I primarily work on rock and country/Americana projects.
What is the artist’s vision for the project? What records/artists influence their songwriting and production ideas? What was the inspiration for the song?
Too many to count: Jeff Lynne — The work he did with the Traveling Wilburys, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty really stands out; Rick Rubin — He’s worked with incredibly diverse artists, seemingly jumping genres with ease. He knows how to get the best out of almost anyone he works with, doesn’t settle when it’s not great; Queens of the Stone Age — Josh is a brilliant writer, arranger, producer. It’s some of the most unique rock music being made today; Dave Grohl is a workaholic, all about music. Incredible musician. Especially good at making sure everyone involved in the process is comfortable and having fun; Tchad Blake and Mitchell Froom — Their work on Suzanne Vega’s Nine Objects of Desire & Los Lobos’ Kiko are some of the best sounding records that I’ve ever heard. When I’m in a new room and/or working with new speakers, I use these two in particular as reference materials.
Create the session with the tracks and import my template (sub groups for drums, kicks, snares, bass guitar, vocals, etc), organize the session, and make sure everything is in place. I’ll listen to the rough mix from there, if there is one, and get a feel for the song. Once I hear the artist’s intent, I get to work mixing. When I get to a good place, I’ll start sending the artist references and we’ll work from those to get a final mix.
I focus a lot on the arrangement. What defines each part? What decisions need to made in regard to the eq and where it needs to sit in the mix. Bigger? Louder? Softer? Outside of that, and to put it simply, I’m another pair of ears making the song the best it can be.
I’ve been working in studios, assisting and engineering for 24 years. Starting with an unpaid internship in Nashville in 1994, then assisting at East Iris Studios in Nashville (now called House of Blues Studios Nashville) assisting primarily for mixer extraordinaire David Leonard as well as Justin Niebank and David Thoener. In 2001 I moved to LA where I assisted at Conway Recording and Chalice Recording before going out on my own. There I got to assist Jerry Finn, Adam Kasper, Nick Raskulinecz, Peter Mokran, and so many other great mixers! In 2006 moved to Austin, TX where I eventually helped open 12th Street Sound in East Austin and finally returning to Nashville in 2016 to work with good friend and producer Keith Gattis.
Being organized helps me do my job best. That’s the main thing. There are plenty of Youtube videos on how to organize sessions properly for your mixer. If you’re new to this, message me beforehand. I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.
That simple instrumentation means an easier mix. Or that if you’ve used the same tones from song to song, I shouldn’t have to change anything on my end from song to song.
It usually centers around whether or not I like the song. And they’re right to ask that. I have to feel good about the song before I can move forward. It would disrespect the artist if I took on something that I didn’t like.
It depends on what it serves. Analog sounds great. Digital sounds great. A lot of times digital is more practical. I use them both regularly and they both have their place.
On Queens of the Stone Age, Songs for the Deaf, I was brought on to assist Adam Kasper mixing in Conway’s A room. Josh immediately wanted to start re-cutting many of the parts. This turned into us often having 2 rooms going, Adam in one room mixing or overdubbing, while I recorded overdubs in the second room. As the project took longer than planned, Adam needed to leave on weekends to begin his next production, leaving me to continue guitar overdubs and vocals. That record to me, and to many rock music fans, stands out as one of the great rock records of our time.