November 07, 2023
Photos by Andy Swartz
I'm primarily a record producer and mix engineer, but I really just enjoy being a part of music that I resonate with, and in any capacity.
Honestly, I’m proud of everything I have worked on. I’m lucky to earn a living doing what I love, and each song I work on is like a timestamp in my career’s DNA.
Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. There are photos of me at my parents' house sitting on a phone book playing the piano at the age of five. My dad was learning how to play Chopin and Satie, and my mom was always listening to whatever music was on pop radio in the car. I loved coming up with chord progressions on the piano.
As I got older, I shifted my focus to drumming. Playing in bands in high school, I fell in love with bands like Radiohead and Franz Ferdinand. I quickly realized that making music was what I wanted to do.
After graduating from college, I had no idea what I was going to do. I saw that Electric Lady Studios in New York had an internship program, so I applied.
I mopped floors and cleaned toilets for nine months before I got hired to do General Assistant duties, working Wednesday through Sunday nights from 6PM until closing, which was often when the day crew arrived. I did that for another nine months before I was hired by Tom Elmhirst to be his mix assistant, which is where I had my Harvard education on finishing records, so to speak.
Tom is a lovely human-being who is so attuned to taste, while also being so catering towards others — He is the personification of mixing; He is a curator, constantly trying to make things better while being entirely inclusive. It was an absolute privilege working with and learning from him, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.
I have recently revamped my digital workflow to feel more analog. The beauty of working behind an analog console is that you can do so many things at the same time. It's a visceral experience that I feel more connected to, but it's inconvenient in this digital era. Mixing records in the box gives me the flexibility of jumping between projects and working in different spaces, but it limits me to making changes one click at a time.
I'm using tools like the avid artist mix, soundflow and the TC Electronic Clarity M to give me that same instant-feedback, visceral satisfaction that I get when I'm working behind a console. They make working in the computer less inhibited by the mouse-click, and more inspired by that same analog feeling. I enjoy the challenge of evolving with technology, and catering it to help me do what I do best.
It's very easy to think that a new piece of equipment is the difference between where you are and where you want to be in your career. Gear can be a bottomless pit for new engineers and producers, and it certainly was for me in the beginning. I recommend focusing on the things you can control with the tools you currently have.
Particularly to those aspiring engineers and mixers -- learn to trust your ears, and always remember what you were hired to do. It's easy to forget that as engineers and mixers, you are facilitators. You serve the song and the artist, not the opposite.
I have worked in headphones from the time I was a teenager, making songs on my four-track recorder. I can't tell you the countless times I've fallen asleep listening to music in headphones. Today, modern technology is making headphones that much more dependable in the process of making music.
Having a good set of headphones is crucial for me. It allows me to trust my ears and my intuition when I’m working in different studios, at my apartment, or on my laptop on an airplane. It allows me to find inspiration anywhere, and it keeps me excited to listen to music.
It’s not about being at the right place at the right time. It’s about being as prepared as you possibly can, and putting yourself in the situation for opportunity to find you.
I have been loving the reliability of my headphones, especially now that I have been traveling more as restrictions have lifted. The Audeze headphones give me the confidence I need when working on the go, and in my own studio. Still astonished by how good they sound and how accurately my mixes and productions translate.
Of course — since our last chat, I’ve worked on Semblence by MorMor, (self-titled) by Marcus Mumford, Cheat Codes by Black Thought and Danger Mouse, Plastic Hearts by Miley Cyrus, Thanks for Coming by Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, CESSATION by Jack Kays, Så Mycket Bättre by Melissa Horn and more.
I also recently worked on the score and soundtrack of the Barbie movie! Having the Audeze headphones was vital as we had sessions in different studios in NY, orchestra sessions at Abbey Road etc, so having a trusted set of headphones was a must.