I've been told I "can play anything". I don't say that, but I DO say I'm good at "getting it right" - adding the right sound and feel to a song, if left to my own devices. People trust me to bring them something good, something right. I've been doing what I do, for a long, long time. I love it, and I think people get that. Check my credits please.
I play piano, electric piano, organ, synthesizers and synth bass; within those instrument "titles" I'm good at colouring in a large chunk of a recorded song. I always pay attention to the vocal, the melody, and other melodic and harmonic things going on within the song - the composition. For me, it's natural to respond to "what the vocal is doing" and what the vocal dictates. But, I don't play "safe" either, I enjoy the dance of finding that middle ground where there's respect for the song and the vocal, but there's also some risk of "over-doing things" as well - meaning, getting some spice in there! Within that process, I can "get things right" after repeated listening.
Contact me through the green button above and let's get to work.
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Interview with Sam McNally
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I co-produced a version of "Stairway To Heaven" for a Thai artist named Earthcollide in 2014. We attempted to honour the song as far as we possibly could, and we were toying with the idea of asking Jimmy Page to play the solo for us. But we couldn't sustain the courage re that idea and I asked my friend Randall Waller (formerly of Shania Twain's group for 7 years) to play and he did Jimmy's solo better than Jimmy. https://soundcloud.com/sammcnally/stairway-to-heaven-prod-mcnally-vidale-feat-earthcollide
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I've just done parts to two songs by the same songwriter - one for him (William Crighton) and another for his former co-writer and producer. Both songs happened to involve a pretty simple approach - electric piano, clavinet, Hammond.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: No, I only just found the site!!
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Both. I am much more interested in results and outcomes, than "gear talk" actually, I don't get much fun out of that stuff.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I will do my best.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Variety, surprises.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: 1. What do you think this might need? 2. Leave it with me.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: That I am going to be incredibly expensive, and/or difficult.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What are you looking for, how could I help you.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Use your instinct as least as much as any left-brain details and data process.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: A Casio PX-S3000 digital piano, a mint-condition Wurlitzer, a mint-condition Oberheim OB-8, a Mini-Moog and a small mixer.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I joined an Australian band named Stylus in 1974; by 1978 our third album was released by Motown in the US, an unheard of feat for a white, Australian act. We supported George Benson, Ike & Tina Turner, and Average White Band. I have worked with two dozen high profile artists since then, and countless lesser known artists. I have spent as much time recording, as I have spent on stages.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Medium bluesy and soul/funk- tinged contemporary keyboards .... always driven by what the song needs.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: Nora Jones. Don't know. She is just way cool.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Vocal first (if it's a vocal song), everything else second.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Melodic pop / contemporary pop, often with a soul / funk lilt, but not always.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: I would hope... "knowing what to do" without thinking about it too much. Some have said about me that I can "play anything!". I wouldn't choose that handle, but I CAN play "a lot of different things" because I've had a lot of experience at what I do (40+years).
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: Colour, life, harmonic richness, rhythm. A good keyboard part will often sit in the middle of a song / of a mix and "pull the other things together". If it's a ballad or something down-beat, the piano part (if that's what it is) is key to "creating the mood" and supporting the vocal. I always "support the vocal".
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: "Organic". I like a lot of time and space between "work flow" stretches. Time to get away and come back and have distance. I do NOT overthink things and use instinct a lot. I usually "get it" quickly and go with that. If I get stuck, which is rare, I will talk to the client, see what they're wanting, and move forward that way.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: My home studio set-up is "incredibly simple". I use ProTools and a MacBook. When budgets permit, I utilize third-party colleagues for EQ-ing and mastering and finalising tracks or (whole production) mixes.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: George Duke, Greg Phillinganes, Nathan East; Quincy Jones, Maurice White
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: I am usually asked to contribute "piano" or "keyboards"; it may be acoustic piano or electric piano, usually my choice; often it will be "whatever I hear" and I will contribute several keyboard parts. If I'm producing a song for an artist, I will have the options more so.