December 3, 2021 11:00am ET
By: Gumaro Sanudo
Have you ever wondered who is responsible for the recording process behind some of your favorite songs, such as Cardi B’s WAP, Megan Thee Stallion’s Thot Shit and Savage Remix (feat Beyonce) and Cassie’s Don’t Play It Safe? Behind the creation of each of these hits is a masterful engineering whiz who controlled the whole session from top to bottom – and we tracked down the man himself, Grammy-winning Shawn ‘Source’ Jarrett.
Too often, the importance of the engineer to a successful song creation is forgotten. These essential creators are the backbone of the studio process, bringing the world’s most loved songs to life – and they deserve more recognition. The 100 Percenters, in collaboration with RNBNerd, spoke to platinum-selling Source to discuss his personal journey in music and shine a light on his recent accomplishments; he was the first engineer to receive a ‘Behind the Boards’ playlist on Apple Music and was just nominated for four Grammy’s at the upcoming 64th Annual Grammy Awards for his work with Lil Nas X, Nas, Megan Thee Stallion and Eric Bellinger. We also picked Source’s brain for some helpful tips for independent artists and fellow engineers. Read on for free game – because this man knows a thing or two about crafting a hit record.
Your Behind The Boards playlist dropped last month. How does it feel to receive this recognition from the Apple Music platform? Source: To be honest, it's a great feeling. Being an engineer, you typically see stuff like that for producers and songwriters. And I do those jobs as well, but as an engineer, I was kind of at the forefront and being the first person on the platform to have something like that. It's a big step for me in my own career. But for engineers as a whole, because I feel like we're a very important part of the music industry and we can all use a little more recognition and get our flowers here and there. Based on this list alone, are there any songs that you feel a deep, personal connection to, and why? Source: When it comes down to it, I have a deep connection to everything that I work on because I'm so tapped in and tuned in with the artist that I work with - seeing as I have personal relationships with them all. But if I was to just pick one off the top of my head that really resonates, it would probably have to be the Savage Remix because that record kind of jump-started and changed my life. Every record means something to me. My lifelong dream since being a kid was to win a Grammy, and I won two because of the Savage Remix. And who doesn't want a song with Beyonce?
Kevin Mazur: Getty Images Source: That's a pretty good question because it still comes down to the art form of the artist. My part of it is the creative side of things, which is very important. And yes, me being a fast engineer, me having a producer's ear, me being the extension of the artist to help their dream or their song come to fruition is a very important thing too. It's a beautiful thing. But outside of that really, the success of a record is off fan reception and how the record is marketed. My part is important, and I feel like my mastery of music does help the song sound great, but it's kind of the step above that where the artist also has to put the record out there and make it blow.
"the success of a record is off fan reception and how the record is marketed"
Since we are talking about songs, are there any that you really love that never came out (that you can talk about), and why are they special to you?
Source: There's a lot of songs that I wish would have come out - and might still come out. The music industry is just in a weird space right now, without going into specifics about any artist or whatever. Sometimes you create a record, and it takes time for the record to come out, or it gets put in the archives. But the archives still come out - for example, some of the records that came out on Megan Thee Stallion's project, she called it Something For Thee Hotties: From Thee Archives. Those were some songs I've done and knew about. Whether it be a day, whether it be a month, whether it be a year…all those records mean something to me. But just to be perfectly honest and transparent, I'm recording about ten songs a day, seven songs a week, every week. That's 70 songs a week. So, there's a lot of music that I resonate with that hasn't come out yet. You recently shared with Revolt that Atlantic Starr was the first major artist that you worked with when you were about 13 or 14 years old. You expanded on this during your 100 Percenters podcast interview, citing Reggie Huggins as the person who spotted you playing music with friends. Can you tell us a little bit about this experience and how this opportunity helped you develop?
