Mike Roberts is a mixing engineer based out of his personal studio in Upstate New York.
Mike has worked for a variety of artists on all of the major labels, as well as some independent projects.
His records have been heard around the world, have gone #1 on iTunes, topped the Billboard 200, Hot 100, and have been featured in the music industry’s most popular magazines and media.
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Interview with Mike Roberts
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: My set-up is pretty simple. Lately I've been 100% in the box, just because it's so much easier for me to recall sessions and easily be able to open up a project for edits, etc. When building my studio the main focus was to have a nice sounding room, because no matter what gear you have, it means nothing if the room isn't treated correctly.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: Once I receive a session I'll usually have my assistant take it to clean up, organize and make sure all of the files are correct and working properly. After the initial clean-up, the process varies for every song. I like to listen to the song a lot first. Sometimes a couple hours go by and I've only adjusted a few things. I want to really get-to-know the song well, which takes time. Once I feel comfortable with it and listened a bunch, I usually go after getting a nice lead vocal sound first, then tackle things in whatever order is important. The entire mixing process takes usually one day to mix the song, then a day or two later I'll go back with fresh ears, make some more adjustments, then send a version to the client for edits. Staying fresh is very important, I usually work on a few different songs throughout the day.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: Like any one else involved in a song, I bring another set of ears and expertise. To make a song great, you need great people. A great writer, great producer, great performances, great recording, mixing, mastering... the list goes on. Each person should be the best they can be, at their specific duty. I bring great expertise to the table to pick out and notice things perhaps someone else hasn't yet.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: I like to find and bring out the best in a song, then finish it. That can be sonically or even an emotion, vibe, etc. I've seen many clients come to me with tons of tracks, with a burnt out attitude like "I just don't know what to do with it all any more." That's when I like to strip things down and find where the foundation and important values are in the song. I can't tell you the amount of times a session started out with 100+ tracks and the final mix went out with 30. Creating a song is easy, actually finishing it is the difficult part... I get you to the finish line.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I mostly work on pop music. Lately I've been doing more indie-pop and independent records that have more freedom to be unique and edgy.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Simplicity is usually the answer. I've seen lot of producers hit a wall and end up adding more to try and fix something. If you are searching for a sound and aren't achieving it, just adding more ingredients in the pot usually won't make it any better, just crowded. Taking things away can make just as big a difference as opposed to adding more.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I like clean, prominent vocals. I want to make sure every note is heard and lyric is understood. I like things to be clean and open rather than just a pile of sound overlapping each other. Each sound should have it's own place.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I've been working professionally in music since I was in high-school. I graduated early in a hungry effort to get to the Berklee College of Music, where I did a few semesters before leaving college to commit full time to mixing. I focused a lot of time with a small team while we developed an artist that was later signed to a major. Along the way I have been blessed to work with many industry greats, professional idols of mine and worldly known artists on both the east and west coasts. My main focus has always been mixing records and I've been doing it for years.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Gear makes no difference to me. I've tried it all – owned the best, the expensive, the cheap... and at the end of the day I found it really doesn't matter. I've mixed records with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and I've mixed records on a laptop and headphones in an airport lounge and in many cases the latter was more successful.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Making an album is a long process. The ones you create it with are going to be your musical family so be sure you like them all and have a nice relationship between all parties. Having respect for each person's duty and knowledge is very important.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: I usually ask how happy they are with the rough mix, what they like and don't about what they've done so far. I don't like to re-invent the wheel. I don't start things over from scratch by zero-ing out faders and taking away what has already been done. I simply just take what the producer has made and then push it to the next level. Most artists/producers have been listening to and working on the record for a long time, so I want us to be on the same page when it's handed off to me.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: That I can fix anything and make a bad song sound good. Notice I said the word "song" – which is the most important part. The sonic quality is easy to achieve, but the song itself must be great. No amount of mixing can change the writing of a bad song.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: What is your rate and how many revisions... Each song is different, which is why I like to listen and get to know as much information about the project before committing to a rate. If I really enjoy a project and share the same vision as the artist, I will almost always work with them until we get a fair rate within their budget. When it comes to revisions and edits, I don't keep track or charge extra... let's just make a great record.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I love to create things that I can go back to listen and be proud of what I helped put together.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I like to get things right. It doesn't really matter to me what that entails. We will make the song great, have it feel right and not worry on what path we need to take to get there.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: In most cases, digital. Mostly because the edit process can take a long time and I'm usually working on many different projects in a given week. Being able to instantly open up and recall something is very convenient.
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: "Betty Who" was originally the title of a song a friend of mine wrote and sang in my apartment's closet "studio" in college. It ended up being the artist's name and I helped shape the sonic image from day one up until signing with RCA records. It's been so fulfilling to see the process of developing an artist and I am incredibly proud of the milestones we have hit along the way with songs I have mixed.