Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done

A picture of Molly Lewis

Molly Lewis

Songwriter, ukulelist, podcaster

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Molly Lewis. No one has ever put a hat on my head and said "this is your job" so I just keep trying on hats: I'm a songwriter / ukulelist (if that's a word) / YouTuber / illustrator / podcaster / Twitch streamer / hyphenate. I'm not sure if none of the hats fit, or if I just really like collecting hats.

Each hat comes with its own tech kit, a fact which has made this interview very difficult to sort out. This is the operational kit as of September 2018, but the landscape is shifting constantly.

Currently I'm running a Patreon on my own behalf, where I'm previewing original songs before they hit my YouTube. I'm also the producer & host of Peanuts Gallery, a podcast where me & my pal Josh A. Cagan revisit the Charlie Brown / Peanuts animated primetime specials chronologically.

What hardware do you use?

Ho boy I sure do have a lot of different gizmos. My partner & I tend to surround ourselves with tech in the same way a bird gathers shiny plastic garbage for their nest / mating display / etc. So, I own & have used more tech than is listed here, but this is the stuff I'm currently using / on a first name basis with.

Overall I use a 15" 2013 MacBook Pro for most of my production, and am generationally bought into the Apple walled garden of products (starting with a hand-me-down Newton from my dad all the way back in the 1990s). There is also an Alienware PC laptop that I've borrowed from my partner for gaming/streaming & refuse to understand any further.

VIDEO

For any video I generally use an iPhone 6S Plus, often with a Moment wide angle lens on it. I occasionally use an Osmo Mobile gimbal for stabilization, but usually I can't be arsed to pack it – it feels like a selfie stick with something to prove. With the iPhone I can AirDrop footage straight to my laptop to edit, it's the BEST.

In special cases I've used micro4/3 cameras to shoot video, specifically the Olympus E-P2 & Panasonic DMC-G5 bodies, with a 14-42mm Panasonic Lumix G Vario lens (which is basically a pancake lens that can also zoom, it's perfect). I have a real soft spot for the E-P2, and I'd use them more but I hate juggling SD cards when there's a perfectly good iPhone camera sitting right there.

I do also have a Ricoh Theta V camera, for spherical video, and the attendant Ricoh TA-1 microphone that Audio Technica made, for spherical sound. Those almost exclusively live on a Vanguard VEO AM-264TR monopod. It's maybe the most excited I've ever been about a camera, except maybe the Game Boy Camera.

AUDIO

My main music microphones are a stereo pair of Ear Trumpet Edwina condensers - their names are Gred and Forge.

This gets pumped into my Mac through a FocusRite 18i8 interface (sometimes a 2i2). I'm still not totally sure what the FocusRite has 18 or 8 of, I rarely use about more than 3 inputs at a time. I have a pair of M-Audio BXS reference monitors in a closet that I also refuse to understand, but should probably plug those into the FocusRite at some point.

My podcast microphone of choice is an Audio Technica 2035, which I found through Tested's breakdown of their podcast kit.

For both podcast/live music recordings I use a Zoom H6. Sometimes I snake aforementioned mics into it, sometimes I use the little microphone nodules it comes with. It's also a great XLR-USB interface to your computer when traveling (she said, having learned this well after she already bought it).

This is all assuming that I can be arsed to pack a tech bag. For as long as I've been doing this, I've been perfectly happy with the audio/video quality on the camera built into my most current Apple device, and have only ever upgraded my technical setup because I'm told that it would seem more professional, i.e. other people appreciate a difference that I don't notice. I tend to angle for the simplest / most idiot-proof setup possible, and anything else tends to feel like calculus.

INSTRUMENTS

I have a lot of instruments. I haven't made public-facing things with most of them yet though, which means I don't have to itemize them here, Hooray!

The non-ukulele sounds that are asked after the most are the Suzuki Omnichord & the Stylophone Pocket Synth. These are VERY FUN & I'd recommend them to anybody.

I will itemize all my ukuleles, but these are the main ones:

For recording I have a custom MyaMoe concert ukulele. This used to be my touring uke also, but then the top wood fractured along the grain while inside its case - the good folks at MyaMoe replaced the top with a less brittle wood, & it's retired from the road.

My main performing ukulele these days is a Blackbird Clara tenor ukulele. It's molded out of some linen composite that is similar to wood acoustically, but humidity neutral. The guy in the store I bought it from told me I could leave it in a hot car without a problem. To charge its pickup it comes with an absolutely demonic-looking power wort that is AC plug on one end and 1/4" instrument cable on the other. Other musicians who see it think it's cursed.

Here is a list of all my ukuleles (that I know of), alphabetically.

  • Blackbird Clara tenor
  • Kala tenor (basic)
  • Kala baritone (basic)
  • Kala travel-sized soprano
  • Kala UBass bass
  • Magic Fluke™ Flea soprano (w/ pickup)
  • Magic Fluke™ Fluke concert (FIRST)
  • Magic Fluke™ Firefly banjolele
  • Maxitone antique banjolele (almost 100 years old)
  • Mya-Moe concert (custom)
  • Mya-Moe 6-string baritone (custom)
  • Ohana soprano ukulele (pear-shaped)
  • Ohana concert ukulele, brown
  • Ohana concert ukulele, orange (on loan to a friend)
  • RISA TE tenor electric ukulele (newest)
  • Junky blue plastic soprano ukulele (party favor from JoCo Cruise 2017, everybody on the ship got one)

And what software?

I edit my video in Final Cut Pro & my podcasts in Logic Pro X. (I no longer edit my own songs, because that is a process unending.) To capture audio clips for my podcast I use Piezo by Rogue Amoeba. I use Notability on an iPad w/ a Pencil to make all my video thumbnails of late.

For songwriting I have always used Evernote, because Evernote lets you record voice memos in line with the text, and tag notes. I have never used Evernote for anything else & literally can't imagine songwriting without it.

I'm also, at any moment, using about 8 different personal org / task management apps at a time. It would be both tangential and boring to talk about that here, but tweet me at @molly23 if you wanna ask about those.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup would include someone on retainer to buy the tech, plug it all in & troubleshoot it for me.

I don't know what CDZA's setup actually was, but the most attractive thing to me is how tidy & unencumbered it was, and how the musicians seemed fairly free to move. I'm sure there was a headache-inducing amount of planning involved though.

I also really love the freedom that comes with working out of my home but it would be really lovely if I didn't have to store all my recording gear & these 15+ ukuleles in my allotted closet. A short commute between my home and a studio space would be really nice for maintaining some kinda work-life separation, even if that means parking an Airstream in my yard & filling it with ukuleles.