Joe Grasso is a 2x Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum engineer out of New York City. Joe has worked with Lil Nas X, Polo G, Noah Cyrus, Chloe x Halle, Diplo, Lil Baby, Fivio Foreign and more. He currently works at Republic Records Studio in Chelsea.
"I’m able to mix whole records on the Audeze headphones with incredible accuracy and almost zero ear fatigue." - Joe Grasso
Here's our conversation with Joe:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?
I’ve had so many great moments - on the recording side, I was really proud of my work with Gesaffelstein and XXL Freshman KayCyy. We locked out a few days in New York and recorded/mixed a three track EP. The session energy was great.
As a mixer, mixing a record with Travis Barker’s drums has been a real highlight.
Arranging and mixing Chloe x Halle’s “Do It Remix” ft Doja Cat, Latto, and City Girls was a hugely collaborative and fulfilling experience. There were a lot of parties to appease, and we got it to the finish line with everyone’s preferences incorporated.
I’m also very proud of the work I’m doing in Dolby Atmos. My work has ranged from Shawn Mendes “When You’re Gone” to records from Coi Leray and Kid Cudi, so I’m always adapting to different styles and artistic direction. Taking an artist’s song and helping reimagine it in a new format has been a whole new creative experience for me.
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?
My main role is mix engineer, although my work spans the gamut of engineering. Whether stereo or Atmos, I love the process of picking up where the artist and producer have left off to help carry the artistic vision to completion.
How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?
While I was active in my school band as a kid, it was Hip-Hop that really spawned my love for music. I knew I wanted to be involved in the genre, but I wasn’t a rapper. I started making beats and recording friends in High School, which led to my decision to pursue audio as a college major and profession.
Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?
I’ve been lucky to have a lot of “moments”. Meeting 50 Cent was a full circle moment for me, I really think he’s been my biggest inspiration both musically and professionally. I’ve met and worked with some of my idols, and each experience has given me confidence to push ahead. Being nominated for two Grammys in 2019 for my work with Lil Nas X was a monumental moment and honor for me.
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?
There are so many - from mixing records that never see the light of day, to long hours and last-minute cancellations, engineering can, at times, seem exhausting. I’m passionate about what I do, so I wouldn’t have done anything differently. It’s all part of the sum of my experience, and I think it’s made me a bit more patient and wiser.
Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?
When tracking, I’m finding myself leaning into the Distressor as my main compressor more and more.
When mixing, I am loving adding a limiter, like the McDSP ML4000, to my vocal bus to catch any stray peaks.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?
Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing - focus on yourself and getting better every day.
How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?
I’ve been working with headphones my whole career. Especially being in New York, I may need to reference things in less-than-ideal spaces and it’s great to have a “constant” to rely on. I may or may not start a mix on headphones, but they’re always incorporated before delivering a final product. They help me catch what might not be present in my monitors.
How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?
The Audeze headphones are now a mainstay for me. Incorporating them at the start of my mixes gives me a true idea of where my stems stand - it’s saving time on every project. When mixing, I can hear saturation, compression changes, and imaging issues earlier than ever. I’m able to mix whole records on the Audeze headphones with incredible accuracy and almost zero ear fatigue. I’ve found them to be an invaluable tool for Dolby Atmos mixing, as well - I can hear subtle placement changes that weren’t apparent in other headphones. After mixing in an immersive environment, it’s crucial to analyze the binaural experience, and Audeze tells me the truth.
Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?