Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
I walked into a local art gallery with an idea to throw a concert. The director already had a series of charity concerts called Concerts For A Cause, so we joined forces. I threw a concert at which I played my original indie blues/rock tunes with a live band at the art gallery, and we raised $1500 for good causes. I wrote the music, handled promotion and fundraising, coordinated and practiced with musicians, and hosted the event.
What are you working on at the moment?
A singer is having me create an instrumental for her original song, record her vocals, and mix and master the result. A friend's play needs background music for a live production. A client needs piano reductions of songs for an original musical. A folk cover group wants recordings of their favorite tunes.
Analog or digital and why?
Digital is so powerful. Analog is beautiful and fussy and has character. I use them in tandem: DAW on my computer, digital recording interface, samples and synthesizers and midi; but I also record with a large diaphragm tube condenser mic, and I often send my recordings through a tube compressor.
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
I won't stop trying to make you happy until you are happy.
What do you like most about your job?
I've never tried anything that felt this good for this long. I worried about getting burned out by music when I started doing more and more, but I'm more inspired than ever.
I also love self-management and trying to grow a small business.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
"Can you do ____?" Usually, yes, and if not, I can help you bring in someone who can.
"How much does ____ cost?" It depends on what you want to do, but whatever your budget is, I would rather work something out then turn anyone away.
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
I do so much that it's hard for people to understand everything I do, or get a clear picture of what I offer.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
What are your favorite musicians? What moods do you want your music to evoke?
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
You don't have to know exactly what you want... but the more specific you can be when working together, about changes you want made, the easier the process becomes. If you want to record parts (singing or instrumental) make sure to practice at home and warm up before coming in.
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
Acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, accordion, portable recording device, and a crate of batteries. I'd record lofi sea shanties until I was rescued.
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I tried to relegate music to a hobby, and pursue other careers. Entrepeneurship, teaching. I succeeded at everything I tried, but felt empty, and kept returning to music. I can't stay away.
I started taking apart MIDI (digital sheet music) files on my computer when I was 14 and reverse-engineering them to understand how everything fit together, like a child tinkering with a clock and trying to put it back together. From there, I expanded into creating my own songs and teaching myself guitar, piano, bass, drums.
In college, I minored in music (UC Berkeley) where I took classes in classical theory, jazz theory, and musical perception. I also played bass in jazz bands and musical theater pit orchestras, played drums in choir concerts, and sang in gospel chorus. I studied abroad in Ghana, where I took classes in traditional African drumming, guitar, and modern African pop music.
Since college, I have been lucky to encounter some really great music gigs: playing bass with a jazz band, writing and recording original music for theater and musical theater, recording bands, and organizing and playing at charity concerts.
How would you describe your style?
Layered, deep, complex, shiny, bright, energetic
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
I would kill to watch will.i.am create an instrumental from scratch. His musical ideas and motifs are incredibly strong, but he takes a lot of risks as well.
Can you share one music production tip?
If a piece of music lacks contrast, it's forgettable. There are millions of ways to create ear-catching contrast.
What type of music do you usually work on?
I specialize in indie, pop, rock, alternative, jazz, soundtracks, ballads, blues, folk, bluegrass, country, and Americana.
What's your strongest skill?
I can create very catchy yet unique melodies quickly. I know a lot of music theory and play a lot of instruments, so I can create deep, layered songs.
What do you bring to a song?
Clients have told me they value the quality of my sounds, the clarity of my layered instruments, the energy and depth of my mixes, and the melodic and arrangement ideas I bring in when invited.
I've also been complimented that I'm quick, communicative, and reliable.
What's your typical work process?
I start by sketching melodic and arrangement ideas on piano. Then, I layer live recording (I'm a multi-instrumentalist) and electronic instruments (synthesizers and samples) to create soundscapes. Finally, I mix and master everything in-house.
Tell us about your studio setup.
I have a home studio in Echo Park, Los Angeles with a treated listening room, professional vocal and instrument mics, vocal booth, and small live room. I have the ability to record individuals and small groups, and to record at home. I have two electric guitars, acoustic guitar, semi-hollowbody and fretless basses, bouzouki, accordion, mandolin, keyboards, hand percussion, and more.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
I have an expansive knowledge of classical, jazz, and modern music theory, and I draw on all of it. In particular, I am excited by musicians who are creative geniuses with the power to create their own worlds.
I also love traveling. I have spent months traveling in West Africa, most of Europe, and across America. I use inspiration from the sounds, sights, cultures, and people I encounter in my work.
Classical: Beethoven, Chopin, Bernstein, Bizets
Jazz: Miles Davis, Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Horace Silver
Rock: Beatles, Smiths, REM, Beach Boys, Social Distortion, Todd Rundgren
Pop: Will.i.am, Chainsmokers
Games: Koji Kondo, Nobuo Uematsu, Yoko Shimomura
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
My specialties are original melodies, and atmosphere. I create effortlessly catchy, yet unique melodies, and then I use a combination of live and electronic instrumentation to weave together a tapestry of sound. I work like a painter, contrasting different sonic textures and layers.
So, my favorite way to work is to take somebody's inspiration and to expand it into a world. For example, when singers approach me with a song they have written, I create instrumentals and beats and interludes and melodies to build it into an experience.
I also love starting with visual experiences as inspiration, and creating soundscapes to match. Background music for movies, TV, games, and even instructional or tutorial videos is a natural use of my skills.