Audeze speaks to musician, producer, arranger and composer Drew Jurecka

Drew Jurecka is a Grammy nominated multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger and composer living in Toronto, Canada. He started his career as a performer, but now splits his time between studio and stage. His playing and/or arranging can be heard on countless studio albums by Dua Lipa, Dermott Kennedy, Donovan Woods, Ron Sexsmith, Alessia Cara and more. He's regularly hired as a violin soloist for soundtracks for film, television and video games and has produced several records for artists in styles ranging from Pop to Classical. He's written works for string quartet and his symphonic arrangements have been performed by the Toronto Symphony and the National Arts Orchestra.
Drew enjoys the flexibility and creativity of studio work, but also enjoys performing onstage with his own projects Payadora Tango Ensemble, The Venuti String Quartet, and his jazz trio.

 

"I’ve been using the Audeze LCD-MX4s as my main mixing/editing headphones for several months now, and am delighted by how revealing they are." - Drew Jurecka
Here's our chat with Drew:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

I'm really lucky to have gotten to contribute to a lot of fantastic projects over the course of my career, so this is kind of a hard question, actually!

My most heard work of late was on Dua Lipa's amazing record "Future Nostalgia."  I arranged, performed and engineered the strings on several tracks on that record.  I like Love Again the most, and it starts with just my strings, which is fun.

During the pandemic, my wife (amazing violinist and composer Rebekah Wolkstein) and I have been making some fun videos with our girls - here's one of them.

I'm really happy with my quartet string arrangement for Donovan Woods' song What Kind of Love is That and an original piece for quartet that I wrote for one of his more recent albums called Without People.

And lastly, here's a track that I wrote for the Payadora Tango Ensemble (from one of two records I've produced for them called "Volando")

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

I've always been a violinist first and everything else second.  These days I get asked to do a lot of arranging for all kinds of projects, as well as regularly getting hired as a session violinist.  Mostly I am also sort of "producing" the strings - whether I record them here in my own studio on my own, with my string quartet or with a larger group in a larger studio I try to deliver mixes of the strings that allow my client to just drop them in place, add reverb, and get on with it, so I end up doing a lot of pre-mixing as well.

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

I started playing the violin at age 3 and a half.  That continues to be my primary instrument.  I started clarinet and saxophone in middle school band, and I have picked up some other instruments over the years too.  I think I always knew that I would end up doing music as a career, though young me couldn't have possibly imagined how fun and varied a career was possible!  I love what I do, and it's hard for me to imagine doing anything else at this point.

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

I learned so much from my early violin teachers about music, hard work, practise and self discipline.  Lorand Fenyves, who was my violin teacher through my teens, has probably had the biggest influence on how I approach my work.

Just before I graduated from my bachelors at the Cleveland Institute of Music I met the amazing guitarist Jeff Healey, who invited me to tour with his band.  During the 5 years that I played with Jeff before he passed away I learned so much about music, performance, flexibility onstage and about his passion - jazz history!  Jeff is the reason that I moved back to Toronto, and he also really helped me build my network here.  I owe him a lot.

And lastly, my friend (and fellow Audeze artist) Les Cooper helped guide me into the world of production, gave me my first arranging gig and has been a real mentor to me in a variety of ways over the years.  He's not world famous, but his work is worth checking out.  His ear is amazing and his intuitive musical genius is humbling.

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

Learning and perfecting an instrument is really tough and quite frustrating at times, and I think I learned a lot from that practise.  Fenyves encouraged such a detailed and methodical approach to problem solving and practising, and I think of him often when I'm struggling with almost any type of problem, be it technical studio issues or a tough musical moment that is hard to get exactly right.  Breaking down a problem into its component parts and really examining how you do each motion in the sequence is both satisfying and quite useful!

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

I love my mid 1700s no-name German violin.  It's wonderful to play and has a beautiful intimate sound.  I also really love my Neumann KM 54 microphone, which is one of my favourite pairings with that violin (though depending on the context, it's not always exactly right).

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

Try not to let anything leave your studio that you aren't willing to stand behind.  Also, make sure to purchase as many pairs of Audeze headphones as you can afford.

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

I find that a realistic string mix involves really careful placement of objects in stereo, and often involves a delicate balance with compression and reverb.  Great reference headphones allow you to focus on details in a way that is really satisfying.  Also, as a musician who both plays and produces, I love having a great pair of headphones that are comfortable to use for long periods for tracking and that sound full and open even at low listening volumes.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

I’ve been using the Audeze LCD-MX4s as my main mixing/editing headphones for several months now, and am delighted by how revealing they are.  I catch a lot more details, and never let anything go until I’ve checked it on them.  Aside from their sonic qualities, they are so comfortable that I often forget that I’m wearing them.  

The LCD-i3s have become my main headphones for tracking.  The i3s allow me to hear the instrument I’m playing acoustically while I track, so I just listen to a mix with the bed tracks and the reverb send and I can play and listen naturally as if I’m playing onstage.  No other open-backed headphones I’ve used have so little bleed, so I’m able to listen at a natural volume without having to worry that drums or vocals or click is getting into my instrument mic.

It’s been a really busy year, I’m producing a couple of fun records for local artists, writing and arranging for albums and live orchestral shows, and working on some of my own music as well.  The Audeze headphones have made the experience of working in my studio way more enjoyable.