What's your 'promise' to your clients?
My promise is that I guarantee I will deliver you something that I think sounds great! I will not deliver anything to you that I am not satisfied listening to. I will do my best to make sure it caters to your musical aspirations and stylistic preferences as well.
What do you like most about your job?
When some unexpected magic happens. I love when people suddenly have a spark of creativity and come up with something unique for a song or when a happy accident happens, and everyone really loves the result.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
"Can you fix ______?" (Usually referring to a bad drum fill, out of tune bass note, harsh vocal, etc.)
My answer, "Yes."
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
I think most people expect that an audio engineer is supposed to push this botton, turn that knob, and make magic out of whatever has been played. What I do most is listen. If I'm tracking and a kick drum doesn't sound right, I don't reach for an eq, compressor, or any knob for that matter. I re-tune the kick drum and/or move a microphone, or switch microphones. Microphones are just the ears. The source is what makes the sound. My job is to make it sound in the control room like it sounds in the live room.
When it comes to mixing, contrary to what a lot of people say, I do think some things can be fixed in the mix. I don't think everything can, but there are some tricks to making everything sound "musical," which is the real goal, isn't it?
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
I usually start by asking about budget, musical style, length of the project, and client expectations.
Analog or digital and why?
I work in digital, but I LOVE the vibe of working with analog. I've worked on tape, and it's a tactile and patient experience that often leads to more musical results (Using your ears instead of your eyes on a computer screen.) Analog isn't dead, but it is expensive and nowadays is unnecessary. There are so many ways to emulate analog with astonishing results now that I don't worry about being "all analog." I do aim towards that vibe though with regards to how I conduct a session and how I mix.
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Reach out and don't be afraid to ask questions. Music is an art not a science and you just have to take a chance that when you work with someone, they're going to get you a result you love. If not, work with someone else next time, but don't be afraid to take a chance and be, as I said earlier, "pleasantly surprised!"
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
Well, I wouldn't have electricity, so this is a ridiculous question... But if I had electricity, I'd want my Beeznees Arabella and a Shure SM57. Then I'd want my 500 rack with Rupert Neve Designs pres, Chandler pres, and Ruper Neve tape emulators. (Does that one count as one piece of gear?) Then I'd want my Neve 8816 summing mixer and Antelope Orion converter. I guess that's 5.... I always hate these questions. I want ALL of my gear!
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I have been a guitarist, singer, and songwriter myself for 15 years. Ever since I started writing music, I started trying to figure out how to record myself, using whatever DAW or tape recorder and crap microphone I could find as a kid. Then I got the opportunity to study music production and engineering at Berklee College of Music, and I jumped at the chance. I've been recording everyone I can ever since, which has been about 5 years since graduating.
How would you describe your style?
I tend to lean towards warmer tones that breathe instead of hard, loud, and bright sounds. I'd say that I've got an "analog" ear in a digital world.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Eddie Vedder, Pete Townshend, Tom Petty, Crosby Still Nash and Young... As I see it, these guys have more soul in their pinkies than I can conjure up in my whole body, and I would LOVE for that to rub off on me a bit. Plus, I just can't get enough of their music!
Can you share one music production tip?
Go into a project with a vision and come out of it being pleasantly surprised. By that I mean, have a goal, but don't be afraid to try something new, and don't be too stubborn. That applies on either side of the glass, artist and producer/engineer alike. Just like life, plans get you going in the right direction, but you'll find amazing things when you take the side roads instead of the highway.
What type of music do you usually work on?
I do mainly "player" oriented popular music styles from americana and country to pop, rock, and blues. I dabble in electronic music as well and am happy to work on other styles.
What's your strongest skill?
I think my ability to take an artists vision and enhance is as opposed to interfere with it is my greatest skill. I don't go into a project trying to make anyone sound like ME. I DO have a sound when it comes to mixing, and that's just a result of my instincts, influences, and lastly, the gear I use, but the artist is always the customer and the customer is always right.
What do you bring to a song?
I love to make a track FEEL alive, and not just be a collection of notes organized in time. I'm both a purist and an instinct engineer. I'm not sure if the term "engineer" is really accurate for what I do. I approach audio engineering more as an art form than a science, and my goal is not to just hear the track, but "see" the track when all is said and done. If I can close my eyes and be really IN THE MUSIC, I know I've done my job well.
What's your typical work process?
I'm a big fan of organization and pre-emptive planning. I prefer to start by discussing what an artists expectations are, then discuss my expectations, and put a strategy together to make sure the project is completed efficiently and satisfactorily. I prefer to have an artist provide musical references and ask them about their "vision" for the tracks being worked on. When tracking, my goal is to make whatever I hear in the live room be what I hear in the control room. As for my mixing technique, I tend to throw faders up and just listen to the track for a bit at first, to get a feel for the song's "story." I then proceed to make any edits or comps that are necessary, and then I begin dynamic processing, eq, and creating ambience where necessary to bring the track to life.
Tell us about your studio setup.
I work out of my home studio, which has a live room with two isolation booths, and a guitar amp booth. My current setup includes JBL LSR4328 and Adam A7x speakers (which I'm looking to upgrade to Trident HG3s), a Neve 8816 summing mixer as a centerpiece, and a plethora of world class preamps and microphones. My mixing is all done hybrid in and out of the box, with outboard analog processing and digital fader controllers.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
When I'm not working on music, I tend to listen to classic rock, 90s rock, and acoustic styles to include The Beatles, The Who, Rolling Stones, Oasis, Pearl Jam, John Mayer, etc. I've always enjoyed working on other styles of music, and sometimes I find I can be more objective with other genres. As for production professionals, I've been lucky to befriend and work with such people as grammy winning engineer, Joe Ferla (John Mayer, Van Morrison, Pat Metheny, Esperanza Spalding, Norah Jones, etc.) and Matthew Ellard (Radiohead, Weezer, Black Sabbath, etc.), and they taught me a LOT of what I know about music production.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
I do a lot of tracking and mixing for Americana and Rock artists/bands, recording vocal, guitar, keyboard, bass, drum overdubs, and editing, including melodyne, drum edits, quantizing, comping, etc. I also do a bit of post-production work for short films, concert videos, and music videos.