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Issue #216

Weekly Newsletter

by Liya Swift

Student Successes

Recording Connection grad Nigel Dean
Gets Hired at Phaser Recording!

Nigel Dean at Phaser Recording Studios

Recording Connection graduate Nigel Dean

Since graduating Recording Connection in 2016, Nigel Dean has worked with a number of bands and artists including The Shins, Cold War Kids, and Missio. We recently touched base with the rising engineer/producer and composer to learn more about what led up to him getting hired at Phaser Recording, the studio where he trained, and to find out how he was able to turn his dream job into a surefire reality.   Do you come from a musical family?   “Not my close family, not my parents. My mother and my father aren’t at all musically inclined…I’m kind of like the black sheep…I’ve always loved music, started orchestra in 5th grade and started playing the violin then started guitar in 6th grade. Music has just always been a part of my life.”   So you eventually you signed up for Recording Connection but prior to that you attended a large university. Could you tell us a bit more about  that experience and what led you to us?   “When I graduated high school I enrolled into Boise State University as a musical composition major. My major was in classical guitar with a minor in piano. Then about two years through that, I had to do a little self-reflection. You know, I enjoyed going to school there, classical music was great, but I didn’t see a real career happening in classical music.   So I reevaluated and decided that I wanted to move more into the recording and production side of the industry. So I went around looking at different schools. I looked at Berklee College of Music, a couple of other private music schools, but the cost was ridiculous …Then I found Recording Connection. I did a little bit of digging and I saw that the style of teaching was more one-on-one, which really intrigued me. So I made a huge life decision. I dropped out of state university and moved to San Diego so I could be in a city that had more going on.”   How much would you have spent if you had gone the Berklee path?   “I would have been at least $50,000 in debt.”   So tell us about meeting Patrick Heaney, your future mentor, for the first time?   “I think I had been in San Diego for like a week. I was in that totally excited mood and everything was new to me. When I met him I was basically like a little kid who’s going through his presents at Christmastime. Patrick is a lot more laid back. So I guess I was a little like, ‘Oh my god, I don’t know if this guy likes me. He seems really quiet.’ But he showed me around and I was immediately taken aback by the studio. It’s gorgeous. As soon as I saw it I thought, ‘If this guy will accept me, I’m in no matter what.’   By the end of the interview I felt confident that he was going to accept me, and I think a day later I got a call from you guys saying, ‘Hey, Patrick accepted you, said you were a cool guy. Let’s get the ball rolling.’”   And even though you’re a multi-instrumentalist and have been writing songs all your life, you didn’t really know any of the DAWs when you signed up, right?   “Not really. I mean, I had Logic, and I knew a little bit through that. I had been messing with it for like three months. That was the whole reason I enrolled in Recording Connection…To me it was like, I could figure it all out myself or I could save myself a bunch of time, maybe spend a little money and learn from somebody and just cut that corner so that I could excel quicker. That’s basically what I ended up doing.   I did my whole apprenticeship (externship) so that I didn’t have to do this long studying by myself independently. If I was studying by myself, I could be learning something totally wrong instead of having Patrick there to say, ‘I know that the internet tells you that this is what you do, but it’s not.’   When I met Patrick what I lacked was the fundamental understanding of what mixing even was…I mean my tracks sounded great in terms of composition but in terms of sound, they sounded muddy. So he opened the door on how to clean everything up, how to make sure everything has its own space within the frequency spectrum, that everything is cohesive as a whole. Then, he really explained to me the technological aspects: how different types of microphones work, the essentials of certain equipment, and basically the fundamental components of what the equipment does.”   Ultimately you got hired but prior to that, Patrick asked you to come in to help on certain projects. Yes?   “Yeah. I got to sit on some projects where I was the assistant engineer and similar things where I helped produce. I even had some sessions where I was the session guitarist. I’ve gotten to work with some really amazing artists that I would never have dreamed about working with. Some of them were my idols growing up as a kid. Luckily, after the program was done, he continued to hit me up and say, ‘Hey man, I need help with this.’… Then finally one day he was like, ‘Hey man, you’re here enough. You might as well just be one of us.’”   In your opinion, what do students need to do to make the most of their experiences with Recording Connection?   “Number one, they have to have an exceptional work ethic. The mentors can guide you places but they can’t make you move your legs. For anybody who’s trying to enroll, one thing that they need to know in their head is that this is the hardest work ever, in my opinion, or one of the hardest. Any entertainment industry job, whether it be acting or standup comedy or whatever, it’s nonstop. The only time you really get time to yourself is when you’re sleeping at night. So I think any student needs to go into it knowing that this is going to be hard work.”   Okay, it’s hard work but you seem to love what you’re doing.   “Oh, totally… It’s some kind of euphoria. That’s what keeps me going, honestly.”   How does it feel to now be able to go home, play your guitar, record it, track the whole thing and mix it yourself?   “It’s an amazing feeling. There’s nothing I can’t do now, which is one of the greatest things ever, [to be] a musician and an engineer and all that. I’m confident that anything that I want to do musically, I can do it now. There’s no limitations.”    
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Mentor News

Recording Connection mentor Lee Evans on Getting into Audio, Working with Artists, and More!


