Audeze interviews songwriter, producer, and mixing engineer Kevin Abdella

June 01, 2024

Kevin Abdella is an American musician, songwriter, record producer, and mix engineer. He has worked across genres with Grammy-winning artists, producers, and engineers. A conservatory trained multi-instrumentalist, Kevin has shared the stage and studio with artists spanning genres. His music has been featured on many major outlets, including BBC Radio. He currently resides in Los Angeles.

Kevin Abdella wearing Audeze MM-500 headphones
 "The detail of the midrange and accuracy of the bass responds really gives me a great secondary perspective from my loudspeakers." - Kevin Abdella
Here's our chat with Kevin:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

I remixed a song with The Cinematic Orchestra for the band Ultraísta. It remains one of my favorite things that I’ve done and also a highlight because Ultraísta is the band of producer Nigel Godrich, whose work has had a great influence on me as both an engineer and producer.

Ordinary Boy - Ultraísta (The Cinematic Orchestra Remix) 

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

It is always different and depends on my relationship to my collaborators, but often I’m wearing many hats. I tend to work directly and closely with the artist I produce and, oftentimes, I’m playing, writing, producing, and engineering all in the same session. There are times when I’m just “the engineer” and also times when I’m just hired to mix. It’s always different and I enjoy the variety!

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

I was always interested in music, but didn’t get the chance to participate until I was older. I started in music late by most people's standards. I took up the electric bass at 19 years old and switched to the upright about one year later, as my interest in playing Jazz blossomed. I grew up mostly listening to the radio and watching a lot of MTV (pre-reality TV era haha.) As a kid, I loved to listen to all of the radio stations, and my friends thought I was weird for liking the classical station too. I also used to listen to my older sister's CDs, which were mostly R&B and Hip-Hop. To this day, I’m an eclectic listener and I love music of every genre. For me it’s always about the song! If there’s a great song, genre is irrelevant.

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

I think it’s the day-to-day relationship that influences me the most. My direct relationship with the people in my life that I live and work with matters the most; how we communicate and cooperate. I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths and collaborate with such a diverse number of people over the years that I hesitate to look to any one experience to define what is an ever evolving experience. I feel truly lucky to be involved in music because it’s such a life-giving experience, for the creators and the listeners.

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?

I think that clear and effective communication is the hardest skill to master. In any healthy relationship, moments of misunderstanding and miscommunication are natural. These things have to be addressed directly, with complete honesty. Disagreement is one of the hardest things to overcome when collaborating, and it is a natural part of any healthy creative relationship. I’ve had very tense moments of disagreement that led to some of the most interesting ideas happening because of the will to understand and compromise. It’s always fun when everyone is vibing and agreeing about what is happening, but it’s important to have the communication skills to see things through when there is disagreement, without letting your ego stop progress.

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’m a big fan of the plugin Sketch Cassette II by AbberantDSP. I think it’s one of the more useful sound design tools in the ocean of software being released at the moment. As far as hardware, I’ve been using the Inward Connections Vac Rac 500-series Pre-amp, EQ, Compressor on basically everything and it’s amazing. Tons of vibe!

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

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Life always has setbacks, no matter where you’re at or what you’re doing. Enjoy and appreciate the people in your life while you’re sharing the moment because it won’t last forever.

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

I’ve been working on headphones for the past 4 or 5 years, and particularly regularly in the past 2 years. I see my headphones as another point of reference, especially when mixing. I tend to think of headphones like a microscope because they allow you to “zoom in” and hear greater detail compared to what you hear on a loudspeaker.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

The MM-500 are incredible headphones. They have given me a new confidence in my mixes because it I feel like what I’m hearing is the truth about what’s going on in with my audio sources. The detail of the midrange and accuracy of the bass responds really gives me a great secondary perspective from my loudspeakers. These headphones are really comfortable and I don’t find them fatiguing to listen to at all, even for long periods of time. As someone who has always used headphones as part of my workflow in mixing and producing, I think that the MM-500 are in a different class than anything I’ve worked on before.

Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

I have a few great projects that I’ve been lucky to be a part of in the past few months. I recently mixed a few songs for the upcoming Keith Harris Experience album, which I’m excited about. Keith is an amazing producer to work with and mixing his music is always a pleasure, I used the MM-500 on all the recent stuff I did for him.

MM-500 headphones laying on table in the studio