Source: I've been very blessed in my musical career. It started when I was real young, around the age of 13. I was the kid that would just go to the recording studios. I just thought it was cool, and I always had an interest in it. Atlantic Starr is an R&B group from my neighborhood, and when Reggie introduced me to them, we kind of caught a liking. I used to just sit there; I didn't know how to run Pro Tools, I didn't know how to run a program, but I literally just sat there with my partner Chris and started recording and taught myself. Then everybody began to ask where I learned. It was just in a room with a very seasoned artist that was willing to help guide me through the process. I take great hold to that because at that time, older R&B music was really tone-centric. Meaning, they didn't really use autotune as much, so they would sing these songs top to bottom, over and over until they got it pitch-perfect, the way they wanted it. That kind of made me an engineer, where I can chop pieces up - I learned how to compose music that way. I learned to be fast as an engineer, be attentive to notes, and start listening to stuff like that. This is all happening while I'm in high school, so from there, it established those roots of me being a very attentive engineer and me learning more about musical theory, notes, et cetera.
Throughout your journey in an industry that can be full of ups, downs, can you share any significant moments that inspired you to keep going? Source: When I was a kid, I was a part of a couple of records that may have blown up, but I didn't really understand the business side of things at that time. That kind of gets you down when you work with your peers - and it happens to everybody in the music industry. This is not me singling anyone out or anything like that. But when you work with your peers, you're a kid, or you are brand new to the industry, sometimes you feel like you're taken advantage of. Whether it's true or not, it's just more of, like, you get let down. And what made me persevere through all my tribulations coming up was my love for music. This is all I had. It's gotten me through so much as a kid, you know, and it just it's my way to vent to life. For me, it's just always been a healing, meditative kind of thing. No matter what the situations were, I was able to always come through. A situation that changed me from my time being a high-school engineer to being the person I am now is when I first moved to L.A. about five years ago and met a guy by the name of Sham, who ran a private studio in Studio City. Sham just threw me in with the sharks to see how I worked, and I think my first session was with French Montana. I did well in that and it kind of snowballed after. As anyone successful knows, you never get to the top alone. Who were the people that you would say have helped you along the way? Who were your angels? Source: Definitely, I would say Jonathan and Wayne Lewis from Atlantic Starr were a very important part of my life. Then you have Reggie Huggins, who brought me into a studio when I was, like, fifteen. Then, there is Sham - and the whole staff at KDS Recording Studio in Orlando, Florida. I'm one of the few engineers that never had to intern. I just so happened to be put in a situation at a studio. I had the drive to learn. I had my first studio gig at KDS in Orlando before they closed, so that whole staff, everybody there, means something to me. But from when my career really took off about five, six years ago, it would be Sham. They have all been angels. But everybody that comes into your life, whether it be clients, writers, friends of mine - you learn from everybody. I try to learn from every experience and everybody that I run into.
In the 100 Percenters podcast, you shared that you were born and raised in The Bronx, NY, and grew up in Florida. How have the cities you grew up in and your upbringing in general influenced how you navigate both the creative and business side of what you do? Source: Creatively will be easier to talk about. Where I'm from in New York, it's more like a hip-hop/urban kind of vibe. I wasn't really exposed to music outside of what I grew up on. I also say on that same podcast that I'm Caribbean, so I grew up on reggae music. My mom would listen to the oldies like Sade, so I grew up listening to all that stuff. But mainly, amongst my peers, it was like hip-hop and urban music. When I moved to Florida, at like, 17, I got introduced to a new group of friends from different cultures while being at college. I learned about pop music and country music. I'm such a huge pop music fan. It's like one of my favorite things. I feel like being able to leave where you're from and learn from other cultures is a very important thing, not only creatively and musically, but as a human being in general.
"I feel like being able to leave where you're from and learn from other cultures is a very important thing, not only creatively and musically, but as a human being in general."
