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Kickin’ it with Colston

If you’ve been following our social media, you’d see that the past month I’ve had the opportunity to step out of the Michigan scene for a bit and and the opportunity to travel to Asheville, NC for a Beats and Brews travel segment. On this tour, I’ve had a chance to meet several Asheville based brewers and musicians, most of which I’ll keep contact with long after this trip. My very last interview on this tour was with Asheville based Hip Hop artist, Colston.

While in Asheville, my time was primary spent focusing on the beer aspect of the trip, however, thanks to my good friend, A.D. Weighs I was able to connect and discover that Asheville has an hidden gem of a hip hop scene. I had the opportunity to sit down with some of the greatest talent(I’ll post those in a later article) and I’m really grateful to be exposed to the level of talent the city of Asheville has to offer.

I chopped it up with Colston at professor T studios about is new single, “Alma Mater” as well as previous project, “Uppercuts” the Asheville music scene and other topics will trying New Belgium Brewing’s “Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA.”  Make sure to check out the interview below as well as Colston’s new single, “Alma Mater.”

 

Don’t Mind Me, Just KeepitG

Over the past few months that I’ve been working on my album, “Be Careful, Be Safe” I’ve had the pleasure to write and record around several different creative environments around the area. One of these places lead me to Suite 328, where I had the opportunity to record the majority of my album with the music collective, KeepitG. Aareus Jones, Inglish, Two Face Swave, S. Delli, Hi Potent-C, Rich Young Tone and Dye Low.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Dye Low and Aareus Jones and talk about their upcoming collaboration project, “Light and Water” as well as Dye Low’s 365 Beat challenge and Aareus’s photo and video company, Soundwave Productions.

“A Lot of people are like, “Is KeepitG for like keep it gangster, it it like a gangster thing?” KeepitG is more like keeping it true to yourself, keeping it real with yourself; it’s our mantra.” said by Dye Low

Below you can check out the video of our interview!

 

Sitting Down With Juan Michael OG

A few months back, I had the opportunity to play at popular Downtown Ypsilanti venue, Ziggy’s. In addition to being on the bill, I saw this as a great opportunity to network with a few of the other artist, one of those artist happened to be, Juan Michael OG. Off the release of his newest single, “City of God” I had the chance to catch up with the Ann Arbor Based MC.

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“I heard the shit on the radio and I hated what I heard. We’re talking like late 1990’s early 2000’s, it was cool, it was still hype, but I felt I could do better, I could make my own, so, that’s when I decided to make music.” Juan Michael responded when asked what got him into music. “I used FL Studios to make my first song and ever since then I’ve been making music, though it wasn’t always necessarily rap. From there, I got ableton and kept growing from it.” He continued.

“1992 was me just having fun; really outlandish, really colorful, really expressive, it was just supposed to be an ignorant, flamboyant project to take the topics that I personally see as a problem, and flip it into a more colorful, happier positive palette. Juan Michael OG spoke on the process going into his highly reviewed 4 song EP, “1992.” One of the tracks on 1992 stuck out to me the most was a track entitled, “New Kanye.” “I love making music, and I will literally forget to eat when making music. I’ll tell myself I need to eat and i’ll forget to go in the kitchen and make food while working on a track. New Kanye sums up that energy and ambition when i’m in the studio, I feel like Kanye. Some of the qualities people see me as is similar to him, so if that’s the case, with this track imma show out. So, that track was me embodying the ego and optimism that Kanye has. Juan Michael responded about the thought process that went into making New Kanye.

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photo credit, Juan Michael OG facebook page

“My biggest influences are people who don’t rap. Modest Mouse are one of my biggest influences, and is due to their escentric mentality. The Gorillaz, they have a hip hop-esque vibe, but not necessarily hip hop. Linkin Park was one of my earliest influences as well.” Juan Michael spoke on his musical influences.

“Space Money Records is a thing i’ve been rocking with for awhile. Space Money is all about energy, when you look up at the stars and you see the sun and all these other places, we don’t take into consideration that these other places could have homes. Just like we have a sun, all these other places have suns that we can see visually, but, its all the same energy. The sun gives us life, everything comes from the sun. When I talk about space money, I reference the stars, galaxy and solar systems and with money being the thing that moves us everyday. We we get out of bed everyday, we don’t do shit for love, we do it for money because money helps us get the things we love, but that’s just the society we in.”  Juan Michael responded about the origin of his company, Space money Records

You can expect a new project from Juan Michael OG this year as well as a video for City of God coming soon as well as a new single entitled, “2much.”

