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 through teaching.
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.