Can you share a little bit about what music meant to you as a child? Would you say this is where your passion began? Source: It has always been like a therapy for me. Like, maybe you're a kid, and you got bullied - I would go listen to Eminem or something, you know? It was always an escape. It was my first love. It's something that it comes from within us, that we're able to share with the masses, and it sounds corny, but it's a very poetic thing to me. Did you always think you were going to work in music? Did you ever have a backup plan? Source: I don't think I ever mentioned this to anybody, but I wanted to be a magician. It was either going to be magic or music. I am happy that music took over. But seriously, my whole life, I've been playing piano - since I was like three years old. I did not even think of music as a job. It was just like a lifestyle, even growing up. I never really had like a real nine-to-five, maybe for like a week as a kid. I've been very blessed that my life just transitioned like that. Would I say that I always thought it was going to happen? Sure, I didn't really know anything else. You have said that engineering almost fell upon you by way of necessity when you first began working in the studio. But was there any reason that you kept going with it? At the end of the day, why engineering? Did you ever think about being an artist? Source: Well, as a kid, I had that dream. I wanted to be an artist; everybody wanted to be an artist at some point. But for me, I'm a producer more than I am an engineer. I am like a math nerd, and it [engineering] just felt like a math problem to figure out. I always wanted to learn more, and from learning engineering, it has helped me make my own production sound better and help other artists make their dream come true. For engineering, I just wanted to get really good at it. It looked like something I see a lot of people do, and I felt like I could do it in a different way. You have a Master's Degree in Entertainment Business in an industry where many creatives are not formally educated. In the 100 Percenters podcast, you shared how your family viewed your decision to pursue music and expressed that you were a risk-taker. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to forge your own path in a creative field when it can seem like the world wants you to pursue something more "safe" or "practical"? Source: We live in a different day and age now than what the other generations are used to. Music is always going to be a risky career. You can work your whole entire life and never achieve the dreams that you want to achieve. I've been in the music industry for over 17 years and just got my first Grammys and number ones. You have to be patient and willing to take all the risks - smart risks. I wouldn't say give up living under a roof and be homeless to make music. You have to be smart about the risk that you take. For me, I don't personally think I would be happy sitting in an office from nine to five, working on somebody else's dream. I would rather be an entrepreneur of sorts and work towards making my own dream and the dreams of my peers and the people that I love come true. I'm very thankful for my master's education. It has taught me how to be in these rooms and talk to people and communicate. Those are very important skills to have. I'm very thankful I went to college because all my peers that have helped accelerate my career I met in college. But for me, as in a personal space, I've always wanted to go the creative route and create my own schedule.
"Music is always going to be a risky career. You can work your whole entire life and never achieve the dreams that you want to achieve. I've been in the music industry for over 17 years and just got my first Grammys and number ones."
Do you feel that your formal education helped you to know how to get to where you needed to be, in terms of how to build a team and manage your work?
Source: It showed me all the puzzle pieces. I didn't already know because most of my thought process is on the creative side of things. I'm thankful for people like my publicist, Richardine, and my managers Ryan and Danny. They help offload some of the work. A lot of people feel like they can do everything by themselves, and that's just not realistic. Believe me, I try to be a jack of all trades - and I forget things all the time. I'd rather be able to focus on the creative side of things and leave all the other stuff out of it because that's what gets your brain all jumbled, in my personal experience.
Would you say that the team helps you get the opportunities now? Or was going from French Montana to Young Thug, to Megan Thee Stallion, more organic through interactions?
Source: My people play a part as well. But for me, most of my relationships, from Young Thug to HitMaka, it's just me being in the right place at the right time and knowing what to do. Somebody told me a very long time ago that "the opportunity of a lifetime only lasts for the lifetime of the opportunity." I try to seize every opportunity that comes my way. I met Megan Thee Stallion in a session through Juicy J. She was working with him one day, and he called me up to work on some stuff, and we worked together on a song. Ever since then, I've been with her for every song, but I also had to know what I was going to do. The way I work is not the typical "I'm just going to sit in the room and press record," unless that's what the session calls for - because sometimes it does call for that. I get so excited when I work, the fact that we are making a song - and I feel a lot of artists resonate with that. Then that spreads through word-of-mouth, making it easier for my team to reach their hand out to people because they trust my work. They know what's going to happen when they put me in the room.
In the 100 Percenters podcast, you mentioned the importance of working with another engineer that can guide you. Who have you worked under, and what was the biggest lesson you gained from that?
Source: Even without saying names, from most of the people in my music career, it's being able to be fast. This is a very important part of being an engineer. It's not just knowing all the quick keys or the shortcuts of this or that. If someone is like, "Make that sound like a telephone," you must be able to have that either prepped or ready to go fast. You must make sure you are not slowing down the song because the moment you start slowing down their thought process is when it becomes a drag for everybody. I get this all the time, and if you give me a solid 5-10 seconds, it's done. You have to try and figure it out and always continue to learn. That is another very important thing. From when I started up to now, there are so many new effects and cool things. It sounds weird that I have all these records out, but I still go on YouTube and watch a beginner that's never done anything, who just so happened to make a new effect. I think that's cool. It doesn't really matter about accolades; it's about just staying in tune with the music and always wanting to learn.
