On the day she visited the World Cafe studio, Parr couldn't resist adjusting her own mic to absolute perfection and helping us troubleshoot some finicky recording software. Call it an occupational hazard for someone who is used to making other people sound their very best day in and day out.

In her career as both an assistant and as a lead engineer, Parr has worked on records with the likes of Elton John, Lucinda Williams, The Smashing Pumpkins, John Mayer, the Dixie Chicks and more. Parr trained at Berklee College of Music where one of her professors was the late Terry Becker (one of the few early female engineers) who worked with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne. Parr started her own professional career at the famed Village Studios in Los Angeles where she started as a runner getting coffee. She climbed her way up to staff engineer and spent time working alongside legendary producer T-Bone Burnett.

Parr has faced questions like: How do you hold it together and work when you're standing next to your heroes? How do you help an artist when they get creatively stuck? And what do you do if things get a little tense or musicians bicker in studio?

Listen in the player as Parr plays some of the music she has helped craft and takes us to the other side of the glass to illuminate an intricate part of the recording process we enjoy the results of but don't often think about.

Copyright 2021 XPN. To see more, visit XPN.

Talia Schlanger hosts World Cafe, which is distributed by NPR and produced by WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania. She got her start in broadcasting at the CBC, Canada's national public broadcaster. She hosted CBC Radio 2 Weekend Mornings on radio and was the on-camera host for two seasons of the television series CBC Music: Backstage, as well as several prime-time music TV specials for CBC, including the Quietest Concert Ever: On Fundy's Ocean Floor. Schlanger also guest hosted various flagship shows on CBC Radio One, including As It Happens, Day 6 and Because News. Schlanger also won a Canadian Screen Award as a producer for CBC Music Presents: The Beetle Roadtrip Sessions, a cross-country rock 'n' roll road trip.