What exactly is a Producer?
Put simply, a Producer’s job is to help create a record that embodies all that is remarkable about an artist. There are many different types of producers all with different ways of working. Some are very musical, often artists in their own right, relying on an engineer to handle the sonics of the record for them. Others come from an engineering background, and offer a more technical approach. A lot of modern producers are adept at both, and this allows the transition from writing to production to be very fluid (I’m one of this kind).
What binds all producers together is their passion for great music. Being a successful artist can be attractive, but it’s not for everyone. Some people want to express themselves musically, without the baggage that comes with being an artist. These are the producers. They are the link between the demo and the final master, offering skills that complement an artist and bring the best out of their songs.
What does a Producer actually do?
Producing involves all sorts of things. The first step is define what kind of artist you’re working with. I break this down into two categories.
- Artists that already have a great sound. For these artists, the goal is about capturing what they naturally do in the most effective way I can. AC/DC or Oasis would fit into this category.
- Artists that need a world building around them. These are artists that use production to create a unique identity that becomes part of the songs. Examples of these would be Radiohead and The Beatles.
The kind of artist that you’re dealing with will determine which production approach to take. I personally love making both kinds, and always try and weave a little of each style into the record. The next question to understand is what is the goal for the record and who is it’s target audience? Does the record need to get radio-play, or are the album-listeners more important? Are we trying to appeal to an existing audience, or do we want to convert new ones? One of the most successful records I have made so far started with the brief ‘we need daytime radio play’. The band already had a huge and established fan base, but they wanted to move into the next chapter of their career and wanted their record to reflect this.
After those questions have been answered, it’s very much down to the individual producer for what methods they will use. A good producer will have techniques to deal with writing, arranging, psychology, creating, capturing and manipulating sounds, and ways to help artists deliver great performances. I put a lot of effort into pushing for really remarkable performances so the songs have conviction in the production.
What’s so valuable about working with a Producer?
It’s all about chemistry. The value in a producer is about their ability to interpret, collaborate, and give an artist the right voice to express themselves through their music. It’s also about having somebody you can trust to be honest with you. When I first meet an artist, I tell them “Imagine me as your biggest fan, but also your harshest critic. I love all these things about your band, and by the end of our sessions I want everybody else to fall in love with them too”.
In my experience honesty and enthusiasm are my most effective tools, and I think that kind of philosophy forges tight working relationships. I make sure to let bands know I love what they do, and that pushes them to up their game. I’m also really honest about what I believe is right, and always try to justify my opinion with a reason.
Perhaps obviously, producers have spent vast amounts of time filling their sleeves with tricks to make fantastic sounds. The ones that are really good at it become recognisable from their sounds before you even read the credit. Whilst I’m always mindful to make each artist sound like themselves, I have qualities that naturally make their way onto the sounds I produce that become a signature of my work.
What made me want to become a Producer.
Producing is a really rewarding job. It will always give you new challenges, and you’ll never make the same record twice. It’s so deep and complex that I’ll never stop developing my skills and finding inspiration. It exposes you to working with incredibly talented, creative people that have a unique way of saying things.
I’m fascinated with the influence I can have over the way people react to a song. The production can make a song sound happy, sad, uplifting or remorseful and its very compelling to be able to do that.
Perhaps the most rewarding is knowing you are making something that everybody can hear, and will last forever. I’ve told the story of how I got into producing here, but there was one big factor that pulled me in; the computer industry I had planned to go into would involve creating software for big companies that nobody outside of their IT departments would ever see. I’d never be able to show anybody the outcome of my work, so there wasn’t any pride that went into it. Moving into producing music meant that I had something to show for all that effort and hard work, and something to look back on in years to come.