What would you say is the artistry that goes into the engineering process? What sets a truly great engineer apart?
Source: Communication and workflow. Not to sound repetitive, but being able to be fast. There are some artists that I work with, they go into the booth, and I don't have to say a word because I know what they're going to do. We just respond to each other in an automated kind of way. Like, let's say you're rapping. I can hear the rap, and I know the artist well enough to know the chorus is about to come in, so let me have the chorus prepped so it can come in where it's supposed to come in at. I do this before they even get there, so they know how many bars they got left. I am paying attention to the flow of the song, staying on top of it, and being attentive. You have to pay attention, and little things like that are going to make an artist want to work with you again. Like if the artist says, "Bring me back to the word 'Apple,'" if you weren't paying attention to them rapping, you wouldn't know where that word is. Now, you're clicking through, trying to find it. Whereas if you're paying attention and maybe going along with it in your head, you can immediately go to that one bar. They can redo it, recut it, re-sing it and the workflow just keeps going. That's one thing that I hear a lot about me that I pay attention and I care.
We want to get your thoughts on some topical issues in the music industry. Let's talk indie v. major. We have indie artists (e.g., Baby Tate) who record, write, produce, mix, and master their albums themselves, and then many artists still doing it the traditional way, with a team (producer, songwriter, engineer, etc.) from the label. What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of these two types of artists?
Source: I completely respect anybody that can do it all themselves. I just don't really see the sustainability in it because to compete in this world, you have to have content - and for you to have that much content and do it yourself, that's a big undertaking. For that artist, that's a very beautiful thing. I know other artists that have done that, like a close friend of mine, Capella Grey. We are from the same neighborhood, and he has a song called Gyalis that he wrote, produced, mixed, and mastered the song himself. That song is one of the biggest songs in America right now. I love any artist that can do that, but if you're thinking longevity, you're going to get burnt out. That's the advantage of having a major supply those other things. But even if you have a major, it is also starting to get real wishy-washy because of the politics behind it. I choose to stay out of the politics behind it because I work with, not for, these labels and artists. I never want to come off judging anyone else's situation because whatever decision you make might be the best decision for you to sign. It might be the best decision for you NOT to sign. I'm just here to support you in whichever decision you make on it.
How have you perfected your craft? Do you attend seminars or subscribe to any engineering publications?
Source: I follow engineers on Instagram, the names I mentioned earlier Jaycen Joshua, Mixed by Ali, and everybody. You can learn from everywhere and anything. What kind of helps me, even when I'm not working with a Megan Thee Stallion, a HitMaka, a Puff, or anybody big - I am also working with up-and-coming talent. I am mixing records here and there. I'm always working, and I feel like that's what helps me fine-tune it. Even if I take a day off, I am organizing files, or I'm downloading samples to produce beats the next day. That's another main thing about engineering that I should have said earlier that I didn't say: organization is very important—being able to organize your sessions and have everything look a certain way so that when you see it, you know where the hook is, et cetera. But back to what I was saying, you have to fine-tune it. The opportunities that I have, not everyone has. But the internet is big, and you can learn literally anything at any point in time. It's just your willingness to want to do it - and I have the will to always want to learn.
We would be honored to get some guidance from you that aspiring music creatives can take away from this. If you could give one tip to independent artists, what would it be?
Source: One of the most important things for any independent or even major artist, producer, songwriter, and engineer is to always be yourself and always want to learn more and grow from those around you. A lot of people may deter you from thinking that your dreams aren't reality or that they're possible, but the only person that can limit you is yourself; you're limitless. You can do anything that you want to do. You can achieve any dream; it's possible. It was such an emotional moment, and I think it might be on my Instagram, but I low-key screamed and cried when Megan Thee Stallion texted me that we won a Grammy. I was at the store shopping, and I fell to my knees crying. Anything you want to accomplish, you can accomplish. A lot of people are going to tell you no, or you might have financial limitations, might not have the best gear, or you might have this, you might have that. There are platforms; there are people who will listen. There are people who will take the time. Someone gave me an opportunity when no one else would. I would do the same for another person, and I still do. I check my D.M.'s; I read all those messages. It's just you have to want it, and as long as you want it and you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything you want to achieve. That's coming from experience because I have dealt with the people that might not believe in you. Then you start, "Why does that person have this?" and "I can't achieve that". That is why social media is real detrimental to a lot of people. Stop comparing yourself to other people. I'm a victim of it. I do it as well - but try not to do it as much. Try your best to just be yourself. That is basically the point that I'm trying to make. Just be yourself.