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artwork for “City of God”

The Versa-tile Juanye

Fresh off his release of the highly anticipated project, “Versa”, I had the opportunity to sit down with Ann Arbor based MC, Juanye at his listening party at the Motivation Boutique located in downtown Ann Arbor.  

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“When it came to beats, I wanted to get every possible beat I could possibly think of, a couple songs for females, songs for my mans to vibe to, a couple track vibe songs. The overall theme of Versa is versatility, different beats, different style of rapping, things that people haven’t heard before.” Juanye responded about the concept in mind that went into making Versa. “I feel like I have a unique voice when an engineer touches it on any type of beat, so, it was about just being versatile.” Juanye continued.  

“My older brother, Jason, who’s doing some time right now is like 5 years older than me. One day he came home with his boys listening to Tha Carter II by Lil Wayne and I just remember thinking, “Damn, this album is hard as fuck!” and they were freestyling over Wayne’s voice. When I heard Wayne’s voice, the way he rapped and the little snippet on the beat, I just knew I wanted to rap. I came up with like five different ways I could’ve spit on that beat.” Juanye responded on his motivation to get into music. “Another big moment was when I was in 5th grade, my grandmother was real big into subscriptions that get sent to your crib, she actually found one that had a bunch of hip hop albums in it and it really meant the most in my life. I had five album: T.I.-Trap Muzik, Tupac- Greatest Hits, 50 Cent- Get Rich or Die Tryin, Jay-Z- The Blueprint, and Lil Wayne- Tha Carter. As a kid, I felt like I understood it more than most kids but I had a further mind at the time” Juanye continued.

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“Derrick’s little brother Chris is one of my best friends since I was in the 6th grade. We used to live right next to each other and Derrick played me one of the hardest mixtapes of all time which was Wale’s More About Nothing, probably one of my favorite mixtapes ever. After high school, we both had a listening ear, we both have the same taste in music, he’s digitally tech savvy and I do what I do to bring to the table and it just clicked like that. I wouldn’t want anybody else to be my manager.” Juanye spoke how he met his manager, Derrick Nicholson.

“When it comes to sound, Lil Wayne is the best of all time. You may catch me with a lot of melodies and background melodies on a track, because, if you ever listen to wayne, he fills the track up, there are no empty spaces…unless he’s going off the top. ”Juayne spoke on his influences in music. “Other than that, I rock with Jay-Z heavy and I’ve been on the Travis Scott wave for quite some time. Juanye continued.

Juanye is in the process of setting up a regional tour with manager, Derrick Nicholson. “I love repping Ann Arbor and that’s where I’ll always be, even if I do run into a check or a deal someday, I’m still probably gonna be somewhere high up in this bitch.” Juanye said about setting up the local based tour.

Be on the lookout for the “Osama” video coming soon as well as multiple visuals from the project, “Versa” which is available now on all streaming platforms.

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Below you can check out photos from the listening party at the Motivation Boutique on 8/3/18

 

An evening with Lvrboy

Located in Plymouth, MI, the Plymouth Roc is a very low key location, however, it is known to have several talented musicians come through and perform. In October of 2017, I had the opportunity to help put together a release party for Adventures with Vultures, in which the topic of our article, David Green, or known by stage name, Lvrboy was the opening act. Fast forward to present day, Lvrboy’s debut EP, Lvrboy EP has been released. I had the opportunity to catch up with him at a show at the Crofoot in Pontiac July 23, 2018 and talk about the EP.

“Lvrboy is certain phases of love that I felt like I went through, one of the most important things in life is love just because it’s something that everybody feels, its universal. When I wrote most of these songs, it was coming from a place of hurt or the feeling of missing somebody and the way they made you feel, or just the nostalgic feeling of when you met your first love, and how that can go from love at first sight to problems in your relationship and things that you got to deal with so things don’t escalate. So people can expect to be in their feelings, 24/7.” Lvrboy responded when asked about the the concept of his new project. “I’ve very proud of the project, had some great minds to bring it to life.” He continued.

