Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
I'm really proud of a project I recently finished with an artist named Sam Roth. We've known each other for a while and I have actually done a project for him before a number of years ago. The project from a while back turned out pretty well but I had just gotten out of school at the time and had no where near the experience that I have now. We had both improved so much since the last project we had worked on so it was fun to see how far both of us had come. He handled most of the songwriting, minus a few co-writes and feature from me, and I handled all the tracking, producing, and mixing work. The work load was split pretty evenly and we gave each other plenty of space to complete our various tasks. It was just a fun project to work on that showcased how far both of us improved at the same time. It turned out sounding pretty well too, if I don't say so myself ;) . One of the tracks is located in my audio examples up above if you care to take a listen.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now, business wise, I am trying to get more of my freelance work going which is what brought me to SoundBetter. Musically I have been focusing on creating more hip hop instrumentals. Just trying to build the catalog a little bit so hit me up if you need beats!!
Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
Definitely. I work with a singer and songwriter named Katie McGhie all the time. She was one of the ones who turned me on to sound better. Hit her up if you have any vocals that need to be sung. She does great in all genres from country, to pop, hip hop... I've honestly tracked her on every genre you could name. Maybe not Polka or Yodeling yet but give us another month haha.
Analog or digital and why?
Depends. Analog for the sound, warmth, and not going to lie, being able to play with the knobs, buttons, and faders is the best but... the freedom to be able to go back and easily tweak things in a mix, even at a different studio, or in a different country, anytime, or anywhere, is a luxury of the digital age that I could never give up.
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
My promise is to put the same passion I have for the songs I create on my own into yours as well. I truly love working on music of any kind an am ecstatic to be able to call it my job.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
I get asked how long it takes me to mix a song quite a bit. My answer varies depending on a lot of thing. Typically a hip hop track with just a MP3 instrumental and vocalist take anywhere between an hour to 4 hours depending on the amount of tuning, or vocal production is wanted/needed. A song that has all the track outs would take significantly longer. Maybe anywhere from 4 to 8hrs depending on the instrumentation and how well they were captured. Its pretty hard to say though without hearing the song. Those are just rough estimates.
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
That quality from a professional studio can be easily matched or reproduced at home. I say EASILY because it can be done, but the amount of times I've heard "I've never heard my voice sound this good," is really starting to become ridiculous. While going to a professional studio definitely costs more than just working through it in the comfort of your own home, the quality is strikingly apparent. But I get it. Whats not to like about having a studio in your own home? I have one in my bedroom as well. While being able to work in my boxers at home is comfortable, I know that a studio like that is more suited toward creating and sussing out ideas rather than final tracking or mixing. It's such a better final product when completed in an place that was specifically built and maintained to make things sound good. Its pretty simple really haha.
What do you like most about your job?
What I like most about my job is the music. Pretty simple. I'm not always working on music when I engineer. I also do a lot of Voice Over and ADR work as well, but my favorite stuff to work on is music. Whatever you got, I'm in.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
I always ask what they're end goals for the project are. Are you working towards and album? Is this just a demo to shop around? Is this just for fun? Though the end goal doesn't really change the process, its good to for us to be on the same page and working toward the same thing. If I'm working to make your track an album ready final product but you are just trying to see if the key of the song is the right register for your voice, we are wasting time and money pulling in two different directions. Most times its not that drastic and it may change as we go, but its always good to know where both of our heads are at before we start the process.
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Just be wary of who you trust. I come from a smaller town in Minnesota where trust is given until proven otherwise. It took me a while to adopt the mindset of making someone earn the trust you have in them. It only takes getting burned a couple times to make you reevaluate who really has your back. It's just easier to learn that earlier on when the stakes might not be as high rather than later when its a longer fall.
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
Well the studio I work at got a Neve 8068 MKII mixing console about a year ago and we have been addicted ever since. That thing would definitely be coming with me, though its almost an island itself. Next I would bring a Sony C800G. Not only is the presence and clarity for vocals unmatched, but I think it is a very good all around mic as well. I use it on everything. Next, to complete my vocal chain would be the Tubetech CL1B. Love that thing. Fourth would be a nice set of monitors. No exact model yet since I am still looking for what I like best but these ATCs I have been using lately would do fine. Lastly, I would bring mood lighting. Just got the Phillips Hue system a little while ago and I'm obsessed. A little mood lighting goes along way into putting you into the vibe of what you are working on.
How would you describe your style?