"A lot of people may deter you from thinking that your dreams aren't reality or that they're possible, but the only person that can limit you is yourself. You're limitless. You can do anything that you want to do. You can achieve any dream; it's possible."
What is one thing that every engineer should have in their toolbox?
Source: One thing every engineer should have: find your E.Q., find your compressor, find your reverb, find your delay. As engineers, you run into a problem of wanting every new plug-in, every this, every that. And I'm one of those people because I have everything! Not everything, but as much as I could possibly know about because I always want to try new things. But that's not super helpful, like when you're in the workflow and someone says, "Pull up the reverb," and you have like 170 reverbs to go through…versus just knowing one that works well and knowing how to use it. That means more. So, find your E.Q., find your compressor, find your reverb, find your delay, and then learn them. Why does it sound like this, what does this pre-delay do, why does this E.Q. filter sound like that? Learn your plug-ins. Watch a YouTube video, figure it out, read a manual if that's the way you want to go about it, learn your core things. Then get all the creative stuff out there. I have a main E.Q. that I use called FabFilter. I love the way it works, I know how to use it, I know how to control it, I know how to make an effect happen quick that I want. This way, if the artist wants something different, I will add on top of that. I know what my go-to is without having to think about it. Again, it's all about workflow, speed, and staying on top it.
Would you ever consider expanding your team to include other engineers? Perhaps developing new technical talent?
Source: Yeah, I literally just made a post about that like seven days ago. I'm interested in getting a couple engineers. I'm looking for two to start with. I just want to spread the knowledge around. Audio isn't sexy. It's a job. My job is very taxing on the body and on the mind. It takes a certain kind of person. I will share the knowledge with anybody; even if you don't want to be an audio engineer, I don't mind sharing knowledge. I'm prepping to start something like a master class, an online thing where people can just see me working and doing stuff like that. But for the engineering side, I'm looking for like two to five people. A client of mine is opening a new facility soon at the top of the year. There are some people that are hungry, and they say things like, "I don't have any credit yet. Is that still cool?". I don't care if you worked with everybody or no one. It is really your drive, what your interests are, and what you want to learn. That is more important. There are people with Grammys that might not have the best workflow. It's just however you want to work.
How would you describe your work style in five words or less?
Source: I–am-the-greatest-ever. Just kidding! Let me think about this: fast, focused, attentive, creative (because sometimes you try different things that make the artist go "Oh, snap!"), and receptive.
Can you describe a day in your life, and do you feel like it aligns with what you initially thought working in the industry would be like?
Source: That can go both ways. Like being at a celebrity event and hanging out with all my peers that are seen as celebrities, there's been several situations where that to me is just like, "Wow, I really, like, made it." But in terms of like the business side of the industry, some of this stuff is a little different than what I expected. I didn't understand the role that engineers played in the music industry, and that's why I take it upon myself to kind of be the forefront man to change the perception of what engineers do in the music industry. I feel like it's a very important thing that should be rectified.
This kind of leads into my next question. In preparation for this interview, I came across ten reasons why you shouldn't become an audio engineer. One reason was that "audio isn't sexy." Would you agree?
Source: Yeah, it's not a sexy thing. But in terms of being an engineer, it's not a glorified job. We are the grunt in the music industry; we go through the most. It's a good and a bad thing because we are who the artist is most intimate with more than anybody else in the room. I can hear you sing without auto tune on, I can hear you mess up, make mistakes, and that's not how you are typically viewed by the world. In my personal perspective, that's very intimate. Like you're in with the headphones on, I got the headphones on, and no one in the world can hear us. But in terms of being in public and trying to go to a bar and be like, "Hey, what do you do? I'm an audio engineer". That's never going to work.
Have you faced any adversity in trying to fully express yourself or give your input when working on a track or with an artist?
