By Kat Goldman
A GOOD Producer
It’s taken years to write your songs and now it’s time to record them. You are beyond excited, because this is the moment to finally catalogue your new material. It’s time to find a good producer.
Why not meet with a few people? Ask them for their discographies. See if you get a good vibe.
First of all, make sure you don’t hire someone who, on your first day of recording, answers the door in a cloud of marijuana smoke. That can’t be a good sign.
Also, try not to work with a producer who’s going to make passes at you during pre-production. You don’t want to be mapping out songs at the kitchen table, when suddenly, your new producer coyly says to you: “Would you like to…”
By the same token, be prepared to fire anyone who brings back beers and babes to the recording studio. There’s nothing worse than trying to sing a meaningful ballad from behind the vocal booth, when you look out and see your producer sitting with a blonde on his lap, both sipping from cans of brew. It can really kill the moment. Don’t forget, your recording is on your dime.
The WORST is having a producer who likes to think he knows everything and makes you feel as though you know nothing. Don’t work with a producer who leaves you out of the process, or says intimidating things to you, like: “Knowledge is power.” Who does he think he is, Kim Jong-un ?
Dictators are totally out.
Also, definitely do not work with someone who makes you feel extra bad about asking for things like taking more time for your vocal takes. Remember, it’s your voice going on the album, and you should take as many takes as you need- even if that adds up exorbitantly. It’s your album and you need to feel comfortable with how it turns out.
Your producer should treat you as his equal. You should feel like he is on your side. He should hold your hand along this journey. You might see him as your midwife, or shaman, blowing on a conk shell, helping to birth your songs and breathe them into life.
Your producer should make you feel safe, be sensitive, and always be kind. Having his wife come to the studio and tell you to wear make-up is just not helpful in moving the process forward. And anyhow, who asked her to come? Does she know I’m paying by the hour? And guess who provided lunch… along with crudité?
Always hire a producer who knows and works with kind and respectful musicians. You don’t want to be working with guys dressed in black t-shirts, black jeans with long, bushy, beards, ridden with zillions of teeny, tiny, microorganisms, and who don’t make a point of talking to you during the recording. Even if they did play in a band with Lenny Kravitz- who needs that kind of crap?
Turns out, the best, and most experienced musicians I’ve had in my band were also the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. It’s funny how that works.
Most likely, your producer will be a wiz on the computer, clicking his mouse like a pro, and making the process go swiftly. You wouldn’t want to work with someone who’s taking forever to move things along. That would just be a waste of your time and energy, wouldn’t it?
A good producer will encourage your best performance and know how to create a comfortable atmosphere for you to really “kill it.” He should believe in you and be rooting for your songs, putting his utmost care into each one. He’ll be there to give you high fives when you’ve nailed it.
Instead of making you cry out of frustration and having you run to entertainment lawyers to re-write your recording contract (at 250 dollars an hour), a good producer will have you laughing and having fun.
That‘s what recording music should feel like, right? Like having fun. It should make you want to shimmy - and shout - and shake it all about… and do the Hokey Pokey, and turn yourself around- that’s what it’s all about - hey!
Sorry, I digress.
What I’m trying to say is that working with your producer should make you drive home into the sunset after a long day in the studio, with a smile on your face, knowing your precious songs are finally being born.
When you have doubts, he will reassure you. When you beat up on yourself, he will puff you up. When you feel lost, he’ll know how to get you back on track.
In the studio sense, he’s almost like the perfect boyfriend…for three glorious weeks.
Most of all, a good producer should be someone you can trust. For example, a good producer would never pressure you to share the rights to one of your songs, just because he added a couple lines of music. That would just be pushy, unfair, and dishonest, wouldn’t it?
In fact, only a low life would do something like that- try to steal your song out from under you, especially if you presented the song in its entirety, with lyrics and melody already completed before it was even brought into the studio!
Your recording time with your producer should feel special, even sacred. Burn some sage, bang on a bongo drum, welcome in the good spirits. You only get to spend a few days or weeks in the studio. This should be a time that celebrates the culmination of all your efforts, the writing, the singing, and all the practicing you’ve put into this.
When your producer plays back your final tracks, it might bring you to tears- good tears. You won’t believe where he has taken your songs. This should be a great moment for you both.
At the end, you will say goodbye, as your producer sends you and your recording off into the world. It will forever change you- and you will always be grateful, because he will have given you the greatest gift of your life… your new album.
For Bill Bell- the best producer a songwriter could have!
P.S. Bill says that there are a lot of women producers out there who are kicking ass and that this is another awesome option.