* Recipient of the B.E.A.M. grant for upcoming songwriters for the state of California in 2000. * 20+ years as a professional performing musician and recording artist * Certified Pro Tools recording engineer
If you are a singer or a singer/songwriter needing to put together a single, demo or larger collection of songs and you want a low-pressure, transparent and fun recording experience, I'm the person for the job. I can take your rough vocal melody ideas or chord progressions and flesh them out for full band arrangement. I play guitar, keyboards, harmonica, bass, mandolin, cuatro, and drums in addition to being able to arrange for string ensembles.
I was born into a music family and have been a fan of many types of music for my entire life. I bring this respect and love for music to my productions. I want to help you create music that you can be proud of and music that will inspire the next generation of musicians.
Beginners are welcome!
Would love to hear from you. Click the contact button above to get in touch.
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Interview with J.Christopher Thomas
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I worked on the 6-song EP "The World and Everything in it" with my current/former band "The Junes" I played guitar in the band but was a co-producer for the band before I knew what that actually was. The songs were given to me as tape recorder recordings of just the singer singing live and accompanying herself on guitar. I fleshed out the songs on my 4-track for a full band arrangement --including adding virtual strings, playing harmonica, slide guitar, keyboards and creating ambient effects with a double neck guitar set to only let the sympathetic strings ring out. I also brought in a bassist and an engineer I knew who could capture the sound. The resulting EP landed the band a recording contract
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I just finished a single for my personal project, Who's Judith. (www.whosjudith.com) It is a pop/rock duo of myself and singer/songwriter Olivia Clayton who was my first client many years ago. After another EP a few years after we initially met, two singles and a handful of live gigs as her accompanist we agreed that I would officially join as a member of the duo.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Digital because analog can be fairly accurately replicated
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I will listen, communicate and do my best to deliver a product they can be proud of in a timely manner
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Of course, its great when a client trusts me with their music--an act that can leave them quite vulnerable. Its even better when I return it to them and they feel I've done right by them and the music
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: What is your background? I tell them I have 20+ years real world experience in bands; playing live, recording, touring, etc. I can probably relate to whatever issues they have and what things they want to accomplish
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: That its just a matter of pushing the "sound good" button to make what they do sound good. Its a lot of work and some of it can be tedious.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What are you looking to do and how do you want it to sound?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Think about what you want to accomplish and be as clear about your vision as you can. If need be, I've gotten good results with clients having me listen to other artists like Depeche Mode or Brandi Carlile to get an idea of the type of music they want to do or the way they want their music to sound
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: My computer, My Ibanez RG, My Midi controller, My iPad and my interface
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I've been performing and recording since 1992. I grew up in a musical family and could dabble on various instruments as a child but after high school when I made a crude recording using my double cassette player and my friends were "pleasantly surprised" that it didnt totally suck I set my sights on getting better as a musician. I moved to San Francisco in 1992 to pursue a career in music. I performed in a 5-piece hardcore/metal band, a prog rock power trio (ala "Rush") but found my musical home when I formed a pop/rock band in 1995/1996. Since then my music has gravitated to pop/rock music--whether its singer/songwriter, electronic or Americana-influenced.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: My musical style can be minimalistic when called for but also very full when need be. I tend towards mid-slower tempo music but can work in any tempo
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I would love to work with Daniel Lanois because I love his work with U2. He took a band that has a unique sound and maximized it without trying to change their sound. I also really like his solo work. Its very presnt and yet very ambient at the same time
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: As much as possible I try to incorporate the top line into the accompanying chords. It usually sounds different from the original accompaniment I'm given--more fleshed out--but its not so different that the client rejects it.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Singer-songwriter Folk-Rock/Americana
Q: What's your strongest skill?
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I got into engineering because the music in my head, which was formed by growing up in a black family influenced by 70s/80s black R&B and then discovering Pink Floyd in my teens which opened my mind to everything from hard rock, prog rock, classical, blues and jazz--this music in my head is unique to me and over the years engineers rarely captured it effectively--which compelled me to learn how to capture the sound myself. I imagine other budding artists feel the same way and I can relate to that and am sensitive to it. I wont tell a client how the song "should" sound or how they "should" play it; I listen and let them tell me how it should sound and then offer my suggestions on how to get that result while trying to make the song as appealing to a large audience as possible.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I learn the song either via charts provided by the client or by learning the songs by ear. I transfer the block chords to piano to lay down a scratch foundation (recorded to a click) From there I add bass and once bass, a rudimentary backbeat and the block chords are laid down I can experiment with how to arrange the song--i.e what instruments I think it might need.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I am certified in Pro Tools and have a Pro Tools 12 home set up with a suite of plug ins from Waves and Slate Digital among others but am also certified in Garageband as well. I also employ a Yamaha portable 16-track recorder for remote recordings, a Neuman TLM-102 condenser mic and various Audio-Technica mics. I use in-the-box virtual synth and piano sounds from Spitfire Audio, Native Instruments, Arcade & Output among others. For real instruments I use an Ibanez PGMM, a deluxe Ibanez RG421 with custom pickups, a Fender Deluxe Strat, A Yamaha RBX bass and various acoustic instruments --1970's Hummingbird acoustic guitar, an Ibanez piccolo guitar a mandolin, a cuatro and a ukelele. I use mostly modeled amps but do own a Vox AD50VT 1x12 and a Line 6 Spider III.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Daniel Lanois, Rick Beato, Jacquire King, Oakfelder
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Most often singers who aren't proficient with playing an instrument come to me with rudimentary accompaniment (either on guitar or sometimes piano) to their vocal top line and I take the chord progression and use it as the foundation to create a full band arrangement. Assuming the person intends to just keep the arrangement simple I can usually accompany them on guitar or piano better than they can themselves which frees them up to focus on delivering the best vocal performance they can