The first audio recording was made in 1860. So even though people had been making music long before this, the capturing of recorded music has only been around for the last 160 years. At the time, recorded music revolutionised the world as music creators were able to express themselves in a completely different way. Not only were they able to play music like they always had, but to be able to record it and hear that musical piece played back, was a game changer.
As we progressed through the years, more and more bands/artists began making records. They quickly realised that an external musician was needed to help guide them through the recording process. Enter the ‘producer’.
Let’s put aside the technical role of the producer for now and concentrate on two main relational roles.
1. Understanding who the artist is as a person.
It’s so important to get to know the person you will be working with on a personal/relational level before working together on a musical level.
Even though these two things go hand in hand for all of us, making music from a place of friendship is always preferred. This doesn’t mean you have to have known this person for years, what it really means is to get to know them! Take them out for a coffee, invite them over for dinner. Get to know WHO they are. That will give you some keys as to HOW to best work with them.
Some suggested questions are:-
Here’s the key. Listen to what they are saying. I mean really ‘LISTEN”.
Listen to their tone.
Listen to their energy.
All of these things will be signals as to what sort of songs they may want to write.
It’s the job of the producer to not just identify these things, but to assist in bringing it out of them in the most fulfilling way.
2. Helping them feel comfortable ‘in their own skin’.
Writing a song can make one feel quite vulnerable.
This is where we bear our soul. We pull out the deepest and darkest things within us and craft it into melody and lyric to convey a message.
As a producer, we need to understand this vulnerability, that songwriters may feel embarrassed to show their songs. It’s our joy to be able to put them at ease. Encourage them. Pick out the things we LOVE about their songs before any constructive criticism. This will help build confidence between you and the artist.
All these things help the artist to feel comfortable in their own skin. As a result, you, as a producer, can add/subtract things from their song, knowing that they will be much more open to changes.
The term ‘producer’ has changed a lot over the years. Before the modern era of making music on laptops, the only way to be able to make a record was to go to a well known studio. There you would start making a record with your record producer.
One of the great modern producers is Rick Rubin. He has produced an array of artists from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to The Dixie Chicks, Eminem and Linkin Park. Rick has an uncanny ability to be able to get to the heart of the artist, no matter the musical genre.
Rick shares with us three questions that he tries to uncover about the artist before they move to production.
So, understanding the artist/band your working with at this level has many benefits. It allows you to discern where the heart of the music and the lyrics is coming from. This knowledge is essential in making the record match what they are striving for.