Music, sound, vibe and vision: collaborating with independent artists on conceiving and fulfilling their creation
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Interview with Funky Butter Productions
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I'm currently working on the third album I've produced for songstress Grace McLean, as well as producing and mixing an album by the writer of the "Despicable Me" series. Recently I recorded on the original cast recording for the Broadway show "Dear Evan Hansen", and performed alongside Sting, James Taylor and Bruce Springsteen at the biennial Rainforest Fund benefit at Carnegie Hall.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Marc Plotkin is a phenomenal multi-hyphenate and hipped me to the platform. I've played sessions and done arrangements for him, and his entrepreneurial spirit is constantly attuned to connecting people and ideas in powerful ways.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Both. As Brian Eno says: “Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit - all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.” Both analog and digital technology have a lot to offer, and knowing when to use which paintbrush is the artist's craft.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: To begin with… everything.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What is your vision for the project? Who do you want to hear this music, and how do you hope it moves them? What is the long-term trajectory for your music? Where do you want it to land?
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I started as a freelance musician in New York City while in college and for 10-odd years now I've made my living working for and collaborating with artists as a session musician, hired gun, and producer/MD. The high profile gigs are always fun, but frequently it's independent projects, full of heart, that are most fulfilling.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Don't be afraid to be patient and detailed in working on one element of a song. The breakneck pace of deadlines can make us rush and gloss over things that otherwise deserve our attention, but sometimes setting aside a session or a day to explore on moment can pay long-term dividends for the song as a whole.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: I've spent my life training myself how to listen: how to listen to the implicit sounds in artists' demos that they may not have the words to express; how to listen to other musicians and complement their playing with my own; how to listen to and identify the most powerful parts of a song and frame them in ways that makes them most impactful.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: Remember the scene in Apollo 13 when they dump the items on a table and say, "this is what we have to work with?" I'm able to look at a song and identify, "here's what's really working", "here's what needs to be fixed", and "here's something we can develop to maximize the impact of this song."
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I take inspiration from creators with a broad holistic perspective of music, who fearlessly explore technology but are unafraid to human imperfections come into focus: artists such as Jon Brion, Meshell Ndegeocello, George Martin, Joni Mitchell, Quincy Jones.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: I work alongside artists at every stage of the production process, from co-writing songs, to arranging and orchestrating, to planning and producing live recording sessions, to polishing and mixing songs in and and out of the box.