Recording Connection mentor Lee Evans

  Recording Connection mentor Lee Evans has more than three decades of experience in the music industry. Since starting out as a keyboardist in the 80s, he’s played, toured, and recorded with numerous talents throughout the musical spectrum, from Willie Colon to Afrika Bambaataa, Harry Belafonte to Queen Latifah, Cyndi Lauper to Doug E. Fresh.   Today, as founder and head engineer of Jambox Entertainment Studios (New York, NY), Evans works with an array of independent and signed artists (Atlantic, Universal, Sony, Motown) and on projects for corporate clients ESPN, MTV, VIBE, Verizon, VH1, and more.   We recently connected with Evans to learn more about his journey into the studio, get his advice for working with artists, and to find out what he says it takes to train with him and to get going in the industry.   You actually started playing, performing, and studying music at a young age. What led you into audio specifically?   “I was intrigued by the first electronics. In the 70’s, they came out with an Odyssey and a Minimoog, and those things blew me away. I heard a lot of crazy noises coming from them, and when I went to sleep that night I had nightmares that this thing was chasing me. So when I woke up in a hot sweat, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is crazy.’ So I became an electronic musician so I could kind of conquer the beast.   Then I met up with a friend and I started a studio out of my apartment in the Bronx. We had a lot of people coming by and I guess I was producing them, [although] I didn’t know what a producer was at the time but I was making instrumental music with my keyboards. I would spend every dime that I could get on equipment. I would buy it, then I would learn it, and then that’s all I would do is just get really good at making music. So I started getting all these people coming by my place, just this little basement in the South Bronx and then I blew up from there. After that, I started getting labels calling me up and they would have me come into bigger studios and record some records…And everything kind of launched off from that point.”   What’s your advice for working with artists in the studio? How do you define your role as a producer?   “As a producer, at the end of the day, it’s a bit of a psychological game. You have to cater to the artist. You have to get them to feel comfortable enough to work with you. You can’t take an artist to the next level unless they’re comfortable enough to let it all out. A lot of artists are a bit insecure about what they do. So you have to make them feel secure about working with you…   If you’re going to critique the artist, always have a fix behind it. It’s fine to critique but don’t just say, “No, that sucked,” with no fix and keep doing the same thing. You have to be able to come up with a fix for that. A lot of times you might have to go through 10 different fixes and then the artist gets drained and you might have to come back to it another day.   I think an artist/producer relationship is a lot like a regular relationship. Once you have that “marriage,” they’re going to get their best music by working with the best producer. And the best producer is somebody that’s going to cater to them. It’s not necessarily somebody that’s big in the game already. It’s just somebody that understands their music and their mindset and who can cater to them and help to elevate what they’re doing.”   What’s your advice for people who want to work in the music industry?   “They’ve got to develop a thick skin…In this business it’s really important to make noise…You have to have that little bit of that bragging-ness about you. Let people know, ‘Hey, this is what I do, this is where I’m going.’ That’s super important. They say closed mouths don’t get fed. I’ve had students and I’ve had people come in and, you know, they’re there but they don’t say anything and I don’t know that they can make beats and I don’t know that they can play an instrument or that they’re a good singer or anything like that…   You have to get involved. You have to get experience under your belt on a lot of different levels. You have to be used to talking and communicating with other people, to collaborate, to make music with, to listen to your music, to critique, to help you to get yourself out there. You know, all of these things are really important; that’s what I would leave with anyone coming up in the industry.”   What qualities do you look for in potential apprentices (externs)?    “I look for initiative. I look for how they do a job. There’s a saying that how you do anything is how you do everything… So I look for somebody that has the initiative to get the job done to a certain point, and not just complete a task, but to get it done to the level of quality and acceptance that we have at the studio. So you’re not just completing a job, you’re getting it done right…The other thing is that you need to get involved as much as you can.”    
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Apprentices in Action

A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Sending a big congratulations to Radio Connection graduate Leonora “Lelo” Martelly  in NYC on recently getting promoted from Talk Programming Producer & Social Media Manager to Board Operations at SiriusXM! Here’s her advice for making the most of Radio Connection:   “I would merely say, be consistent…I mean, not just doing the work when you’re having fun and getting into it, but actually going home and practicing it and applying what you learned so that it gets embedded in your memory and actually becomes natural…Don’t doubt yourself. Believe in yourself even when no one else does, because if they don’t see the vision, then how do you expect them to be as passionate about it as you are? It starts with you…It’s really about being confident, understanding your natural gift, and owning your vision.”   Keep on doing us proud Lelo!         Film Connection student Mike Whitehead, who trains with Rocco Michaluk of Rocco Films, is saying yes to the long days ahead:   “Our session ended with a recap and revisit of my short film, talking about steps taken/completed and what more needs to be done in efforts to prepare for pre-production…The majority of class was going over the revamped short story script and talking about certain elements of what we can make work, some things that may pose a challenge, [and] how we will get done (in a good way)…A ton of homework was given to begin the legwork: scouting locations, compiling a shopping list of props, look-books, research into potential actors, character descriptions/breakdowns…   I’ve dug myself in a deep hole of work to be done in the coming weeks and months and I couldn’t be happier.”     
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or call (800) 755-7597