From This Day Forward Album Interview Part 1
It was December 2013. I was in New York briefly to visit an old friend, but I also used the trip as an opportunity to meet with my mixing/mastering specialist Sam Sherbin. I initially met Sam through my brother as I was looking to expand the quality of my song's mixes. I had recently finished working on new versions of "Half a Man" and "Sirens" with him, and was so happy with the results that I decided to bring a new recording to NY that he could work on. That song would eventually become "Stillness," a track that later appears on my most recent album From This Day Forward. As a record, it might be the best sounding one on the whole album.
Article and questions by Andy Studer
Andy Studer: Stillness was kind of a launch point for the album and our continued collaboration for this project. Was there a moment we decided it was an album? What was it like working on Stillness? Tell me a little bit about what you try to hear when mixing or how you hear it?
Sam: Stillness is a great song and it was a unique opportunity. We bounced the tracks from Logic then imported the tracks in Pro Tools. While that was happening, we were discussing the arrangement and influences for the song. I started working on the most important elements of any modern production: kick, snare, bass and the vocals. A great mix consists of filling out the 3D box. Music has 3 dimensions. The left to right are the frequencies and panning. The bottom to top is the volume. The front and back is the depth. I'm listening for all of those elements to create contrast between instruments and the space its in. I always want the vibe to be right, along with the sonic quality. I learned about that from Bruce Swedien. He took us to an orchestra to understand how music sounds in a natural space. It was an incredible learning experience. It's all the how the music makes you feel. I learned that from Manny Marroquin. It's not all about sonic quality. When I'm mixing, I listen critically and as a music fan. What would I like to hear in this song? What would make the most impact? Those are some questions I want to answer while mixing. Another part of mixing, is attitude. You got to have a great attitude if people want to work with you. You're dealing with people for more hours then you're actually mixing. That's such an important part of successful careers.
Andy: We worked on my album From This Day Forward for over a year. What do you remember most about the whole process? Did you learn anything through it?
Sam: Yes, I remember we were always brainstorming about how to present the songs in an album experience. We would work on multiple songs at once, while I was mixing, you were recording new parts to another song. We got a lot of ground covered working like this. Organizing files, sessions, multi-tracks were all apart of the learning experience. I'm in New York and you're in Los Angeles. We completed the album while being 3 hours apart in time. We used Dropbox and texting to keep everything running smoothly.
Q: I always say we have a great dynamic since we talk music but also can talk about real life. What do you think has clicked between us through working on these recordings?
A: I think it was because we listen to similar music. That's always a great starting point for producers, engineers and artists to have a connection. When you would reference an artist or vibe for the album, I understood what you were going for. That made the process more enjoyable and less stressful. It's difficult to understand art sometimes especially music. There are a lot of terms that could mean something less. Someone's definition of warmth in a track could be dull to someone else. Plus we're the same age that helps in just understand where you're at.
Q: We've talked a bit about working on some of my music coming up in the near future. Any goals when mixing for me next time? Things you would like to do differently in the process or things you're trying to do more of? Differences in workflow/etc.
A: My goals are always the same, to make sure the artist loves the product that I deliver. I've been setting up different templates for effects just to make things smoother in terms of routing it in Pro Tools. I access each project individually to see where things can be improved. Whether it's a communication thing or a plugin purchase, it all leads to better projects!