The multiple Grammy-winning producer and composer has been a big fan of MXL Mics for more than a decade. Wright first gained notoriety for arranging strings for smash hits like Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough” and “Rock with You,” and he continues to work with top pop artists today, recording strings for Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience album and Ty Dolla $ign’s Free TC. Here’s more on how MXL plays a big part in this music legend’s career.
Benjamin Wright has worked with some of the top acts in music, ranging from R&B and Motown legends like The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Curtis Mayfield, Dynasty, and El Debarge, to modern pop acts like Justin Timberlake, Jamiroquai, Outkast, Destiny’s Child, and Ty Dolla $ign.
“I had the guy play some of the stuff back…and it was like whoa, whoa, whoa. Is that with these microphones? I was blown away. The [MXL V69M EDT] was so hot, so warm, it was unbelievable.” – Benjamin Wright
Born in Greenville, Miss., in 1946, Wright learned music early on, playing in the high school drum marching band and singing doo-wop with his friends. He later learned piano and gigged on tour with James Brown, Otis Redding, and Gladys Knight and the Pips. Wright pursued music even while serving in the United States Air Force, and went on to study at the Chicago Conservatory of Music.
Wright moved to Los Angeles in the ‘70s and was working as the music director for The Temptations when he received a call from Quincy Jones to arrange the strings for Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall record.
As the story goes, Jones was so impressed with Wright’s strings on “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough,” that he gave him “Rock With You” to score on the very same day. You can listen to Wright’s original take for the track below.
It’s really impressive to hear the strings isolated without the rest of the song, and recognize countermelodies and harmonies through the violins and violas. (Here’s a link to a mix of “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” with the strings panned hard to the left speaker and the rest of the song panned to the right).
Now, these recordings happened before MXL had yet to even become a company. But back in the mid 2000s, Wright was recording for a symphony date in Alabama when he first came across MXL Microphones. As he tells it, he was recording a large orchestra with 50-60 pieces, and when he arrived at rehearsal there were about 15 silver MXLs and 20 black MXLs set up. “Now, I did not know anything about MXL microphones at the time,” says Wright, “other than they were the microphones that would be on sale, or you got one free when you bought something from the Guitar Center. So from my standpoint this was like, ‘Hey, this is nothing.’”
[You can click the image below to watch the full MXL interview, where Wright recounts his first introduction to MXL Mics and how he uses various models to record orchestral tracks in his home studio.]
Wright voiced his complaint to the venue organizers about the perceived inadequate mic set up, but was informed that since it was late on a Saturday night and all the local music retail stores were closed, he would have to make do with the MXLs.
“Well, I had the guy set up the tape machine and put it in record. And I’m stuck with these particular microphones. The rehearsal was over and I had the guy play some of the stuff back…and it was like whoa, whoa, whoa. Is that with these microphones? I was blown away. You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Wright.
He was so impressed with the mics that as soon he got back to Los Angeles he immediately ordered some for himself. When the MXL V69M EDT came out soon after, Wright and his engineer Reggie Dozier became immediate fans. “The mic was so hot, so warm, it was unbelievable,” said Wright, and from then on, he would travel with his collection of MXL Mics to record his string arrangements.
It’s not hard to see why. The MXL V69M EDT [pictured right] was designed as the first MXL Mic using all internal circuitry with Mogami Cabling, which makes it ultra low noise. And the mic also features a 12AT7 dual-triode tube that delivers the classic warm sound tube mics are known for.
For strings, the MXL V69M EDT really captures the warm tones of the violins and violas, and it’s likely that in recordings made after Wright’s first introduction to MXL, the V69M EDT is the main microphone for Wright’s intricate string arrangements.
Wright also speaks in the interview about his appreciation for the other MXL Mics that round out his recording repertoire, like the MXL Genesis for high strings, the MXL 604 for cellos and contrabasses, and the MXL R144 [pictured left] for horns. “This ribbon holds trumpet players,” says Wright of the R144, “some of the other mics start clipping especially when you got superstars [playing hard], they just blow microphones out, but the ribbons hold them.”
Here’s a few samples of Wright’s more recent work, that likely feature MXL Mics picking up those sweet signature strings, with warm tones that fit right in with the mix. You can browse more song samples at mrbenjaminwright.com.
*MXL even manufactured an MXL Gold 35 limited edition microphone especially for Benjamin Wright. Only 100 units were made.