Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
I had the honor of Mastering the Haste The Day album "Coward". It is a hard hitting album that is gapless. This requires a lot of attention to detail. The label had a hard deadline that gave me a couple days to knock it out of the park. I was a newer mastering engineer for them so the pressure was on. I stayed true to my approach, my sound, and applied my experience. The result was, number one in rock on iTunes and charting in the top 50 on Billboard. This does not happen from a rock/metal band very often.
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
You will love what you get or I'll give you your money back. This has never happened.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
Whats your rate? Can you lower it?
My answer is usually, I can not lower my quality therefore I can not lower my rate. I do accept payment plans and credit cards.
What are you working on at the moment?
Mastering a CCM album and a Rock album.
Mastering a Rock album for vinyl.
Mastering songs for sync and licensing.
Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
Anyone that charges a high rate is probably worth working with. People that charge a professional rate, usually understand what they are worth and can usually provide the product they claim to. I run into a lot of clients who paid a low amount of money to cut corners in the mastering process only to be unsatisfied with the end product.
Analog or digital and why?
Both. Analog has strengths and Digital has strengths. Learning what those are and then applying them gives you a product thats unmatched. Learning your tools is the most important thing when it comes to analog and digital. Knowing how to listen to a song, tells me what to use. Whatever gets the best end result is what gets picked.
What do you like most about your job?
Being apart of creating something that didn't exist before. Seeing people fall in love with their songs again after hearing them mastered.
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
Masters don't have to be loud to sound loud on radio, tv, film, streaming.
Getting things loud is the last step in my process... it's also easy to make something loud if the rest of the process has been done properly.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
Can you send me the music first? I want to make sure I am a good fit and can knock it out of the park for you. I will pass on work and recommend someone else if I don't think its in my lane.
Whats your timeline and budget?
UPC Code (if needed)
Track Listing/(ISRC codes if needed)
Engineers, Producers, Songwriters, Performers (If Needed):
Is a DDP needed for physical pressings?
What formats are needed (WAV, Mp3 etc)?
Are Instrumentals needed?
What label is this being released under? (If no label, put independent):
Sonic references aka what do you want it to sound like, give me some albums you love:
What is most important, how loud it is, dynamics, a balance of both, commercial radio level?
Any hopes and dreams for the mastering process?
How can I help you understand this process better?
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
If you don't want to invest in yourself, don't expect anyone else to. Getting a professional sound takes time and resources. Anyone can make a good song. Very few can make great songs. I have watched amateurs for years try to charge next to nothing only to watch the client and themselves feel burnt out and undervalued. Music is a team effort and requires give and take. Things that are of worth in the music industry cost money. I can give you something of value.
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
My Monitors, Interface, Overstayer MAS, Black Lion Audio AM/CHA 1 EQ, Elysia Compressor.
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I have been doing this for 7 years. I have been thru the band side of things, artist development, production, songwriting, mixing, and now mastering.
I am a alumnus of Mix with the Masters 2013, where I was selected as one of 14 candidates worldwide to study in France under Joe Barresi (Tool, Chevelle, Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden). As well as shadowing with Erik Nelson (Bobby Valentino, JoJo, Boys 2 Men, R. Kelly). I also produced for Silver Medallion on Get Right Records owned by the world famous DJ Benzi (Diplo, Mike Posner, Hyper Crush).
My work has been featured on Billboard Charts multiple times as well as landing number 1 spots on iTunes charts.
I currently partner with Hartwell Studios with Michael Hughes (Kelly Pickler, Jana Kramer).
How would you describe your style?
Details. Its all about the details. Amateurs stop at 90% because they feel like its good enough. Professionals go the extra 10% to make the song stand out.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
I would love to work with Jimmy Eat World. They have always stayed in their lane as artist's and its paid off over time. They truly love to create and seem to understand that being yourself and being honest in music can work.
Can you share one music production tip?
Perfect is a moving target.
What type of music do you usually work on?
EDM, Pop, Rock, Electronic, Country, Rap, Hip-Hop, CCM.
What's your strongest skill?
Listening and understanding how to translate the clients vision and hopes and dreams into a master.
What do you bring to a song?
Here are three testimonies from my clients.
"Sam has an incredible ear and attention to detail, as every great mastering engineer should. But where Sam excels is his desire to give the music everything he has and his ability to connect with the artist to make a musical master that serves the greater purpose of the record".
- Paul Moak (Joy Williams, Mat Kearney, Lovedrug, The Weeks)
"Working with Sam on Coward was great! He really brought our record to life, and worked well with a crazy deadline. It was an honor to work with someone so talented".
- Stephen Keech (Haste The Day)
"We had such a wonderful time working with Sam on our record. We were able to come in and listen to the masters in his studio. His work is second to none, he delivered well above our expectations and I would recommend him to anyone who wants a mastering engineer that actually cares".
- The Ember Days
What's your typical work process?
Listening. I always spend time listening to everything in different environments. Listening tells me what to do and what signal chain to take. I always prep my sessions a day before I work on them. I like to get the detail work, inputs and output all set up and out of the way so I can focus strictly on being creative the next day. When it comes time to mix and master, thats all I want to focus on. I don't want to focus on labeling, patching, etc.
Tell us about your studio setup.
I have a custom home studio for mixing/mastering and I also partner with Hartwell Studios, which is a full service recording studio featuring a Carl Tatz design and a custom Soundcraft/API console for a totally unique sound.
Ears and experience.
2 Channel Overstayer MAS for Mastering
2 Ch Aurora Audio GTQ-2 1073
2 Ch Trident 80B
2 Ch vintage API 312, Brent Averill racked
2 Ch Black Lion Audio Mastering EQ AM/CHA 1
2 Ch Elysia Compressor
2 Blackface Urei 1176 Rev. F
Tube Tech PE-1C
SSL Compressor Modded-Clone
4 Ch vintage Loft Limiter
2 Ch Green Machine Compressor
6 Ch vintage Yamaha EM-150 with Spring Reverb
Antelope Isochrone Master clock
Lynx Aurora A/D D/A converter
Tascam Professional Series CD burner
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
I am inspired by Dave Pensado. I adore Joe Barressi, CLA, Manny Marroquin, and Andrew Scheps as far as mixing goes. Mastering Engineers, I really enjoy Dave Kutch and Tom Coyne.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
I master for artists ranging from indie to major label (Capitol, Warner, Tooth & Nail, Solid State).