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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER October 16, 2017 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


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RC grad April Edwards works herself into a job as
Lead Engineer and Studio Manager!

  
When you’re in the right place at the right time with the right attitude, amazing things can happen. Take, for example, Recording Connection graduate April Edwards, who apprenticed at Nitrosonic Music in Lexington, Kentucky. When the studio found itself not generating enough revenue and in need of a manager, April rose to the challenge and made herself indispensable. As a result, she got hired at the studio even before she graduated, and now serves as Studio Manager and Lead Engineer of the studio where she once trained as an apprentice!   “They were losing money on it and management was a little shaky,” she says. “While I was in community college, I took two business classes, business management classes…So I kind of saw it coming and I took the opportunity.”   Coming from a musical family, April’s early music industry experiences were as an artist. Starting as bedroom producer as a teenager, she moved to Nashville to record professionally. After her project “fizzled out due to some circumstances,” April moved back home to Lexington to reevaluate.   “I got older, I had a child,” she says, “and I was like, ‘Well, what do I want to do for a career? What would really make me happy?’” I couldn’t think of anything besides music. I couldn’t see myself in any other industry. So that’s when I was looking around for engineering schools, and I found the Recording Connection.”   It was while she was apprenticing at Nitrosonic with mentor Brian Pulito that April saw the studio’s need for management and made her offer. April says the studio owner gave her 30 days to see what she could do to turn things around.   “It was on my shoulders to get people in,” she says. “I mean not just to record in the studio, but also bands rehearsing here in the back. They pay rent every month, which is easy money for us if we can keep bands in here. So that was kind of my first focus, getting the rent situation taken care of, because that wasn’t being monitored at all. We were supposed to be breaking even on rent alone, and we weren’t doing that because there was no system to it and money wasn’t being tracked. So my first priority was to get the finances in order, to know what’s going in and coming out, which is one of the basics of business, keeping track of your finances.”   She also started looking for more ways to spread the word about the studio. “There are a couple of advertising opportunities I’m looking at right now,” she says. “There’s a theater, it’s called the Lyric Theater in Lexington, and we’re about to start working with them on an ad campaign to give their patrons 20% off of recording time, and musicians that come through there get 40% off of recording time. So WoodSongs “Old-Time Radio Hour” is held there, Lexington Music Awards is there. So that’s a huge opportunity for us if we can get musicians and clients that come through the Lyric.”   The gamble is paying off. Now full-time at the studio, not only is April acting as the manager, but thanks to the skills she learned from her mentor, she also serves as lead engineer at the studio, doing projects for acts like cowpunk band Hillbilly Alarm Clock and garage rockers Nine Pound Hammer, among other things. She says she’s also taking the opportunity to revisit her own music. “Now that I’ve kind of taken over here and started getting back into it,” she says, “my goal is to release three singles at the beginning of the year. So I’m in the process of cutting vocals for those, and I still need to get some instruments for a couple of them.”   As to being a female engineer in a largely male-dominated industry, April takes it in stride. “There aren’t many female engineers, as I have figured out,” she says. “We’re kind of a rare breed, which surprised me a little bit, and I think more females need to get their certification and get into the industry. But it’s kind of a double-edged sword…people don’t expect a female engineer to walk in, sit down, take control, and know what they’re doing. So I like it more than anything. I like the reaction.”   Right place, right time, right attitude—In a relatively short amount of time, April has gone from reevaluating her career to apprenticing, to taking the helm at the studio where she trained. Talking to her, you can tell she has jumped in with both feet when it comes to the success of the studio.   “I really try to go the extra mile,” says April. “[Artists] can go anywhere to record, and they can probably record somewhere for a little bit cheaper, but I want to give them quality. I want to give them an experience that makes them want to keep coming back. I want this to be their studio.”
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Recording Connection mentor Wyatt Oates on the importance of being proactive in the music industry

  
Recording Connection mentor Wyatt Oates is a busy record producer in Atlanta’s happening music scene, working easily with major artists as well as helping to develop new ones. He is a co-founder of Madison Studios, along with Tanner Hendon, the combination indie label and world-class recording studio that has hosted such names as Justin Bieber, Blackberry Smoke, Collective Soul and many others. As one who has been mentored himself, Wyatt is also a huge fan of the mentor-apprentice approach and eagerly looks forward to helping up-and-coming producer/engineers get their start.   Talking with Wyatt, you quickly understand that two of the things he looks for in apprentices is a good attitude and a willingness to be proactive. In a recent conversation with RRFC, he elaborated on good studio protocol and what proactivity looks like. The best nuggets of that conversation are mined for you below.  
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  ON HOW HE GOT INTO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY:   “I played in bands in high school, and we would make our own records as well as we knew how…Being from a small town, I didn’t really know of jobs in the music industry. So when I heard you could work in the music industry, I went for it. I asked one of my teachers [at audio school] about a couple of studios in Atlanta…they told me the two I wanted were the two I would be able to get into. So naturally, I applied to both of them. Got into one of them as an intern, and worked my way up to Senior Engineer and Producer…now, I’m helping run Madison Studios as a record producer.”   ON THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN PRODUCING AND ENGINEERING:   “People think of audio engineering as the technical side and producing as the creative side, but they overlap so much. There’s not really a clear distinction. To produce your own records, you have to engineer them to some extent…I started out engineering and it made more sense to get in doing that, and learn the technical side of it first. Then [I] segued into producing once I had worked with a lot of producers and learned some of the tricks of the trade.”   THOUGHTS ON THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ANALOG AND DIGITAL, AND HOW/WHEN HE WORKS WITH EACH:  
72-Channel SSL G-series console in Madison Studios' control room

72-Channel SSL G-series console in Madison Studios’ control room

We have a 72-Channel SSL G-series console that we got from a studio called Southern Tracks here in town. So it’s had everything from Bruce Springsteen to Incubus to STP’s records made on it. It’s had a lot of cool records run through it. So we use it every chance we get…If [the artist is] looking for that sound, a lot of times it makes sense to track everything through the console and outboard gear to soak up some of the analog warmth because, for time and cost purposes, editing and a lot of the mixing and production needs to happen digitally, inside of Pro Tools…If the record budget can afford it, there are a lot of them where we would mix it on the console as well. Same thing with recording to analog tape. It does sound different. It’s cool, but it’s just expensive and time-consuming. Most people want everything now, now, now, and time is money, so we try to find the best way to capture it. And for that reason, I won’t just track through the board, I’ll compress and EQ, and I’ll manipulate the sound, committing that to Pro Tools so that it’s stuck with the record, even if, say, I don’t mix it. People notice that sound. I’ve done it pretty much straight digitally and just kept it flat. Then [I’ve] done it through the console, and the console wins every time.   CURRENT PROJECTS IN THE STUDIO:   A couple of artists that we’re working with, Chelsea Shag—we’re working on a new EP for her—and a band called The Stir, another one called The Future Babes…Just really cool, fresh, new material. Chelsea’s got kind of a pop/neosoul with some rock mixed in there. So it’s beats mixed with real instruments mixed with horns, and she’s an amazing vocalist. She’s gotten pretty big in the last couple years in the Atlanta scene, and we’re looking to give her a national presence as well here, pretty soon. And the bands are both awesome. So it’s just cool new stuff that’s not really happening a lot in popular music right now.   ON WHAT HE LOOKS FOR IN AN APPRENTICE, AND HOW POTENTIAL APPRENTICES GET HIS ATTENTION:   The very first thing would be being on time. The next thing I’m going to notice is attitude…and then just walking through what they’re trying to do, try to get a feel for. Are they trying to be an artist, an engineer, a producer, or are they really not sure? I’ve found with mentees that I would rather turn them away if it wasn’t the right fit. For example, if they are really into post-production, like for film or TV, we do a little bit of that at our studio, but I know a friend here in town where that’s all they do. So I have referred a couple of my prospective students to him just because it was a better fit for the student. So I really try to dig into that pretty quick with them.   ON PROPER STUDIO ETIQUETTE AND THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING PROACTIVE IN THE STUDIO:   A good, safe starting point is being a fly on the wall, and don’t interject your opinions into what the producer is doing, for example. It’s just bad form. Don’t solicit to people right off the bat if you have your own music, your own productions…Treat them like normal people. Don’t be overzealous…Obviously, introduce yourself, and if they seem like a hand-shakable person, shake their hand or whatever the proper greeting is in that culture, and don’t overdo it…You should sit either at the console or back of the room, you know, leaving the sweet spot, so to speak, for the producer, engineer, artists. And just hanging out and paying attention…trying to be as proactive and predict the needs of the artist, producer, and engineer as much as possible. So if you hear that somebody is coughing and is obviously thirsty, then offer to run and get them a water, and go do it. I’ve seen a few people fall into the trap of putting their headphones on and just rocking out to some music while they’re in session. And obviously, with that, you know, you lose a lot of opportunities to be proactive and to really help the session along. I guess how I’d sum it up is, help the session along. During a recording session, do everything within your power to help the session along…There’s nothing better than when you need to ask for a mic to be set up and it’s already set up on the stand. So yeah. That’s how you know you’ve got a good one.  
Live Room in Madison Studios

Live Room in Madison Studios

ON HOW SOCIAL MEDIA SOMETIMES GETS IN THE WAY IN THE STUDIO, AND HOW TO FIND A BALANCE:   I understand social media is important in today’s landscape but I’ve seen it get in certain people’s way where they would have gotten opportunities and they missed legit paid work because of it. Now, on the flip side, even Gen X or older artists, we might get done with a session and they want to take a picture with the console for their social media. I mean, that’s just part of the landscape today…A lot of kids, for example, or people will come in and they try to start taking pictures on the film set or in the recording studio right away, or God forbid FaceTime or SnapChat it when you’re in the middle of a sentence, literally. So I think people coming into the program, if they just kind of take a look at their priorities—you can obviously have a wonderful social media presence and still go to work every day.   ON WHY HE LIKES MENTORING FOR THE RECORDING CONNECTION:   I’ve always loved the apprentice model. I came up through it myself. That’s how I learned engineering, producing, songwriting, all of that. So anytime I got a chance to help an intern or an assistant engineer up under me along the way, I always did…So when I found out about the Recording Connection and one of the guys called me from there to see if I would be interested in mentoring, I jumped on it…One of the things that I thought was really cool about the Recording Connection was the fact that you guys do focus on that model. I’m just a fan of it because it works. The real world experience is always better than classroom experience for these kinds of careers.   BRAGGING ON A COUPLE OF HIS APPRENTICES:   Every student’s different, but I’ve got two star students right now, Tom Belau and Desmond Dyer. They’re both really good. So it’s been a cool experience. It’s good to be able to help move somebody’s career along when they’re really passionate about it…Both of them come in with an open and good attitude.   HIS TAKE ON THE CULTURE OF MUSIC TODAY:   The democratization of the music industry, the Internet and streaming and just everybody being able to get their music out to everybody else, I feel like, is crossing all the genre boundaries. When you listen to top 40 radio now, you’re hearing what 10 years ago might have only been heard at a rave with Alessia Cara singing on it, and…on a hip hop station or country station you’re hearing a couple of genres on there as well. I feel like that’s only going to get more cool as time goes on. I feel like the only people that are not cool with that are people stuck in their old ways.   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Recording Connection student Darrel Domanico (Honolulu, HI) is adding serious audio skills to his DJing abilities: “My teacher Brian Thompson of ThunderStudios Honolulu is an awesome instructor, he thoroughly explains a lot about a certain thing during studio time…Just the feeling of being in a real recording studio that is busy 7 days a week feels great. The clientele that comes through is friendly, and I’ve learned a few things from them since I’ve started. All of the above, I find intriguing… After graduating from the basic audio engineering program, I’m looking towards to completing the Advanced Audio Program as well.”    Radio Connection student Morgan Davis (Atlanta, GA) likes the immersive nature of the training he’s getting. His mentor Meredith Harris even helped him get on air with sports broadcaster JJ Jurjevich at WATB 1420: “JJ allowed me to be a part of his Thursday morning radio show The Fan Zone which was amazing! Absolutely awesome experience to wake up early and get the notes done and then get on the air!… [Meredith’s] excitement for this was just as much as mine which made me feel great. I’ve been able to have a great hands-on experience learning this in-person. As things progress with Meredith it will lead to a once a week one hour show for me. That lights a fire under you to get even better!”  
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