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Lvrboy EP features 3 soulful tracks, Try, Pretty, and Brown eyed lover. Currently available for streaming on soundcloud, but plans to release the EP on major streaming platforms soon. Lvrboy draws his influences in his music from the likes of, Frank Ocean, Stevie Wonder and Thirdstory with a gospel-like vibe to him.

 

“My earliest memory is me sitting at church, watching the band play at rehearsal. I got to witness some great drummers early in life, so, when I turned 7, that would be my definitive moment,  watching someone else play music and going in and thinking, “that sounds incredible, I want to be apart of that.”” Lvrboy responded on the definitive moment he wanted to become a musician. “I hopped on drums, a couple years later I wanted to play bass, shortly after I started playing guitar  and I’ve sang my whole life, my whole family sings; it runs in the family, it’s God given.” He continued.

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In addition to Lvrboy, I had the opportunity to talk to Drummer and DIME University graduate, Duane Hewins, who plays alongside of Lvrboy. “I was around 3 years old when my parents got me my first drum set, when I was 5, the church put me on to play for the kids choir, and it was history from there, I’ve been playing drums since I can remember. My earliest memories are having a sister, and playing drums. I never knew that I wanted to make this serious until I turned 18, a year later I met Dave.” Duane responded on the definitive moment he wanted to become a musician. In addition to Lvrboy, Duane also plays with DIME University alum, Brother Elsey whom I had the chance to check out in Chicago earlier this year. “If you can play gospel, you can play anything.” Duane said

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Photo credit, facebook.com

“The plan is to play out as much as possible, and get back back to work on the album. Hopefully enough people hear it to have us come out and play in the city and leads to a tour. ” On his plans after the release of the EP. “This is my life bro, this is what I love, this is what I wanna do with my life.” He responded about his plans after the release of Lvrboy EP.

“Don’t stop, keep going. Even when you feel like you are at your whits end, you have nothing left in you, you know you’re just not gonna make it, just keep going. Practice makes perfect; discipline and connections are everything, and overall just be humble. He responded about his advice to aspiring musicians. “One of the biggest things Detroit suffers from is the willingness to work together, Detroit will make even the best musicians seem like the worst musicians just off the lack of humility in the city sometimes, so just be humble and be gracious, and pay respects to the people who came before you, because at the day, that’s who is going to open the door for you.” He continued.

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Make sure to stay tuned for future releases and shows from Lvrboy very soon.

 

A Girl Named Egypt

For those of you not familiar with the story of Egypt Covington, she was Belleville native that worked as a beer distributor for Rave Associates, however, she showed a strong passion as a country/blues singer, even managing to win Ann Arbor based contest, “Country Idol” back in 2014. On June 23, 2017 she was tragically murdered in her home in Van Buren Township.  According to an article from Mlive, “Family and friends have said Egypt Covington was “angelic” and had a loving spirit.” Arbor Brewing decided to create a Brew in her honor called, “A Girl Named Egypt” that past tribute to the late singer as well as provide funding to women’s shelters, animal shelters and a music scholarship. “I had the honor of being her friend. She was a regular at WOB (World of Beer) Her family and friends are great people” Said by Tanya Towne, manager at World of Beer in Canton. “She was a great person. Always smiling, always telling people great things and making them feel great about themselves; she had something about her that touched everyone’s heart. It was great for Arbor to follow through with the beer.” She continued. 

 

Coming it at 9% ABV and 50 IBU, this Double white IPA is brewed with elderflower, passionfruit and mango, some of the late singer’s favorite things. This beer packs a very strong fruity hop aroma,  medium to high white head and very carbonated. The esters resemble somewhat of a tropical taste, more than likely from the passion fruit that gives a fruity, spicy, clove-like taste but finishes a bit bitter.

 

If the story and the the residuals made off this beer are going to a good cause wernt not enough to make you get out and pick it up, overall it’s a great beer. The only thing I could say negative about it that since it’s sweet but comes in at 9% ABV, it could be a bit dangerous and sneak up on you, so, you may want to keep in mind that this is still a double IPA.

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I’ve personally never had the opportunity to meet Egypt Covington, but from the articles I’ve read on this story, she was a pleasant spirit and could shed positivity on anyone around her and her death is definity a huge loss for the community, however, thanks to Arbor Brewing, her legacy is alive and well with this brew.

