February 03, 2023
Samantha ‘isamantha’ Henry is a recording, mixing, and playback engineer from New York and is currently based in Los Angeles, California. She's a former student at NYU's Clive Davis Institute and has worked with numerous notable artists (Tyga, Lil Tecca, Lauren Jauregui + more) on recorded and live music.
I have a playlist of songs on Spotify that I update with every new release. It's the easiest way to keep up with my work. 99% of the time I'm most proud of my most recent release so it changes all the time.
Lately I’ve been doing live playback and autotune on tour. I’ve done 3 tours in 2022. This was a completely new experience for me as I’m used to being in the studio recording or mixing, but I’ve been loving being outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel the world and work on music so I’m very grateful.
Generally, I classify myself as a recording and mixing engineer. I enjoy being the main engineer because (to an extent) I have creative control on how a record sounds and I also can help artists get closer to the vision they have for their music.
I also started working in Dolby Atmos which is a completely different world but is still so exciting. I’m pumped to see how the Atmos world will continue to integrate with the consumer's listening experience.
When I was in high school, my dad built a studio space in my house. We had Logic 9 and Pro Tools on the studio computer so I would invite my friends over to record cover songs and originals. At this point I wasn’t aware of what engineering was but I was recording and mixing all my friends from school all the time.
I grew up on reggae music. My dad is a DJ so I was very used to waking up in the morning to loud basslines and smooth percussion rhythms. I still love and listen to reggae music, but I also listen to anything else that’s enjoyable to me.
I am heavily inspired by other women in engineering. Lago, K Lee, Gabi Grella, Slozza, Ebonie Smith, Angie Randisi, Christal Jerez, Cristal vvs, Stephanie Rendell. And of course a bunch I haven't named!! Seeing other super talented women in this community is so inspiring and comforting. There’s a long list of things each one of them have directly or indirectly taught me through interviews, conversation, or just by listening to and observing their work.
I am also very inspired by Bob Power. In school he taught me the foundation of what I know now about Pro Tools and about EQing. I remember one day in class he walked us through mixing an entire track with Logic's STOCK plugins and it sounded so clean and he just made mixing look easy. I always hear engineers say that “gear doesn’t matter” and I didn’t fully believe it until I saw Bob do that. After that day, my perspective on engineering completely shifted and I was inspired to not get tied into gear and really focus on developing my ear which is the most important tool. And that has been my priority since.
I don’t get frustrated anymore when a mix isn’t sounding the way that I would like it to. What helps me the most is taking a step away from the mix and resting my ears. If I have the time, I’ll work on it again the next day with fresh ears. If my time is limited then I’ll just work on something else and revisit it. I feel that’s the best approach because ear fatigue is so real.
I’m so in love with the CL1B. Tons of people use it, but it’s totally worth the hype. I love the transparency and openness of it and always find myself turning to it when recording vocals. I’m mostly in the box, but if the CL1B is available best believe I’m using it.
My top plugins that are on every mix are easily ProQ 3, Brainworks digital V3, UAD LA-2A (Occasionally Gray or Silver), UAD Voice of God *chefs kiss*, SSL channel strip EQ/Bus comp, Maag EQ4, Izotope Insight for metering, and Metric AB to compare mixes (also for metering). The new Lindell 902 De-esser has been doing its thing but make sure you turn the noise off and set that as the default. I am also enjoying The God Particle by Jaycen Joshua.
Take (calculated) risks. It’s important to put the time in to develop your craft and have a solid foundation. Look your weaknesses in the face. Familiarize yourself with people in your community doing the same things as you. You can always learn something from someone. Build your brand and create opportunities for yourself. Stay consistent and opportunities will come flooding in.
I work in headphones most of the time because it’s the most convenient. I live in a small studio apartment in LA; a renter-friendly and properly treated setup can’t really exist in my current space. When I’m working from home, I usually start and finish my mixes in headphones and when I can, I’ll do a reference listen on ATC-SCM25A monitors at the studio. But honestly I’ve been mixing in headphones for so long that I understand music the best through them.
Having a solid set of headphones and a monitoring system is key. Mixing in monitors is ideal, but mixing with headphones is integral to the process as a second reference to dial into the detail. It’s also an important referencing system since so many music listeners are consuming their music in headphones. Making sure the mix translates through those mediums is very beneficial to understanding the consumers perspective.
I’m also a touring playback and autotune engineer. I’m in a new state every other day, sometimes on the road, at a hotel, or on the tour bus with 11 other people trying to get mixes done. It is imperative that I have a solid pair of headphones that can perform in these conditions and that I can trust will deliver detail.
These headphones are a beast. As someone who mixes primarily in headphones, this was a major upgrade. Initially I was very impressed with how comfortable they feel on my head, especially after wearing them for a long period of time. They have cushioned ear cups and are a snug fit on your head without being suffocating. This is important because the build of it doesn’t distract me from my work.
Mixing in them is a unique experience. I find myself hearing everything with a ton of clarity. For example, I could hear entire reverb tails, delays, and their sonic characteristics. Subtle EQ movements are much more clear. I’m working way faster now.
I mix a lot of music where most of the energy of the song comes from the low end. And these deliver. So being able to hear and feel what’s going on there is incredible. It’s now easier for me to tell if I should hold back or add more.
Lately I’ve been working with a ton of independent artists and a new Columbia signee Zevia. I mixed a few songs on her debut album “we’re all sad here” with mastering engineer Gabi Grella. Her songs are very personal and intimate so I’m grateful my MM-500s are able to help me maintain that closeness and emotion.