Though I don't always have time to work on my own projects, I would describe my style as sort of a beachy, pop, hip hop haha. While the hip hop element of a driving drum and bass line is very strong, its accented by bouncy guitars and lazy synths. Something you would find more in Shoegaze or indie rock. Depending on the feel of the track, I like to keep the vocals melodic and happy at times or dark, brooding, and haunting. It varies from song to song but they always, always have to be catchy. At least one line, phrase, or melody has to linger after the song is done long enough for me to want to play it again.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
I think again I would have to say Russ. Strictly for how hardworking and independent he seems. But other than him, I'd really like to work with any of the Rhymesayers. I grew up listening to that label and a lot of those artists are what inspired my love of music and eventual career path. Too hard to decide which one though haha. Maybe Slug, Ant, or Brother Ali.
Can you share one music production tip?
Being that Hip Hop is a drum and bass driven genre, I think it is sometimes hard to keep the low end elements thick and punchy while still keeping them under control. There are many ways to tackle low end management but I think one of the most effective ways of keeping the kick punching through a particularly stubborn sine bass is to use side chaining. If you are unfamiliar with the process, it is basically using the attack of the kick drum as an trigger to attenuate the amplitude or loudness of the bass. When side chained through a compressor, every time the kick hits, it forces the bass single down in amplitude to allow the kick the room it needs frequency wise to punch through clearly. Make sense? If not, I'd be more than happy to explain it in deeper detail or give an walk through of how to properly accomplish the the task. Just shoot me and email.
What type of music do you usually work on?
I work on a lot of Hip Hop. It's definitely the genre I had the most experience in creating and listening to before I started working as an Engineer/Producer so I think that has a lot to do with it. Also, rappers want to create content and a lot of it, fast. There's always a mixtape to be made or a remix to add a feature on and I'm always available to help.
What's your strongest skill?
I think my strongest skill is how personable I am. I get along well with others and have no problems being a team player. But to be honest, if we're just working through emails, that is sometimes hard to translate through the keyboard. So in the realm of audio, I think my strongest skill is mixing. I get a lot of opportunity at the studio I work at to remain sharp at what I have perfected, as well as plenty of time to experiment with different techniques and methods to keep myself always improving. I want everything I finish to be my best work yet.
What do you bring to a song?
What I bring to a song, any song, is a real passion to make the best sounding, but also most interesting, final product I possibly can. I think there is opportunity in every track for moments that connect to the listener in a way that is indescribable but familiar at the same time. Like when I listen to certain songs and they stir up memories or have emotions attached to them. It's feeling that's indescribable to others, but I'm sure you somehow relate. Those moments are what make a song memorable and timeless to me and I love trying to create those in the projects that I get to work on.
What's your typical work process?
I definitely have to start out any project I receive by listening to it. Obviously, but I mean it's more than that. Really listen to it. I listen until I'm to the point where I know it. After I feel like I know a song, I can then begin to focus on making the elements of that song work together in a way that lets every part shine on its own but still combine with the rest in a way that conveys what the artist felt while writing or preforming the song. I really try to match the mood of what I am doing to that of the artist's. After I feel like I have embodied what the artist felt into my work, I look to add moments to the song. These moments can be subtle things that maybe just give a better "feel" when they are in present, to more obvious productions tricks and sweeteners to liven up transitions or phrases. I feel these moments really make the listener more engaged by surprising the ear and creating something memorable about a song.
Tell us about your studio setup.
I work out of a studio in Los Angeles called Studio City Sound. I am a staff engineer there, but also bring my freelance work in as well. We have top of the line, industry standard gear including a vintage Neve 8068 MKII console that really brings out character in any song that is mixed through it. On top of that, microphones for days, both vintage and modern, outboard gear as well as their plug in counter parts. Really just anything you'd expect from a professional recording studio. A full gear list is available at Studiocitysound.com
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
Right now I have been I'm really inspired by Russ, though this is such a hard question because it changes and evolves so much. If you aren't familiar with Russ, he's an upcoming Hip Hop artist that is doing pretty much everything himself. From instrumental production, rapping and singing, all the way to mixing and mastering, Russ is doing it by himself. Coming from a similar place of trying to do everything myself, it is super inspiring to me to see someone doing the same thing finally start to make a name for himself. Plus his tracks are sick haha.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
It really depends on the client honestly. I do a lot of work in Hip Hop and R&B just because that is the genre a lot of my clients work in. But I also have a few rock clients, as well as a few who do country, so I feel like I am well versed in a wide variety of genres. For the most part, I handle all of their audio needs from creation, all the way to completion of the song. Some projects I am in the room helping to write lyrics and chord progressions, and others I am just mastering their finished product. It depends on where I am needed but I'm prepared to help in any stage of the recording or writing process.
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I went to The Institute of Production and Recording in Minneapolis, MN and graduated with degrees in Audio Production and Engineering, Audio for Visual Media, and Music Business. After that, I moved to Los Angeles and got a job as an Engineer at Studio City Sound in Studio City, CA. I have been working there since June of 2013 and continue to do so.