I've been writing and co-writing songs, singing, and writing lyrics for over half a decade now and have 60+ collaborations to my name. I've been involved with a handful of bands (Blackburn, Whitefire, After Pandora, Mend, Kre8ivMynd) and have worked with very talented musicians along the way (James Knowles, Daz Ripka, Angelo Boni, Kevin Olson).
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Interview with Brent Hampton
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I am actively working on an interactive music DVD project for a group called Whitefire. This will involve the songs written by Whitefire, my lyrics and vocal melodies (and possibly me singing abilities), and dark, animated music videos. Very different and super creative. To say I'm excited about it would be an understatement.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I am a hyper-creative person, so my creativity takes me from music composition to writing books to short-film production and directing to website development to interactive DVD projects and beyond. Whatever inspires me.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: If you want someone who can write instrumentals with real instruments (guitar, bass, drums), check out my friend, Daz Ripka.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: For me, it's digital all the way. This was a huge bone of contention at my school between die-hard analog enthusiasts and the modern digital touters. My personal preference is the clean, transparent sound of digital.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: Honesty. I don't tell my client something because it's what they want to hear or because it will put more money in my pocket. I want my clients to genuinely be happy with the results, whether or not that means I am directly involved in the end product. If I can't do something, I will provide my input as to why and open a dialogue between myself and my client to see what we can do to overcome the obstacles.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: When it comes to composing lyrics and vocal melodies, I love seeing what my mind will create. When it comes to editing, mixing, and mastering, I love hearing other people's creativity and helping them to develop what they've created.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: The number one question is, "How quickly can you get this done?" The second is, "How much is this going to cost me." Sometimes a client will throw out a timeline and budget constraints. I do my best to accommodate them, but I quality work requires time and time is money. To get great results in this industry, you need to be prepared to spend a little.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: The biggest misconception is that I have the ability to reach into a client's mind and create exactly what they want. No two creatives will render the same thing. Asking them to would be akin to asking Da Vinci to paint a Picasso. The clearer a client is about their vision, the closer I can get to achieving their dreams.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: It depends on the project. But one of the main questions I ask, regardless of the project, is, "What are you trying to convey with your project?" When it comes down to it, emotion is a big driver in most projects, including the message the client is attempting to present along with emotion. The more I know about what the client feels, the closer to being on the same page we can be.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Make a list of everything you think you want from a service provider. The list can always be added to and refined, but, if you don't know what you want, how will anyone else know? Also, be open to suggestion. We are often too close to our own work and unyielding to the suggestions of others. Your project can never progress if you cannot be objective.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: 1) My mind (as much as it drives me nuts sometimes, it comes up with some pretty amazing ideas. 2) A computer with all the audio software I'd ever need. 3) Solar panel array. 4) Wi-fi access (I may be trapped on an island, but I'd definitely want to collaborate with other musicians). 5) A TLM103 Mic.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I'm a relative new-comer to the music scene. I joined my first band in 2009 and had barely sung a serious note before then. At that time, I was coaxed into being a singer, even though I was only interested in writing lyrics and vocal melodies. I then migrated into performing live with the band. Eventually I got into co-writing tunes and editing/mixing for the band, which led me to enroll in a Professional Recording Arts program in 2013, where I graduated at the top of my class with several honours. I built my own sound studio, providing small project recording, editing, mixing, and mastering services, along with offering my lyric and vocal melody-making talents.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Oh, that's not a good question for me. I write whatever comes out of my mind and I don't focus on genre when I'm being creative. What I can say is that I migrate toward sex and relationships and usually challenges that come with them. I don't always go into my own life for inspiration, but have been known to do so from time to time.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: It's a toss up for me. Foo Fighters for modern rock, but Depeche Mode for the darker feel and electronic touches.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Don't ever try to fix it in post. An instructor of mine said that fixing something after it's been recorded is like polishing a turd. If it doesn't sound as clean, powerful, or emotional as you want it, record it again. That sometimes means walking away from the project for a day or two or five and then coming back refreshed. You will never regret getting it done right the first time, but you could end up pulling your hair out trying to fix something for hours and still not come out a winner.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I'm a pop/rock fan, but I write for what grabs me and have occasionally written for Jazz, Funk, Dance, and Country.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: My strongest skills lay in my lyrics and vocal melodies.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I'm a storyteller. I don't typically write nonsense for the sake of simply making a song. I bring lyrical depth and creative vocal melodies to every project. And, if merited, I will provide structural feedback to help maintain or achieve power, energy, or emotion throughout the song.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: Typically, I receive an instrumental track via Dropbox. I then take a day to listen to the track and allow a vocal melody to develop. After that, I'll sing the lyrics to the song and will submit the combined project for review. The song must be structured and in time before I will work on it. I will also ask for input on what the vision for the song is, such as what the song means to the writer. I can sometimes develop lyrical content based on the title of a song or by the songwriter's motivation for creating the tune.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I run a small studio called Atomic Frog Studios, running recording/editing software like Logic X and Pro Tools. I run mics like AT4050, TLM103, and SM7B through my Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 and monitor through my Adam A5X's and Sub7. It's a small, but powerful, studio.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: While I'm not prone to write like the artists who have inspired me, I am still motivated by groups like Depeche Mode, Audioslave, Disturbed, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Econoline Crush...
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: As a Musician, I mainly create lyrics and vocal melodies, but I have also helped guide instrumental melodies and have helped with song structure. As an Engineer, I enjoy vocal editing (tuning, timing, noise reduction, etc), mixing, and mastering. I also restructure music in order to preserve power or energy.