Audeze chats with 8 time SOCAN Award Winner John Nathaniel

June 13, 2024

John Nathaniel recently co-produced and mixed Platinum-certified Top Gun: Maverick’s soundtrack song “I Ain’t Worried” by OneRepublic, which has more than a billion streams on Spotify. He also worked on multiple titles from OneRepublic’s latest album “Human”, that topped the digital sales charts in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and France, amongst others. John is behind the production of the songs “Top Of The World” and “Carried Away” by Shawn Mendes, featured in the movie “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.” He also worked on Kygo's Gold-certified single "Lose Somebody" and mixed two Gwen Stefani’s songs appearing on her “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” deluxe album. Furthermore, he co-produced and mixed “Room For You” by Madison Beer and mixed Switchfoot's singles "Native Tongue" and "Voices" from their “Native Tongue” album, which won Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year at the 50th GMA Dove Awards. John received 8 SOCAN Awards for his #1 songs on the Top 100 radio charts, co-writing, producing and mixing all of them. He was also awarded the prestigious 2017 “SOCAN Songwriter of the Year Award”.

John Nathaniel wearing Audeze LCD-X headphones in the studio
"I was so impressed with the LCD-X as I usually tend to get 'sonic shock' when I first try speakers or a new monitoring system, I tend to not recognize my mixes or other records I know and I felt instant familiarity with these." - John Nathaniel
Here's our chat with John:
In a few sentences, what would you like to be your introduction in the published interview? Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

There are a lot of projects that I’m really happy to have been a part of but one in particular that comes to mind is the song “Wild Life” performed by OneRepublic. That song is special because of its format and cinematic style. I’m also a huge fan of its euphoric nature. Also from the same group, “I Ain’t Worried”, I love how fun that song is and it was surreal seeing it in the movie "Top Gun : Maverick" and knowing I was part of it.

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

Every project is different, sometimes I’ll start from scratch and co-write, produce and mix the record on top of developing a sonic identity with the artist. Other times I get hired to mix a record and put the finishing touches on it.

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

I did two years of classical piano when I was a child and I was always drawn to it… Listening to records and imagining new melodies. When I was 15, I picked up a guitar because I was obsessed with Green Day. I got interested in production in my early 20s and became focused on making records sound “finished”, hence the mix aspect.

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?
Sure, I think my dad has a lot to do with my ear training as he played tons of classical records for me when I was a child. That helped me develop “relative pitch” rather early and made it easier for me to learn pieces by ear. As far as musical heroes go, I’d say Quincy Jones is most likely on top of that list. He’s just done some of the most iconic records of all time and he is such an interesting brilliant character who’s overcome so many obstacles in life. 
Also Danny Elfman, a huge influence and someone I really admire. He’s just a badass and is incredibly versatile!

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?
This is a business where a lot of frustrating things can happen, but I’d say learning to deal with things and not taking things too personal will help you keep your spirit intact. If I could talk to myself from 20 years ago, I’d say : “Whenever someone acts badly towards you, remember it’s never about you and only speaks to their character.” Learning to surround yourself with good people is also key, that will help you dodge some problems.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently? 
Sure, I mostly work in the box and have tons of cool plugins, but in the analog world, there are pieces that I constantly use on my mix bus. Whenever I want to add weight to a mix and have a full bottom, I go for my Shadow Hills Dual Vandergraph. My Bax EQ lives on almost all of my mixes, it just works on everything! Whenever I want to tighten a mix, I’ll go for my Dangerous Compressor. If I need more air on a mix, I’ll tend to go for the Clariphonic EQ.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?
Yes, I’d say fall in love with the journey, not the results. You’ll be a lot happier if you love the process of making music rather than constantly chasing the next hit record and you will most likely be more successful because that passion will transpire in your work. Also, know your worth as a producer/mixer (or engineer) and treat others the way you would like to be treated.

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?
Headphones for me are a great reference tool, I’ve always had a pair to reference my levels and effect placement. To me, it’s incredibly revealing to throw on a pair of headphones to hear your level of reverbs and delays. Headphones are also a great way to cancel out the environment and I’m not just talking about room reflections, but to really connect with the music and remove distractions. 

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?
I was so impressed with the LCD-X as I usually tend to get “sonic shock” when I first try speakers or a new monitoring system, I tend to not recognize my mixes or other records I know and I felt instant familiarity with these. I actually started dialing things and tweaking a mix I was working on within minutes of unwrapping the box and the moves I made in the top end and mid range translated brilliantly across my speakers. I originally got these mainly to tweak the top end of mixes but I found myself loving them for the full spectrum. 
Audeze lCd-X headphones laying on the table