Inside Royal Studios in South Memphis, co-owner and Grammy award winner Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell uses his hands to manipulate the control board to produce and engineer hit songs recorded with the Memphis sound.
Back in January, Mitchell got a call from Mars and his engineer asking him to be a part of a new project.
“Now Bruno is on speaker phone and is like ‘what’s up O.G.? I got this project I want you to do some of those grimy Memphis horns’ and I’m like, ‘we can do that’,” Mitchell said.
The sound of the Royal Horns is heard loud and clear on the new Silk Sonic album featuring the R&B duo of Anderson.Paak and Bruno Mars.
Yes, that’s same Bruno Mars who recorded the hit “Uptown Funk” at Royal Studios in 2014.
“Bruno is such a really sweet and humble dude. You know he came here for Uptown Funk and never forgot us,” Mitchell said.
To give Mars that grimy and gritty Memphis sound, Mitchell assembled his horn players: Trombonist Kameron Whalum, who plays with Bruno Mars; Marc Franklin on trumpet; Kirk Smothers on baritone saxophone and Lannie McMillan on tenor sax.
The horns got together, but the project was cloaked in secrecy.
“Boo called us and we showed up and they gave us some very broke down, bare bone tracks,” Marc Franklin said.
“We didn’t know who the artist was either. We had to sign a nondisclosure agreement on the first day, which was interesting,” Kirk Smothers recalled.
The horns still put Memphis into the records, bringing back a sound that’s known and loved by many.
That’s because the songs were recorded the same way and using the same mic legendary producer Willie Mitchell used to work with Al Green, Ann Peebles and others.
“We are bringing a Memphis thing to it because of where we are cutting, and this place (Royal Studios) is a mecca of soul music,” said Kirk Smothers.
And that’s the sound Bruno Mars wanted.
Silk Sonic is recreating classic soul music with the help of the soul and R&B of Memphis and Royal Studios.
“This project has been a huge blessing to me..to the rest of the guys and another cool thing for Memphis,” Mitchell said.
The album “An Evening with Silk Sonic” debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart.