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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER December 12, 2016 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


Recording Connection student Jones Nelson
releases full-length album!

   We love hearing all about it anytime our students are able to take what they’re learning and apply their newfound skills and knowledge to further their own careers in music. Take, for example, Recording Connection student Jones Nelson, who currently apprentices with mentor Sean Giovanni of The Record Shop in Nashville, TN. Thanks in part to his studio training and the connections he’s made as a student, Jones is now releasing a full-length hard rock album, titled The Pain that Makes You, under his band moniker Million Whispers!   In the interview below, Jones talks about the concept behind the album, his songwriting process, and the role his mentor and the Recording Connection have played in helping him bring this project to completion. Congratulations, Jones!  
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Jones Nelson RRFC: So tell us the backstory of your new album. How did it come about?   Jones Nelson: So I started working on the record—it would have been January this year… I already had written like a southern rock blues record, but then just had been wanting to put out like a harder rock album for years and years. So I just kind of made the decision to table the Southern rock deal and to really just kind of pour my energy into working on a harder rock record…Originally, I had planned on having it all done by the summer, for summer release, but I kept learning so much through the school or just through my own training, and then kept acquiring new gear and new gadgets, and this, that, and the other. So I ended up having to go back and redo and re-record and tweak a bunch of songs that were already in there, just making them better and better.   RRFC: What made you want to switch to hard rock from southern rock?   Jones: Hard rock just really kind of resonates with me. I grew up on country music, you know. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash, and Randy Travis, Garth Brooks, George Strait. I grew up listening to all that kind of stuff and was never allowed to listen to rock and roll. That was like always kind of forbidden. And I remember the first time I ever heard Black Sabbath’s “Ironman” for the first time, my pupils dilated, just like my eyes were open to other styles of music. And from that point on, I started diving into Led Zeppelin, and Iron Butterfly, you know, Cream…I started kind of on the classic rock side and then started working my way up. And so that’s really kind of how I got into the harder rock project.   RRFC: Is there an underlying theme to the album?   Jones: The album is called The Pain that Makes You. The album really kind of takes you through kind of a journey of, you know, really being able to identify struggles that people face day in and day out where they’re caught inside a place that they don’t want to be. You know, I’ve been working in this industry for the last 10 years and, you know, I’ve been wanting to get into music and do this full-time since as long as I can remember. And “The Pain That Makes You,” the album, is really kind of talking about, you know, identifying the struggle of wanting to be able to do that, as well as being able to try to position myself and get myself ready to be able to move up a step.   RRFC: Sounds like it harkens back to these conceptual albums which people just don’t seem to be making much of anymore. And I think we’re realizing that we miss that and that, you know, it’s an enjoyable process to sit down and listen to an album.   Jones: I’ve never been much a singles guy. You know, working in radio, I used to only ever hear the singles, and it would drive me nuts because, you know, you hear one song taken out of context, and it kind of takes away from the story. And so the album really kind of tells a story if you open your ears and your mind to hear it…That’s what I want to do with the album is to be able to, you know, have the listener be able to sit down and listen to it and go on a journey.   RRFC: As far as the actual writing process, how does it happen for you? Is it like a melody that comes into your head when you’re just doing your own thing, or are you somehow improvising, playing your guitar—where does it start for you?   Jones: I mean, it’s kind of different every time….Most of the time, I sit down with my guitar and just start noodling and then kind of see what comes out. But there have been times where it’s like I literally wake up and I’ve got the verse. I was dreaming about the lyrics and it came up, and that’s how the song started…I try to be pretty open. I try not to have too much of a locked-in process, you know, because I probably prefer a situation where it allows for spontaneity and allows me to kind of approach songs from different angles.   RRFC: You mentioned making changes to the project as a result of your schooling. What role has the Recording Connection or your mentor played in the process of making the album?   Jones: Sean [Giovanni] has been great…A lot of his stuff gets into kind of more beats and so forth—I mean, he’s obviously an engineer and producer even. But that’s really kind of forced me outside the box a little bit, to really kind of revamp and to look at the way that I do things differently. So it’s been really cool getting to be a part of that.   I also want to thank Becki Sessions, too. She’s the new regional director [for Recording Connection] down here in Nashville, and she’s just been awesome. She’s provided me with some really cool opportunities to meet some really neat engineers and producers. Actually, she invited me out to the Vintage King Recording Expo a few weeks ago or so, and I actually got to meet Chris Lord-Alge, which is pretty cool. And what was interesting was the next day, because I had met him and I had him on my mind, I went and mixed the last two tracks for the record, and mixed it differently because I had met him…So he actually kind of had a direct correlation and impact on the last couple of cuts on the record just because of that, and Becki was a big part of that.   And as far as the Connection goes, I mean, I think that it’s a really good opportunity for a lot of different people. It gives folks that really want to do this the chance to see how it’s done in the real world as opposed to being locked to a desk and seeing everything in a sterile environment. So I think that’s been really cool.   Check out Jones Nelson’s new album on:  iTunes  |  Amazon  |  Google Play   
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NUGGETS OF TRUTH: Recording Connection mentor Michael Vail Blum talks artist development and the importance of creating your own opportunities

