HOW I LET GO OF EGO & PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS WHILE PRODUCING
By Joey Landreth
As a producer who often produces himself , I have to stop and check in with my artist self and make sure that I ’ m actually making decisions that support the music and not just my ego . It often means that things turn out completely different than what I had originally set out to do , but I ’ m rarely disappointed in that .
One of the most valuable tools I developed as a young working musician in Winnipeg was a really strong ear . Every different style has completely different idiomatic expressions and you can ’ t help but soak those things up when you are being immersed in them . Now , I still was told by the reggae folks that I played too far on top . I was told by the rock bands I was too bluesy , and the blues bands said I was too rocky , but all of these things formed how I learned music and how I expressed myself .
The other thing that came from this community was a deep respect for the music . While , I had my heroes that I wanted to emulate and goals I was hoping to smash through , I knew that I had to treat people ’ s music with as much respect as I could . That meant if someone wanted me to play something differently , that ’ s what I was going to try to do . It was a hard lesson to learn , but not being precious about my sounds or playing style and trying to deliver my parts in ways that were congruent with the artist or band I was working for was priority number one .
Eventually , calls started coming in to do session work . I wasn ’ t very comfortable in the studio at first . Engineers are often the first people to make decisions on sessions . They decide what mics are being used and how , and therefore what the session is going to sound like overall . They ’ re fussy and require strong opinions on what sounds good . Often in my early years , it was in stark contrast to what I felt sounded good . I ’ d show up with a 100W head and 2 x 12 cab and they ’ d tell me to leave it in the car and just plug into their Blues Jr ., or worse , “ there ’ s a DI on the floor .” But I quickly realized that if I wanted to keep doing sessions , I had to embrace this challenge . Eventually I started to enjoy the challenge of trying to coax sounds out of amps I didn ’ t know or try to make a sound that was interesting when going direct . The lesson here was the old adage : the tone is in your hands . The tone is also in your imagination . It ’ s there for you to grab if you ’ re open minded enough and empathetic enough .
This is the big lesson . This is the one that I have been learning over and over in different ways . If you come to the table with a preconceived idea of how something is going to go down creatively , you will very often be left wanting more .
A great example of this is how the majority of the drums were recorded on the newest Bros . Landreth record . Because of the pandemic , we weren ’ t able to gather outside of our homes for much of the time while we were recording the record . Normally , we would all record bed tracks in the same space . We can make eye contact and give each other feedback as to what we ’ re all going to do on the next pass . We love recording this way . But when that wasn ’ t possible , we took a risk and asked a hero if he ’ d contribute some drums via correspondence . In the end , Aaron Sterling played on most of our new record and it was an education . I learned that when I get out of the way , sometimes cooler things happen than what I was originally thinking . In the case of Aarons ’ drum tracks , it shaped the sound of the record . It changed my complete approach to recording . If I had been in the room , I might have suggested a different kick pattern . Or I may have said , “ don ’ t bother setting up those bongos ,” but because I wasn ’ t in the room , things beyond my imagination emerged and expanded the record . It ’ s still my record and it ’ s still my music but it ’ s also shared with everyone that contributed to it . It ’ s way more collaborative than ever before .
When it came time to mix , we did the same thing . We reached out to a hero and asked if Greg Koller would mix . When I got the record back , I was immediately struck by the lead vocal sound . It was not what I was expecting and didn ’ t sound the way I would treat the vocal . It had more upper mids and top . It had more air than I ’ m used to hearing on my voice and it was really forward
in the mix . The way he mixed the vocal was brave and confident and if I had acted on my urge to ask him to dial it back a little , I think it would have changed the course of the album . Because of the experience with the drums , I thought , let ’ s just see where this goes and then decide . After a few more listens , I really started to understand Greg ’ s tones and choices and was in love with them . I don ’ t know that I ’ ve ever made a record with less revisions . I chose to let the mix be another element of the collaboration instead of me mixing my record through Greg ’ s gear . I don ’ t often listen to my own music beyond mixing and mastering but this album is different and I think it ’ s because it ’ s so collaborative and , to me , it sounds more like us than anything else in the catalog . All thanks to a little letting go .
There is a surrendering of the ego that happens when you do that . When you just let go . You say , “ it ’ s not about me and how I want this to go , but it ’ s about what ’ s best for the song .” What ’ s best for the record and for the artist ?
Joey Landreth is a musician and producer from Winnipeg , MB , and one half of the Juno-winning group The Bros . Landreth . Their latest studio album , Come Morning , marked Joey ’ s first adventure into producing , as he co-produced the album with their long-time producer , hero , and dear friend , Murray Pulver . www . thebroslandreth . com .
PHOTO : KENDRA HOPE PHOTOGRAPHY
56 PROFESSIONAL SOUND