Source: Yeah, that happens all the time. Again, I keep going back to this. I am extension of the artist's vision. I would never try to make someone do something that they didn't want to do. It is more of my suggesting a harmony somewhere in the song, and if they are feeling it, then cool. If not, then let's move on. It can be collaborative sometimes, and sometimes you just don't want to overstep that boundary. It can slow an artist's thought process down. A lot of these artists nowadays, they don't physically write their lyrics before they get in the booth. They are like free-styling or coming up with melodies on the spot. If you keep interjecting, you are going to slow down that thought process, and it can be a hindrance. You kind of have to read the room and read the audience. That has come with me being in so many sessions. I can kind of tell and feel out when I can interject. The music industry can seem very small, with only a handful of major labels that push a select number of major artists in mainstream media. Does the work you do always align with your personal beliefs and convictions? Or have you had to compromise those at times to advance your career? Source: Fortunately, I've never compromised my integrity for music. I'm a firm believer in my name and everything that I stand for. Even being a person that wants to push for engineers to get percentages on songs and stuff like that, a lot of major companies are kind of against that. They don't feel like that should be a thing. Whether that's right or wrong is a whole different conversation. I could easily be quiet and continue to work. But I feel like, if you believe in something, you want to do something, you should just stand on your own feet. It comes with pitfalls. No matter what, you're going to win sometimes, and you're going to lose sometimes.
What changes have you seen happen in the industry that you appreciate or that have made life easier? You mentioned that you were able to work in Megan Thee Stallion's living room while you worked on her album.
Source: The advancement of technology has 100% helped. Being able to make mobile rigs and take a studio with a high-quality microphone, compressor, and be able to go on the road or travel. It really helps the creative side of things because you don't always just want to go into the same room, in the same box, and record different kinds of music. I feel like if you're recording a song one day on the ocean, it would make me feel different if I was an artist. The fact that you can make mobile rigs and stuff like that, it's different. Basically, the whole digital age has made things better, but it's also made things harder for songwriters and engineers in terms of streaming platforms. Granted, I love them, and I listen to playlists almost every day. I just wish there was a median line or something, something that the 100 Percenters have been pushing for: find a way to play that is fair for everybody. When you look at the staggering numbers, it's just like - wow. Conversely, have there been any changes in the industry that have made things worse? Is there anything that you feel could be improved on or could use more awareness as far as what engineers deal with? Source: It's become too common of a thing where people be like, "I don't sleep, I'm in the studio 24 hours a day." This is because you have to keep up with competition; everyone and their mom has a laptop or a microphone. There is always a new producer. There's a new 12-year-old kid with Fruity Loops that's making something. Anything is possible now that the town has kind of been washed up in every genre of music. I am one of the people that have become a victim to no sleep. I barely sleep, I work, and I get told all the time that I need to take time for myself. Balance is very important. For an engineer today, it's so hard to continue to get work and have a real-life at the same time. Trend chasing is another thing. Whereas when I was growing up, everybody had their own sound. You knew what a Sade song was going to sound like. I mean no disrespect to anybody by saying that if you to listen to a brand-new playlist made of brand-new artists, I guarantee there will be a lot of similarities.