 

Have your cake, and drink it too!

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to try the new, Strawberry Short’s Cake from Short’s brewing. On the front of the label, it states “brewed with fresh strawberries and milk sugar” In my mind, I pictured more of a creamy mouthfeel with the aroma of fruity esters from the yeast. However, this brew is quite light bodied with a surprising carbonated mouthfeel, though it manages to keep that strawberry taste. This golden ale uses victory malts, which gives it a bready, biscuit like hop aroma and taste. 

Coming in at 4.3 ABV and only 10 IBU leaving it to be a perfect brew for the hotter seasons. Fans of Arbor Brewing’s Strawberry Blonde would happily enjoy this beer as it is a lower ABV alternative. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of this one due to the low bitterness and high carbonation ratio, but for those looking for a lighter option during the hotter seasons, and you’re a fan of strawberries,  I would recommend this beer. 

 

 

A Trip to Denton Cemetery

Around fall of 2016, I’ve made the decision to move to Ypsilanti, Michigan to focus on my career in journalism. Over the past year in a half, I’ve managed to get familiar with the music scene in the area and network with musicians, bar owners and promoters from many different backgrounds on different events, as well as my own music. A few months back, I decided to check out an open mic hosted at W. Cross Station (formerly crossroads) in which Ypsilanti based artist, Drew Denton was in attendance. Fast forward to June 30, 2018, Drew Denton released his long awaited album entitled, “Denton Cemetery” and we had the chance to catch up with him for an interview at W. Cross Station at his release party. Many featured local acts such as, Black Alfalfa, Team Stack, Scumbag Frew, Wicked Jake and many more were on the bill for the event.

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“Denton Cemetery is about me laying down alot of my demons, a lot of negative shit that happened in my life just kind of putting that shit on blast so I can move past this person. It’s real high energy music, very metal and dubstep influenced produced my me and a couple other homies that I have; it’s really like the crem de la crem of my music. I finally found my sound and that’s what Denton Cemetery is about.” Drew responded when asked about the thought process and mood that went into making Denton Cemetery. As a person that has his hands in a lot of different avenues between being a journalist and artist, I’m always curious to see how other artist got their start.  

 

“I’ve been on this shit since I was 10, I started playing the recorder in the 4th grade, was super accelerated off that, as dumb as it sounds. From there I moved to clarinet, then bass clarinet, then I said fuck band because that shit was nerdy and picked up a guitar, I had a band for a minute, we played one show, a white stripes cover of Seven Nation Army when I was 13 then we broke up. At 14 or 15 I started making beats and it was, everything else kind of happened from there.” Drew responded when asked on how did he get his start into music.

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Drew Denton is Part owner of Northern Threat Entertainment, an event company that specializes in throwing parties around the area. “Northern Threat is a collection of my super close homies, we’ve been throwing parties since my momma’s house back when I was around 14 or 15,  so, we just wanted to make it more professional. We want to bring out the best artist we can get our hands on from around the area and just throw bangers. It’s all about love, positivity and bringing people together from different walks of life.” This spawn events such as 734 Saturdays which takes place monthly at Ziggy’s lounge in downtown Ypsilanti. Another aspect of Drew Denton’s creativity is music collective Approachable Minorities, which is comprised of Drew, Lewy Seifer and DJ On Demand. “We’ve all know each other for damn near 15 years, we were in bands together, partying together and hanging out together and just been making music the whole time. Approachable Minorities was just like a joke at first, I use to have a wild purple beard with glasses,  a good friend of mine came into the studio one day and I shaved my beard and he said, “you’re looking like a real approachable minority right now.” Ever since then the name just stuck.” Drew responded on the origin of Approachable Minorities. “You never know when you’re going to be the minority in a situation, you could be the one white dude in a room full of black people, the one punk rocker in a room full of rappers, so you never know when you’re going to be a minority so you might as well put a smile on your face and be approachable and get to know people.” Drew continued.

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Drew cites a range of different artist for the influence on his sound. Artist such as Detroit rapper, Danny Brown is one of his biggest influences. He cites acts such as Death Metal band,Job For a Cowboy and EDM act Bassnectar is an influence on his production.

