Experienced multi-genre producer/mixer. Love working on projects ranging from lo-fi indie or acoustic to polished pop and hip hop.
Theo Aronson is a creative music professional with experience in the studio and at record labels. Dedicated to composing and producing original music, developing artists and creating compelling soundtracks for advertising campaigns, the diversity of his work reflects his deep and abiding passion for all things music.
His diverse music production credits include working with Todd Wolfe (Blues Leaf), Cymbals Eat Guitars (Barsuk), Jolie Holland (-ANTI), and Fort Lean (Big Deal/Ooh La La/Caroline). His original music has also been featured in national advertising campaigns for T-Mobile, Microsoft, and Walmart.
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Interview with Theo Aronson
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: People can forget as mixers/producers that we're trying to highlight and elevate the emotion in a production, I'm not just sending signal through fancy equipment or adding top/bottom end to tracks.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Don't just look at someone's discography. Interview multiple people, get on the phone and catch a vibe. It's important that whoever you hire understands your vision; even if you're not sure what you want and end up hiring someone to bring their own creativity to a song. Communication is everything.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: Paul McCartney, Beck, and Beyonce. They've all created a massively diverse body of work and are some of the most creative and interesting musicians alive imho. I also love Stone Temple Pilots and think the DeLeo brothers would be great to work with. Dean has always had interesting guitar tones and I've always loved his playing style.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Production & Arranging - I was a musician first, before I was a producer or mixer. Studying guitar and piano at an early age allowed me to build the musical foundation I use to help artists realize their production and songwriting goals. I love the technical side of producing and engineering, but if the song isn't arranged properly and fully realized as a composition, the greatest mixer in the world isn't going to make that a better production. It all starts and ends with THE SONG.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I'm a musician so I take a very musical approach to production. Even when engineering/tracking, I try to prioritize the song and performance vs worrying about what mic you're using on a snare drum.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: It always starts with a phone call to discuss the artist's and/or producer's song and vision. We usually create a playlist and share/e-mail some links to music references and talk about why they're relevant to the material. For new productions it usually starts with a rough demo (often an iPhone voice memo) > discuss arrangement and pre-production. Depending on genre I can begin building a track from our discussions or we start with tracking basics at the studio. For solo artists I tend to play on the recordings (guitar, bass, drums, programming, background vocals, etc). For bands its about tracking basics and getting the best performances from everyone whether cutting live or doing overdubs. We'll do a scratch vocal with track as a guide. Vocals usually happen last, I like singers to be able to perform to a nearly finished production.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: Mixing suite with large vocal booth and lounge. 32 channels of Lynx Aurora conversion running through Pro Tools HDX. Shadow Hills Equinox monitor and summing console. UAD Apollo. Compressors that usually get used on my mixes are the ADR Compex and Purple MC77. Inward Connections Brute compressor is a favorite and I use a lot of API mic pres when tracking.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Tchad Blake, Paul Epworth, Rick Rubin, Tom Elmhirst, George Martin, Paul McCartney, Michael Brauer, Tony Maserati, Jon Brion, Dave Jerden, Butch Walker...the list goes on!
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Rock music (indie, pop, hard rock). I love working on drum sounds and guitars but equally enjoy tuning 808s and EQing pop vocals.
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: Ziggy Alberts is most recent artist I've worked with. He's an incredibly talented singer-songwriter. Both songs were just riffs/sketches with lyrics and an iPhone voice memo. I produced entire song and it felt like a true collaboration. Ziggy sang and played acoustic guitar. I handled all other instrumentation and string arrangements which I always love doing.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Helping an artist or producer achieve the sound they hear in their head.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What's the song about and where were you (physically & emotionally) when you wrote it? What are you listening to right now and who are some similar artists you compare your material to? What should be our musical/sonic references?
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Shure SM7B mic > API 512 mic pre > UA 1176 > UAD Apollo > AMS RMX16 Digital Reverb (obviously not including MacBook Pro and instruments)
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I started assisting Eric Bazilian in his Philadelphia studio in 2000. In 2003 I moved to New York to go to NYU. I was moonlighting as a producer and composer for Film/TV through college and my first two jobs in the music business. In 2009 I opened my first studio in Brooklyn and went full-time as a producer/engineer.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Polished and commercial/radio ready. I approach things as a musician and producer first, even if I'm only mixing. I lean towards making things sound as big as possible without playing the loudness wars.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Pre-production is underrated. Don't press record until the song and arrangement is finished.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Producing, mixing, and engineering an entire song, but I also love just mixing someone else's production.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Finishing second track by Ziggy Alberts
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Depends on the record! I've done mixes ITB and on a console that I'm equally proud of. Typically I end up doing a hybrid setup with vocals and drums running through some outboard equipment and printing back into Pro Tools.