, owner and chief producer/engineer at The Record Shop
in Nashville, has accumulated an impressive and diverse client list over the years, with names that include Tim McGraw, Brett Michaels, John Legend, Randy Houser, Big & Rich and DJ Sinister, to name a few. Sean also happens to be one of the Recording Connection’s finest mentors, and during a recent conversation with us, he drew from his own experiences to offer some crucial advice for students looking tor break into the recording industry.
Sean started learning and making music at an early age, but soon figured out he wanted more. “When I was a kid, I took guitar lessons and piano lessons,”
says Sean, “but I got frustrated because I wasn’t really excelling…and in my mind I had this grand vision for the way that songs were arranged. So later on in life, I realized that at my core, I was really meant to be a producer and engineer, to direct and create all the sounds as opposed to just focusing on just one of them like a musician does.”
Like many producers and engineers, Sean’s entry into the music industry came from forging his own path. He urges up-and-coming producers to do the same. “Once you have the education, rather than trying to start out right away by getting a job in the studio, if you can’t find a job in the studio, find a band you can record, and bring them into the studio,”
he says. “When I moved to Nashville, I couldn’t get a job anywhere, and I got a job DJing in a club downtown, and that’s how I made a living. Then I would find artists and bands, and I ended up connecting with a small studio who let me use their facility after hours, and gave me free reign over the place. So I made work for myself, and I found artists that I could work with and I brought them in. Then [the studio owner] saw all the business I could bring in, and he started bringing me in on projects…it just kind of grew from there…I found that getting started out, if I could add value to the organization, they’re much more interested in sending me work or giving me opportunity. If I can make them money, they’re going to want to hire me to do things.”
Sean also encourages new producers and engineers to be as diverse as possible in the kind of music they work with, again referring to his own experience in the industry. “It’s good to have a basic knowledge of every style of music,”
he says. “It’s helped me in the evolution of country music, for example. My background in programming and pop tracks and hip-hop has been so valuable for me to be able to jump on this new wave of country music that’s coming out that’s very heavily programmed and has a lot of pop influences. And there’s not a lot of the country guys that could jump in and do that, so I find myself getting a lot of work on that side of things because I can do both of them. I can do a straight-up country record, and I can do the pop thing and combine them together. And it’s helped in other genres as well.”
Making connections has played a huge role in Sean’s current successes as a producer/engineer, with new projects coming his way after doing good work on previous ones. He shares that his opportunity to work for major labels in Nashville essentially came as a result of helping out a friend. He encourages up-and-coming artists to keep an open mind when considering projects, even if the pay is low.
“Be open to helping people out,”
he says, “recognizing the value of doing something. Even if you’re getting paid less than you think you’re worth, the value that can come from that later on is going to be exponentially more than the little bit of money that you make at first. That was my thought process starting out, and now I don’t have to worry about that at all, which is an awesome thing.”