How do you balance work and your personal life? Source: I don't! I'm trying to! A very important part of that is why I was able to thankfully link with Richardine, Ryan, Danny, and my team. I do so much and work with so many people that when I get off work, I just want to go to sleep. Then I wake up, and it's time for me to go right back to the studio. Then I go to sleep again, and it's like a never-ending cycle. You need to either offload some of your work or slow down, which is kind of the phase that I'm in now. I am slowing down and focusing on the production, starting to rebuild myself. Or just wade in the water until you get burnt out, and I've been burnt. Everybody's been burnt out in this music industry, from writers to artists. When you hear about artists going on tour for 60 days, and their body gets burnt out, it's going to happen. You must find balance. You have detailed how grueling your work can be, sitting in front of a computer for 10-13 hours a day. How do you take care of yourself, feed your emotions, and find inspiration? Source: I either try to listen to other music, or I just get away from music altogether. Honestly, sometimes I listen to music so much that when I leave the studio, I drive home in silence. It is a way to cleanse your palate and clear your mind because that's very important. I take a lot of solace in silence. It's those key moments where I walk away when I'm recording and take a second to do something. If I have a second, I go to the bathroom I walk out. It's just, like, a refresher from just hearing the same thing repeatedly. Any song that you've ever heard me do, I've probably heard a thousand times. Not because it's taken the artist a long time to record, but even after they're done recording it and left the studio, I still have to clean up the song, make edits, send it over to mastering, and have it mixed. I am hearing the song more than the artist, probably. Do you associate much with your peers, and what do you feel you get from that? Source: On some of my free time, I go to YouTube and look up Dave Pensado, Mixed by Ali, Jaycen Joshua, and these are technically my peers because we do the same thing. We work with the same caliber of clients, but I still find inspiration from them. I look up to everybody. Even a close friend of mine, James Hunt, who works for TDE (Top Dawg Entertainment) and Kendrick Lamar's team, taught me a lot just by me being around him and hearing the way that he works on music. You just got to be able to learn from it. HitMaka was one the people that taught me not to force music. If you go to the studio and the beats aren't hitting right, go to dinner and go home. Don't sit there and be like, "I got to record ten songs today!", that is not how music should feel. It's a business; you have to get work done, but you have to also enjoy yourself. I'm thankful for that mentality, and I tell writers that all the time. Maybe they are trying to force a hook out, and maybe it's not the one. We can try another song. We can come back to this - instead of forcing yourself to do something. Where do you see engineers going in the future? What will their role be like in 5-10yrs? Source: Hopefully, they all transition into producer engineers. It's kind of the phase that I'm in right now. We play such an important part of the song, and we are day-rated. We get paid, and that's kind of the end of the process. We don't have any kind of stake in a song. That's why a lot of engineers seem like they don't care. Like they are just there to press record, go home, and pay their bills. But imagine if an engineer got like 1% of a song? They would be more interested in being a part of something rather than not. There are engineers that get that on projects like that. I feel like in the very near future, there's going to be a shift where engineers are going to become more important because either they're going to go on strike, or they are going to get the respect that they deserve. When I say strike, I don't mean people are going to just stop working. But you need a songwriter to help you write a song. You need a producer to help you produce a song. If you produce and write your own songs, you still need somebody to record you. And even if you record yourself, you mix yourself, you produce your own records, you write your songs, you are singing, you still need somebody to mix it. Eventually, an engineer is going to play a part in the development of your career. So hopefully, that transitions into a new light. Does your success now feel long overdue? Did you always believe it was going to get to this point? Source: I actually never really thought about it like that. I know a lot of people look at themselves and try to think, "Yeah, I finally got the Grammy. I should have had it!" I don't. It is work, man. Even on the day that I won a Grammy, I was in the studio making another song. You're only as good as your last record. For me, I'm grateful and very thankful for every accolade that I get because some people never get that in their lives. I do work extremely hard, but I try not to get caught up on it. I choose not to think like that. I choose to always think about the music more than the accolades.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be in your position and attain the level of success you have? Source: Outwork the competition. Always find a way to make things happen - and it's going to seem hard. It's hard for me now. While you're out partying, somebody is in the studio. Always remember that. I'm not saying don't enjoy your life, because I spent the majority of my 20s - probably all my 20s - working. But it means more to me to be able to enjoy the grind. The grind is the most important part. As long as you can go through the grind, everything else will make sense when you get to the finish line. What is next for you? Source: Continuing to strive for greatness. Of course, I want another Grammy. I want another number one. I want to build up new artists. I want to work with independent artists. But mainly, it's focusing on the production side of things as well, because, like I said earlier, I am a producer first. It's just that I got really good at engineering, which has opened a lot of doors for me. Most of my placements have come from my relationships out of being an engineer. But for me right now, it's about finding balance and continuing to excel in everything that I do. I heard someone describe you as a man who "lives in the song." What do you think about that sentiment? Source: Whoever said that knows me very well. I do live in the song, and I'm consumed by music. I love what I do so much, and I'm very thankful. I keep telling everyone I'm so blessed. I don't think it's luck because I do work extremely hard. Anyone that knows me will know that if you're trying to call my phone, there's an 89% chance that I'm in the studio. I am always working. But I've been really blessed and thankful that I've always known that music was a part of my life. There's a lot of people that are just working for a check. I understand everybody has their responsibilities, but if there's a possible way that you can do or find something you love, and you can become financially stable from it, I would totally tell anyone to do it. For me, living in a song has greatly changed my life, and it has been for the better.
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