Making the world a better place, one song at a time
I am a multi instrumentalist who has played on many records and TV shows, helped many top producers by doing additional production, laid a lot of cool beats and music down for remixers to play with, and I have learned a lot along the way.
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Interview with Kim Bullard
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Most of what I do would be put under the umbrella of sweetening, with a sub category of arranging. Taking your basic ideas and making them sound better, more complete, which sometimes means restructuring the song, lyrics and melody included.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: wow… so many. My mentors early on for studio work were Robbie B, Greg Phillanganes, and Micheal Boddiker. The newer school guys would be my friends Greg Wells and Greg Kurstin, because they are well rounded musicians that approach the work holistically; meaning, they can bring whatever is needed.. they bring a wide skill set, which is more of what I do.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I have a full facility that includes a live room with 12’ high ceilings. I record through vintage Neve 1073 preamps, API 550a’s, a wide selection of Neuman mics, a Yamaha C-7 grand piano, a Ray Charles Wurlitzer 140 tube electric piano, a very special Hammond, some analog keyboards, vintage guitars, etc. I use Logic and Protools, with a full compliment of plug ins and the Universal Audio interface. I monitor with NS-10’s with a Macintosh tube amp, a pair of JBL’s, and some large ATC’s.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: First, I will speak with a client to make sure I believe I can bring something to the project. I want to manage my commitments to be sure i can bring my ‘A game’ to whatever I do. I will receive files, and then start working on it. There is really no short cut. I will try many different ideas until something pops. Once I am happy with it, I’ll make a bounce and send it off. If I am happy, I have found that the client is usually happy.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: The ultimate support. I believe in being of service to the song, whatever that looks like. Sometimes that is doing a lot less, getting out of the way, so the song can breath, sometimes it is heavy lifting.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: A lot of experience, which makes it easy to eliminate ideas that don’t work.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: A pretty wide range, but leaning towards pop songs with a twist, alt pop. I prefer to work with artists that have something to say, that are good writers.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: On the production/arrangement side: get the vocal first… Have everything be serving the vocal and it will help your decisions. As engineer: the high pass filter is your friend. Overall, and conceptually (its an old one): ‘less is more.’ if you can make it work with less, that is usually a good thing.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: The ultimate artist to work with would be Max Martin. I call him an artist because he is. I want that focus to rub off on me. I have done a few things with Lady Gaga, and I would like to work with her more because I like where she is coming from. She has a strong vision, is looking at the big picture like I tend to do, but at her core she is a musician, one of the guys (so to speak) so its easy to communicate. I like artists who really PERFORM, and she performs a song, she doesn’t just sing it. We can engineer things beautifully, but there is no button that makes an average performance a great performance. The artist has to bring that. Regarding new guys, I like Anderson Paak… He is bringing more than the average musicality to hiphop. I would love to do some string arrangements for him. I would love to work with James Blake, but I don’t think I could bring that much to what he does. I would want to work with him just to be close to the process. I would love to work with Miley Cyrus in a recording / writing setting… hear me out on this, not to be disrespectful, she is a bit all over the place. She is country, she is rock, she is huge-ass pop…in a way, she is undefined. In that regard, it would be fun to collaborate with her because someone like me could add a lot to what she does, we could go a lot of different places. Plus she is sharp, fun, and absolutely fearless. I also like her mom, so I know it would be a good hang. Haha!
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Sensitive to the song, striving to be universally appealing yet original, not typical.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I played live in many, many bands as a keyboard player. Then started working on recordings. As the keyboard guy on a session, naturally, a lot of arrangement duties fell in my lap. Doing a good job with this pleased producers I was working with, so they kept me around. I had some high profile studio gigs that I did well at, which made other people trust that I knew what i was doing, so more work came. I have always been fascinated by the recording process, with what makes a record great, so when I was privileged enough to work with top producers and engineers, I paid attention and asked a lot of questions. I was lucky enough to be mentored by truly remarkable, talented people, who have recorded some of the best records of all time. I broadened my skillset. Consequently, I had many clients that only knew me as an engineer, others who only knew me as a B-3 player, others who only knew me as ‘that beat guy,’ and many who knew me as a songwriter/producer/studio owner. To come full circle, the majority of my time currently is spent playing live in a band again. Life is funny that way.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: 5 pieces of gear 1. I have an older original black face 1176 that likely has diminished electronics in it, but sounds perfect to me.. it adds just the right magic. Everything sounds like a ‘record’ that goes through that. 2. My original telefunken U47 chrome-top mic, with a glue capsule. Again, magic. Sounds great on most anyone or anything. 3. Hammond C-3 with Bill Byers modifications. Its a beautiful beast. 4. 1962 Epiphone Casino guitar. It has a lot of music in it… it really does speak to you when you play it. Its the Beatle guitar. 5. laptop with interfaces… because you have to record to something
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Take the music as far as you can FIRST. Push yourself, and really get a feel for where it is you are going. This will make the collaboration much more fun for you. And always remember the most important thing is having a good song. Unless you are coming to me as a collaborative songwriter, that’s a different story. If that is the case, hit me with ideas, and we will MAKE it great. But if not, be sure you have put enough effort in to writing the song before you start producing things up around it. I disagree with some, and profess that production CAN actually save a nothing song, and turn it into something cool… but you are better off to start with a good song. Then, it only gets better.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: Goals, timeline, expectation.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: That you hit some sort of magic button and music just pops out; that this work is easy.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: Q. When can you do the next song? A. soon
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: The immersion, the sweet obsession to get it right. I get lost in that, and it becomes a form of meditation. I love solving the puzzle, cracking the code, and giving birth to something beautiful. This has its own reward.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I will put my all into your project. I don’t know any other way to do my work.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Analog limiting and compression… it just responds differently. Analog hammond and wurlitzer. It’s alive. You can feel the air around the sound. Digital most everything else for convenience and recall.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: I’m new to the platform, so can’t recommend right now.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Some productions with various songwriters, as well as touring as the keyboard player in the Elton John Band.
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I’m especially proud of a Broadway musical I worked on with Elton. He would write the basic chords and melody, and for quite a few of the numbers, I would build the entire production on my own, fully orchestrated, and be able to present him with something he was excited about within a very fast turn around time. I am proud of it because it was extremely challenging work, and it turned out great. That I could add meaningful value to a song that one of the best recording artists of all time created was immensely satisfying.