Engineer/Producer Bil VornDick’s projects include acoustic imaging for the
Fishman Aura system and Martin Guitars’ Retro series.
Experienced acoustic musicians know that when it
comes to making stellar recordings, there are only a
few engineer/producers who get the call, and Nashville
legend Bil VornDick is at the very top of the list. He’s
worked on more than 40 Grammy-nominated projects
and eight have been Grammy winners—to say nothing
of the dozens of other awards his recordings have won.
Starting as a guitar player in Virginia, he was encouraged
by Chet Atkins to relocate to Nashville, where he found
his calling as a recording engineer and producer. Though
he is especially renowned for his ability to capture
incredibly natural, lifelike, and detailed performances on
acoustic instruments—with a particular love for acoustic
guitar—VornDick can and does record every style.
He’s also well known for giving back to the music
community, with his involvement in organizations such as
the AES (Audio Engineering Society), the All Star Guitar
Night charity concerts, the Audio Masters Benefit Golf
Tournament, and many more. VornDick recalls how he
went from his teenage rock band to taking advice from
Chet Atkins, who introduced him to Nashville’s Belmont
University, his alma mater and a place where he now
mentors the next generation of engineers and producers
You started as a musician in your teens?
Yes, I was in a rock ’n’ roll band. I was in the 7th grade playing lead guitar
with a bunch of guys that were seniors, and then just kept playing.
The bass player was Harry Dailey, who was the first guy Jimmy Buffett
hired for the Coral Reefer Band. He wrote some songs with Jimmy.
How did you go from being in a Virginia rock band to connecting
with Chet Atkins?
A friend of mine, Frank Grist, worked for RCA in the mid-Atlantic
area, out of Washington, D.C. Chet was coming to the Stardust
Lounge in Waldorf, Maryland, and I got to have dinner with him.
Then Grist brought me to Nashville and I signed some songs to
Cedarwood Publishing Company. Chet always invited me to stop
by, to say hi when I was in town. He was the one who told me
about Belmont [University]. He helped me get into Belmont, and
shortly after I graduated I became Marty Robbins’ chief engineer.
How did you make that connection?
I used to hang out at CBS Studios when I was going to Belmont and
many of those engineers knew me. Marty was looking for a chief
engineer and he came in one day when I was doing demos for Loretta
Lynn’s publishing company in his studio and asked me if I could meet
with him the next day. I had no idea what it was about. He asked me
to be his chief engineer. He was the best guy I ever worked for. Great
sense of humor. A stylist … I mean, when you count the unique
voices of the world, you’ve got your toes on your feet and your fingers
on your hand and then everybody else kind of copies those.