By Bradley Bambarger
It’s usually better to show rather than just tell, when it comes to demonstrating the value of almost anything. Samson implemented this concept for the launch of its new Q9x microphone.
Samson partnered with one of its artists — vocalist Constantine Maroulis, a Tony Award nominee for his originating role in the Broadway smash Rock of Ages, among other credits — to record a new theme song for the Q9x. According to Sean Meagher, director of marketing for Samson, the goal was to create a catchy “ear worm” while demonstrating the versatility of the mic in the studio. Sean turned to his bandmate and songwriting partner Charlie Thurman of the band White Houses to take on the challenge. Samson commissioned Charlie to write a song that would showcase the voice of Constantine and the versatility of the Q9x, a microphone designed not only for recording dynamic vocals and a full range of instruments but also for podcasting and streaming broadcast-quality audio. The end result is the song “Just One”, recorded at Rift Studios in Brooklyn, New York. An in-the-studio video was also filmed, furthering the show-not-tell concept.
After crafting a demo for the song, Charlie teamed with Constantine at Rift to fully track the song in the studio. Also on hand was a rhythm section that included drummer Joe Pess and bassist Ryan DiPietrantonio. Not only was the Q9x employed in the studio, the entire recording was captured using Samson products (see the gear list at bottom). “Every microphone used in the session was Samson, Meagher explains, “as well as all mic stands, cables and the DI (direct injection) boxes, which we used for re-amping to minimize bleed between the instruments.”
For Charlie, the experience of working with Constantine and the Samson team was exceptional from the get-go. “Everybody showed up bringing their ‘A’ game,” he says. “Working with Constantine was great — his upbeat attitude, his impressive vocal ability. He immediately understood the aesthetic of the song, and nailed the performance. As for the Q9x mic, Constantine’s voice came through strong and clear. After he was done laying down the leads, I was able to sweep through the track and easily record harmonies. By the end of the process, I wanted to get a Q9x of my own so that I could use it on my personal productions as soon as possible! From beginning to end, the recording session was a breeze thanks to the talented musicians, producers and the pro-audio gear involved.”
Constantine first made a national name for himself via American Idol, in 2005. The singer-actor — born in Brooklyn, raised in New Jersey and educated at Boston Conservatory, where he majored in music theater — brims with the laid-back enthusiasm of a showbiz trouper. He has starred in the title role of Jekyll and Hyde on Broadway, in addition to his notable turn in the original Off-Broadway and Broadway runs of Rock of Ages and the musical’s national touring company. Constantine has leaned into his association with the crowd-pleasing arena-rock material from Rock of Ages via ongoing tribute shows to 1980s music with his band Foreigners Journey, but he has also recorded his own songs on over several solo albums, with a new one on the drawing board. Constantine has been a Samson artist since 2018, and he relished the collaborative nature of the “Just One” project, as well as the chance to put the Q9x to the test.
(left to right) Joe Pess, Charlie Thurman, Constantine Maroulis, Ryan DiPietrantonio
How was the vibe in the studio to record “Just One”?
Oh, the vibe was excellent. It was great being in the studio in Brooklyn with everyone. I was born in Brooklyn and also spent some time running around there in my youth, so I felt at home with the sort of gritty industrial feel to the area, with a sculpture space next door. I always love being in the recording studio, and it was exciting to be there at Rift, using the new equipment and working with the Samson crew. There was no real glitz or glamour to it, just plugging in and getting down to business with a good bunch of people. Shooting a video for the track in the studio with the band was fun, too. I like that people can see us doing our thing.
How did the song strike you from Charlie’s demo — and how did you go about inhabiting it?
I loved the initial solo demo Charlie did for “Just One.” The song has a slinky, kind of funky vibe, and I just tried to bring a bit of my thing to it, with my sound and some little vocal embellishments. I didn’t overthink it. Always having had at least one foot in the world of musical theater, it feels natural for me to step into the ‘role’ of a song, even if I didn’t write it. I always look to the lyrical content and try to bring it to life through my own imagination, bring it into my world. I’ve been on a sober journey the past few years, and I thought about the lyrical resonance that way, interpreting the song my own way, inside. Charlie and the band and crew made everything easy. Charlie is a great, talented guy —I’d love to write with him in the future.
How did you like the new Q9x microphone?
It’s a quality, really versatile mic, suited for the studio or making a home demo. I know the engineers at Rift were psyched about the sound. I have a pronounced upper range to my voice, so it can be tough to find the right microphone to handle it with clarity and also with a rock edge. But the Q9x did the job. It can handle the big rock sound, but also subtleties with definition. The Q9x is affordable, too, and on par with the much more expensive microphones out there.
Tell us more about your association with Samson.
Samson has been a great supporter of mine, whether I’m in the studio or out on the road performing. I’m psyched to have a relationship with a brand that helps working artists do what they do, whether it’s with equipment or support behind the scenes.
Gear-wise, I tend to be a meat-and-potatoes guy. I just need things to work, to be versatile and durable, with the level of quality required. To me, that’s Samson. Our relationship has been an organic thing for the past four years or so. Whether it’s handheld Samson microphone rigs or their headphones, I rely on them. I still use the very first set of studio headphones I got from them all the time. And I use them hard, not only when I’m working but just walking on the street. I’m not an earbuds kind of guy, really. I like to be immersed in the music. I’m sure that I get some looks on the street in Manhattan, like ‘What’s with the guy walking around with those cans on his head?’ But I love them, and they’re still going strong.
"Just One" The Video
Samson Gear Used for the Making of "Just One"
MD2 Pro combines two premium direct boxes in a single case. Rugged, roadworthy construction and two shielded transformers provide high-quality signal connection solutions for a variety of live sound and recording applications.
Samson professional microphone stands combine the crucial elements of lightweight durability with an attractive and functional design. These stands are perfect for any microphone application, especially in live and studio settings.
About the Author
A longtime music and entertainment journalist, Bradley Bambarger has written for publications ranging from Billboard and Gramophone to DownBeat and Medici.tv, along with producing promotional materials, liner notes and promo videos for the likes of ECM, Universal, Sony and a wide range of indie labels. He also founded and curates the concert series Sound It Out at the historic hall of Greenwich House Music School in New York City.