In this first episode of #OffTheRecord, we are joined by Chuck Ainlay, the music producer, recording engineer and mixer known for his Grammy-winning and multi-platinum-selling work with iconic acts like Peter Frampton, Dire Straits and Taylor Swift.
In this conversation, Chuck reveals how a personal recommendation from Nashville steel player Paul Franklin helped him land the dream gig of working with Dire Straits.
From what at first seemed like a rocky start, Chuck would go on to build a deep and productive creative partnership and friendship with Mark Knopfler, with the two working together across multiple solo projects over the years. This is the moment where it all began.
They were like the biggest band in the world at the time. I mean, they had had the biggest album ever. They had had the biggest tour ever. And this was like the next album. So pretty intense for me.
I was working on a record here in Nashville. It was behind schedule and I get a phone call. I pick up the phone and it’s, this guy’s got like this really extravagant English accent. But I thought it was a friend kind of playing a prank on me, you know? And I said, listen, I’m too busy now, you’ll have to call back later. And hung up.
I get home that evening and my wife goes, um, did Dire Straits management call you? And I was like, oh no, are you kidding me? Fortunately they called back the next day and off I went to London. Mark had been in Nashville and made a record with Paul Franklin, who’s widely considered the best steel player ever.
He had said, well, if we’re going to put Dire Straits back together, I want Paul involved in this record. So he basically went to Paul and he said, you know, who’s great in Nashville? And Paul said, we should get Chuck. That’s why I always say the musicians are your best friends, so you have to be very kind to them when you’re making records.