   A true veteran of the music industry, Recording Connection mentor Michael Vail Blum is a Platinum-selling producer/engineer who’s sold more than 100 million records and worked with some of music’s biggest names, including Madonna, Michael Jackson, Julian Lennon, Prince, Roger Daltrey and others; he also had a hand in developing Kelly Clarkson as an artist before American Idol launched her to international fame. Operating out of Titan Recording in Los Angeles, CA, Michael also takes pride in helping Recording Connection students gain the experience and connections they need to build their own careers in the industry.   In a recent conversation with RRFC, Michael dropped shared a few nuggets of wisdom with us including: the kind of passion he looks for in students, the importance of thinking like an entrepreneur, and key advice on working with artists and creating opportunities. Enjoy!  
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ON BALANCING THE TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF THE STUDIO WITH THE CREATIVE PROCESS:   “For me personally, I look at engineering, electrical engineering, I look at mathematics, I look at those figures as creative things. Most people think of technical as just doing dry and boring, but actually…it’s problem solving. And music, many times, or writing songs is problem solving. Making a good record is problem solving, and putting all the pieces together kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. So I look at those things very similarly. And I’ve always been a creative person.”   ON WHY HE PARTICULARLY ENJOYS FINDING AND DEVELOPING ARTISTS:   “I just love being able to conceptualize how an artist could be presented. It’s almost like taking a diamond and being able to cut the diamond into how you want to do it and put it in the setting so it’s attractive. And there’s a million ways to do that. And it just so happens that when I make the connections in my head, it takes a while to germinate, but then it seems to work pretty well when I can make a connection as to how to take an artist and make them more understandable to the rest of the industry and the rest of the public. So, part of the thing that I think I really love about it is that I can take an artist, and get into what they’re all about, and try to bring that more to a place where other people understand it. And that’s what I view is the role of a producer, is to be the objective ear…I do a lot of that kind of stuff, and in the process I probably have had six to eight artists sign major deals, and so just something I love to do…Right now, I’m working with a really great artist…His name’s Chris Esse, and his writing is amazing. It’s a cross between David Bowie, it’s a little Pink Floyd, it’s a little ELO. It’s just really great. It’s kind of classic sounding.”   ON DISCOVERING AND DEVELOPING KELLY CLARKSON BEFORE HER AMERICAN IDOL WIN:   “I started doing my own thing…where we’d get musicians in the studio, because it was my studio, on some off time, and we’d start working with artists. Anastacia was one of the artists to develop…she ended up getting a huge deal on Sony…And then after Anastacia, I put the word out there I was looking for more talent…So I started auditioning some vocalists, and Kelly walks in the door and sang me a Mariah Carey track. That day, believe it or not, there were probably three or four other girls that were just as good, and I ended up gravitating towards her because some of the songs we wanted to record seemed like they’d be perfect for her.”   ADVICE ON WORKING WITH ARTISTS:   There’s always that get-to-know-each-other period. That’s really important, actually, because a lot of it is learning how to communicate well with your artist and get to know where they’re coming from, and what their songs are about, and why they wrote it and what motivated them. So you can cue into that and be sensitive to that, and also try to understand why other people sometimes might not get what they’re trying to communicate in their songs. So that’s what I try to do, and I think that it’s really important because then the artist understands that you’re really on their team. There’s so many producer/engineers and programmers and writers that just want to live through another artist and try to put their own stamp on them, and that’s not my personal style. My personal style is to make the best out of what the artist can be, and that’s why I have so many varied styles from Madonna to jazz to rock.”   ON THE IMPORTANCE OF EXPLORING A DIVERSITY OF GENRES:   I think one of the pitfalls [in this business] is that people start thinking of themselves as one genre of music. I look at music as being a creative endeavor in a bigger sense. And I think it’s really important to be able to keep learning, changing styles, learning from new artists. It’s all good, and it’s all music, so it’s kind of like if you wore the same clothes every day, it would get boring.”   ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THINKING LIKE AN ENTREPRENEUR IN THE CHANGING MUSIC BUSINESS:   “I feel like I’ve always taken the path of building my own career and being proactive about it. And I think that that’s an essential part of it, where sometimes my peers will complain about the industry, I just see it as an opportunity. And I think that it’s really important to go out and build your own career. And that’s what finding talent is to me, is being able to have the opportunity to find something I think is good and valuable and bring it to market. In the process, incidentally, I have my own label.”   ON WHAT HE LOOKS FOR IN HIS STUDENTS:   “I love it when students are really there to put in the extra time to do something that they want to learn, and it makes me want to show them stuff…If they’re just here putting in time so they can walk away. If they just want to meet a famous artist, that’s kind of hollow for me. I really want the guy who wants to stay with me until three in the morning working on a mix because they really love it, even if they’re not mixing, even if they’re just assisting or just helping. And many times I’ll just get up and say, ‘Hey, you finish it.’ And then they can really try their skills at it. I’ve got a couple of guys that went through the program, actually, that are here at the studio now, and they’re great and they’re dedicated. And that’s how I was when I started. I’d sleep on the floor just to be in the control room, and I think that that’s an essential part of it because you want to learn it…My students, I tell them right off the bat, ‘Hey, if you want to put in the hours and you want to come in everyday, you want to stay until midnight, you can do that. It’s up to you how much you get out of it.’ I wish I had that program growing up. I had to force my way in somehow.”   ON WHY HE ENJOYS MENTORING WITH THE RECORDING CONNECTION:   “I think it’s a great program…I actually love teaching people that want to know what it’s taken me 30 years to learn. And I think the other mentors probably feel the same way…It’s a great starting point to really sort of get an understanding of what they do and how they do it and how they feel about music and what they do and so on. But after that, as a launching pad, then you really have to start developing your own styles, your own career. And you can’t just sit back and wait for it to happen because it doesn’t unless you do it.”   ADVICE FOR STUDENTS ON FINDING AND CREATING OPPORTUNITIES FOR THEMSELVES:   “Finding a studio or a mentor or somebody that can help you grow musically is super important, and then being a self-starter and being motivated. If you really want to be in music, there’s a way to do it. You’ve got to go out and do it though, and you got to find the bands to work with. Find a studio that’ll allow you to work with them on the cheap to start off with, or build your own or…There’s a million ways of going about it…   “You’ve got to go and make your opportunities, and some of that means finding people and musicians you really love and saying, ‘I want to work with you no matter what it takes.’ And then eventually you build a reputation and people start calling you…   “I was actually just talking about this with one of my artists that if you love what you’re doing, then it’s not really work. It’s not work at all. It’s like you’re always thinking about music anyway, so why not try to make a living at it? I would have felt like I sort of cheated myself if I didn’t go do that…I’m actually in music because I love doing it, and I’m all about a long-term career. So all that stuff comes from just loving what you do. I didn’t get into it to get a gold record. I got into it because I love music. So that’s important, I think.”   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

Jackson Porter (far left in blue t-shirt) with Fifty Films

Jackson Porter (far left in blue t-shirt) with Fifty Films

Film Connection apprentice Jackson Porter (Salt Lake City, UT) is getting pumped and primed for the road ahead. “I’m pretty far into the Film Connection program. So far, I’ve learned so much, more than I ever could have just on my own. Everyone at Fifty Films provides me so much help, and my love and appreciation and excitement for film has grown exponentially since beginning this program. I’ve loved working with Fifty Films. They get me on film shoots as often as possible. They’re patient and helpful and have done nothing but teach me and inspire me.”   

Recording Connection mentor, engineer Dan Middleton (at console).
Moser Woods musician at keyboard.

Recording Connection student Tryston McCarthy, who apprentices with mentor Dan Middleton is getting real world knowhow at Digitracks Recording (Fort Wayne, IN). “This past weekend my mentor and I recorded a band called Moser Woods, an instrumental progressive rock band from Fort Wayne. We set up mics for drums and started laying down tracks with drums and piano.”  
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