Tom Elmhirst helped with Adele's sophomore album 21 with mixing. He also was involved with her debut album, 19. He worked on four of the tracks from 21. Two, "I'll Be Waiting" and "Rolling in the Deep", were both worked on by Paul Epworth (producer), Dan Parry (assistant), and Mark Rankin (engineer). Another track, "Rumour Has It" (the album's fourth single), was worked on by Elmhirst, Ryan Tedder (co-writer, producer, engineer) and Dan Parry (assistant). The album's second single and final track, "Someone Like You" was mixed by Elmhirst, produced by Dan Wilson and Adele, engineered by Philip Allen, and assisted by Dan Parry.
Dan Parry and Elmhirst collaborated on all of the same tracks on 21.
Mixing "Rolling in the Deep"
Elmhirst helped to mix "Rolling in the Deep". When asked about his work with Adele, he stated:
|“||I have never mixed a US number one, and then ‘Rolling In The Deep’ holds that slot for seven weeks. Unbelievable!
Generally speaking, if I don’t respond to a track, I don’t see the benefit in having me mix it. It’d be difficult to mix something I didn’t enjoy — more importantly, it wouldn’t be respectful to the artist. Obviously it makes much more sense for me to mix albums, as I can have a better understanding of what the artist is trying to achieve, and I can help with that. Because I already mixed some of Adele’s material on her first album, and knew what she was about, I was more than happy to work on the second. She’s someone who breaks the mould. She’s not trying to pretend to be something she isn’t, and the way she presents her music is honest. Sometimes the job of a mixer is to add just two percent, and others require more radical changes. ‘Rolling In The Deep’ was incredibly well‑formed. I loved the song and felt that I could bring a deeper, more dynamic sound to the mix. The calibre of producers and artists I’m working with means that it’s possible that sometimes I can’t do a better mix.
Do I refer to the rough mix? Well, unless the reference mix is shockingly bad, you don’t want to go miles away from it. That would be crazy. Normally people will have listened to the reference mix a lot — it’s what they know and have come to love. On the other hand, while I will obviously have heard the reference mix at some stage, I try not to listen to it after that. Otherwise it’ll affect the way I work too much. The biggest problem I’m having today is being sent reference mixes that are overloaded with mastering plug‑ins and limiters, because producers are having to compete for album cuts to such a degree. It’s a battle for me as well, because people don’t like it if my mix isn’t as loud as the reference mix.
Normally, my assistant Ben Baptie will load the Pro Tools file in the morning, and will have looked at it for an hour or so and done some preliminary bouncing by the time I come in, usually around noon. It’ll take me about an hour and a half to figure everything out. I might do a bit more bouncing in Pro Tools, because I prefer not to have endless amounts of tracks going on. I always lay the outputs out over the console myself. Realistically, I have about 44 channels on the desk for audio, so I need to reduce the Session to that if it’s larger. The rest of the desk is taken up with the returns from the outboard. I use faders for sends from the effects, especially on the vocal on which I may have four sends, like reverb, chorus, delay and so on, and I can ride these and play with them. It’s very fast. You can’t set something like that up in Pro Tools, because you can’t play with four aux sends at once. It’d drive me completely insane to even try to do it in the box. You can’t play, you can’t dance. You can’t vibe with a track while moving a mouse.
By 2‑3pm, I want to be hitting somewhere near the reference mix, and then it’s a matter of figuring out how to take it further. From that point onwards, I am in front of the board, though I may occasionally jump between the screen and the board. But sometimes I switch the screen off. You have to forget the screen, because you end up thinking about the music rather than feeling it. There’s no magic recipe for taking the mix further. Every mixer has a different approach. I very much appreciate that the artist has worked for a long time on a track and usually has suffered to some degree in its making, and I remind myself that the final mix is a big day for the artist. Beyond that, I very much try to entertain myself. A lot of it is experience. I get to the balance quicker these days, and after that it’s all in the detail. I can’t quite explain how I get to the end result and know that a mix is finished. You simply learn to trust your own judgement.
I have always printed stems, so I can easily do alterations to the mix later on. This happened with ‘Rolling In The Deep’, on which Adele added a small vocal section at the end after my master mix and I added some sub to the bass, creating an unnatural and wicked low end in the chorus. With ‘Rolling In The Deep’, I ended up using an instrumental stem, a separate bass stem and all the vocal, but normally I’ll separate the music out, with a stereo stem for the drums, for the bass, for the guitars, the keyboards, and so on. It’ll be pretty comprehensive, though it’ll never be more than 12 to 14 stereo pairs.