On A High Note

The Producer's Corner – Thoughts from behind the recording console.

Robert de la Garza

Hello, friends! It’s good to be back online and talking about music and entertainment. We hope you will check out our new up-and-coming issue of Sports & Entertainment Nashville featuring the new hit television series “Nashville.”

In accordance with that, I thought it only appropriate to put a few “real” thoughts out there on what the Nashville music scene is like from the Producer’s side – the challenges faced, the differences between an engineer and a producer, and how it feels when a song becomes a production.

Robert de la Garza

Robert de la Garza

Fortunately, my long-time friend and music producer Robert De La Garza was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for me, and we talked about things that are important to producers and what an act can do to better themselves along the way. What does it take to create that magic that makes the music happen?

Producers – the magicians behind the musicians!
Robert has been a musician (and an engineering magician) for most of his life, and you could say that he has pretty much done it all! He has been signed as a songwriter at Tree Publishing, one of Nashville’s major publishing houses. He has worked as a studio musician/session player all around Nashville’s storied recording studios. He has engineered records for some all time “greats,” including The Carpenters, Herb Alpert, Little Steven and Alison Moyet. He’s worked for major record companies, including Los Angeles’ A&M Records and Mexico’s Southern Signal Records. In fact, Robert has headed the Southern Signal “ship” as President and CEO of Southern Signal Records, Southern Signal Productions, Southern Signal Publishing, and Southern Signal’s Recording Studios. Just prior to all of that, Robert was Vice President of Starstruck Studios and Starstruck Broadcast here in Nashville. Though he’s been away from Nashville for a short stint, I’m pleased to say Robert will be returning in the summer of 2013 to add his gracious talents once again to our community. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy this Q & A.

Q & A with music producer, Robert De La Garza
S&E: So, Robert, what is it that actually moved you into the field of producing?

RDLG: I am a musician, songwriter, composer, arranger and audio engineer. Producing allows me to encompass all of the things I love to do.

S&E: What would you say are some of the biggest challenges for a music producer?

RDLG: The biggest challenge of producing is always the same. Be true to who the artist is, and at the same time give the artist a unique musical sound, thereby giving the artist their own unique musical “legs.” The competition level is high, so being unique is a priority.

S&E: Many people may not know the difference between a recording engineer and a record producer. Though we realize that there are a few folks who do both, what is your version of the difference between the two?

RDLG: I find that, as a producer, the thought process is to have a vision of where you are taking the record. As an audio engineer, it is more about shaping the direction of sound for the record.

S&E: What is your favorite type of project, i.e., solo artists, band projects, symphonic?

RDLG: As long as the artistry and the music are good, I’m all in!!!

S&E: Producers often talk about the “energy” in the room when the tracking sessions are going on. With all of today’s technology, talk a little bit about the differences between the guy who sits in a room and plays all the instruments for a demo or for a record versus how it feels to have a half dozen musicians in the room (and the drummer;-)…just kidding.

RDLG: Both ways of approaching a record are valid. It mostly depends on the genre of music. My favorite way to approach a record is with a group of hand selected great musicians. The exchange of ideas is always fun, and the culmination of the energy of musicians all playing together is excitement at its best.

S&E: What are some insights you could offer artists before they arrive at the studio?

RDLG: The best thing that an artist can do before coming to the studio to record is to do their homework in preparation for the recording. It’s always great if the artist knows where they want to take the music vocally and emotionally. The intensity of the vocal performance from the smallest to the largest nuance is important. When an artist comes into the studio prepared, the musicians can feel it and will step up and play to that intensity and emotion.

S&E: Alot of new artists don’t realize the work that goes into a production even before it gets started. Tell us the kinds of things that have to be done in pre-production.

RDLG: Pre-production is the time spent to realize a vision and a direction for the record before entering the studio to record. Having a good “road map” allows the musicians to bring their best creative talents to the session.

S&E: What do you think of the mega technology we have for recording these days – and how do you feel that will affect the future of the music industry? How does it do so already?

RDLG: Today’s technology is amazing and keeps getting better by the day. And because of that, our recording tools now allow you to be as creative as you wish. If you can imagine it, there is a way to accomplish what you are hearing. Fun, fun, fun!!!

S&E: What do you personally look for in an artist? Let’s say you were going to hand pick an artist to work with and try to put them on the map.

RDLG: I always look for an artist that has something to say both musically and lyrically. There is a lot of great talent in the world. However, having something to say artistically is the most important thing that I look for.

S&E: Any last words of advice to musicians or artists?

RDLG: Always strive to make music that means something. Make people laugh and make people cry. Make people feel good and make people feel emotion with your music. Make people feel inspired to move forward in a positive way, and you’ll likely find some success.