What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
What's the difference between a mix and a master. A master is the completed work. Tight dynamics, a well represented stereo panorama, volume limited to the output necessary for the final medium and some final EQ cherries on top. The mix, by contrast, will have looser dynamics, possibly a more narrow stereo image and seem quieter than commercial releases you normally hear out in the wild. This lower volume is necessary headroom to give the mastering engineer room to work.
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
An EQ, a compressor, a dynamic mic, gold cable, and a multitrack recorder.
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I've been enjoying and experimenting with music for most of my life. Clarinet when I was 10... electric guitar when I was 11... bass guitar... acoustic guitar... singing... harmonica... ukulele... banjo... piano... music has been woven through me for as long as I can remember. This interest in so many sounds and a lack of so many hands to play them all led naturally to an interest in arranging and mixing. I began studying mixing and producing intently in my late 20's, reading whatever I could find, watching videos of studio pros, talking with and absorbing tips from my audio friends and asking every band I knew for stems I could mix. Here I am in my early 30's and I'm just beginning to reap the rewards of what some might call an obsessive focus.
Can you share one music production tip?
Listen to your clients. It's your job as a producer, not only to produce a great piece of music but, to produce a piece of music you and your client can both be proud of. While the client may not know exactly what they want, they usually know what they do and don't want when they hear it. It's important to revisit the production periodically with them and make sure that the elements going in get them just as excited as they get you. Talking with your client will also help you make sure that you're the right producer for the job. This isn't always the case and it's best to learn that before getting too deep in a project.
What type of music do you usually work on?
I spent a lot of time listening to live musicians, picking up the album they were selling and feeling a little disappointed that the set that I heard and the album that I bought didn't have the same texture. Eventually I realized that people weren't making these albums, not because they didn't want them but, because the engineer / producer they were working with wasn't usually presenting that as an option. I tend to go after these raw, recorded live in a studio type projects because they feel very genuine to me and that's what I, as a listener, would want to hear.
What's your typical work process?
The details depend on the production but ultimately it comes down to this as a broad work flow for me; Have a conversation about the clients goals for the piece > Get the assets at hand > Labeling, rough edits and organization > Produce a rough production / mix > Revisit with the client and check for goal changes based on the rough mix > Request or produce additional assets > Produce a more detailed mix > Allow the client to do retakes against the detailed mix > Tighten up the production > Agree on a final mix > Go over the mastering options with the client.
Tell us about your studio setup.
Oh, this could run on forever. I love gear as much as the next guy / gal but I'll try to be brief.
I'm a big fan of RME's lines of professional audio equipment. My tracking signal chain almost always has one of their pristine pre-amps in it. The RME Fireface UCX and UFX are both fired up in my rack and ready to lend their DSP magic to my productions. Also in that rack is a Manley Varimu Stereo Compressor / Limiter and occasionally a rotation of reverb units. Though hardware reverb has mostly been left behind by software convolution in my opinion, sometimes a good coil reverb can be just what your surf rock track needs.
For reference monitoring, I employ a lovely set of Mackie HR824mk2's, a pair of AKG K712's, and a few off the shelf headphones and speakers to check my mixes.
For composition I find that a mix of the Kawaii VPC1 for a real piano feel and the Komplete Kontrol s61 for synth work and general fun with Kontakt has me mostly covered in MIDI controller department. Though, when it comes to mixdown, I'll bring in the Personus FaderPort as I find it invaluable for automation work such as gain riding and panning.
I have a rack full of guitars, bass guitars, banjos, ukulele's and various instruments around to inspire everyone here.
Arranging, tracking, and mixing is either done in Logic Pro entirely or a combination of Logic Pro and Harrison's MixBus DAW depending on the feel of the project.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
I'm inspired by a range of musicians and creative professionals from Paul Simon to Will.I.Am. Trent Reznor to Joey Sturgis. Closer relationships to Chicagoland producers Adam Wisz and Sean Payne.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
Far and away the most common work I get is the "intimate singer / songwriter" piece. While I'm comfortable with full productions, these works speak to me as a singer / songwriter myself and tend to shine.