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I’m going to keep making music,  keep doing this shit till the wheels fall off and keep living my life. I came from a real dark spot a few years ago and almost gave up everything, so right now I’m just trying to push it and that’s why I peaked this year and that’s what let me know how finite life is, you just gotta live that shit to the max. Fuck anything anyone else is trying to get you to do, you only got one life. Everyone’s gonna try to get you to do what the fuck they want you to do, fuck that, with respect to everyone else.” He responded on his plans going forward.

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In addition to Interviewing Drew, I had the opportunity to get a interview with Rex from Team Stack as well.

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“Just growing in around music, Three 6 Mafia, Jeezy, just grew up around the trap shit really, just the same shit I did. Doing music, it turned into merchandising, turned into CD’s and it turned into a different outlet than just selling dope on the corner. Rap shit came with bad bitches and legal money.” Rex responded when asked what got him into music.  “We about promoting good music, good fucking DJ’s, good producers, just good vibes man.” Rex continued. Rex is a Michigan native, but credits his the sound in his music from artist such as Jeezy and Gucci Mane. “This shit is fun bro, i do this shit for everyone else around me. If it comes with money I’m into it, been rocking shows in Ypsilanti, Detroit, I’ve been doing this shit for years.” Rex responded about what’s next for his music.  “It’s a Michigan movement right now, we need to unite these Michigan artist and go abroad.” Rex’s manager added.

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I had the chance to catch up with a few other artist around the event that will be covered in later interviews. Make sure to check out Denton Cemetery, available now. Personally, my favorite track off of the album is track 7 entitled, “Big Bank” but, you should take a listen for yourself. 

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Nashville Trax: From Dream to Reality

 

 

 

Joe Markusic,

Beats and Brews Guest Writer

Bill Watson, like most of us has dreams and aspirations to do something special with his life, to leave a legacy he could be proud of. Many of us never pull the trigger and follow through with chasing our dreams. Most of us get stuck in living in the daily routine and before we know it, our life has passed us by. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill, whom after years of struggling with the decision, in 2004 decided to move to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue his dream of succeeding in the music and entertainment industry. Bill Watson grew up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania with the goal of being a working musician. After years of pondering over the risk, he made the decision to invest in himself and follow his dreams. Unlike where he grew up, one out of three people work in the industry in Nashville. Many have tried, but failed to make it. Bill is determined to not become a statistic of failure, but rather one of success. Below is my interview with producer and musician, Bill Watson.

 

How did you get started in the music and entertainment industry?

 

I heard a song by John Denver on the radio, “Back Home Again”, thought it was cool and decided to learn to play it on my Dad’s guitar. That led to entering a church talent show and it took off from there.

 

Why Nashville?

 

I needed good session quality musicians for my business to work. There are good musicians and singers worldwide but usually in very isolated pockets, there is no place on earth that has such a high concentration of talent in such a small area as Nashville. Definitely the largest concentration of session quality players on the planet.

 

Tell me about Nashville Trax. When did you open?

 

I started doing demos for clients with my ex-wife Rhonda who sang and played keyboards when I lived in Pennsylvania. It was very much part time but made money and I enjoyed it.

 

I thought maybe if I made the move it might be even more successful but my wife hated the idea of moving . After Rho and I divorced in 2002  she encouraged me saying that I was now free to chase my dream and if I was ever going to do it, that was the time to execute. So I sold two houses I owned and started looking for property in the Music City area. I opened Nashville Trax and created NashvilleTrax.com  in 2004.

 

How many projects have you worked on and who are some of the biggest acts you’ve worked with?

 

Slightly 0ver 3,000 projects. The Swansons whose recent single “Valentine” went #1 regionally. Danny Thompson a country act from Canada who first broke on the BBC Radio Network in the U.K. and that was the catalyst for huge word wide radio airplay. In Christian Music, The Greatest Gift, a three piece singing trio that hit #1 on the Southern Gospel charts. As far as musicians: world renowned guitarist Brent Mason. Fiddlist Jenee Fleenor of Blake Shelton’s band and regular on The Voice;  and drummers Jim Riley of Rascal Flatts as well as David Northrup of Boz Scaggs band are all on my team.

 

What are some of the biggest transformations you’ve seen in the music industry?

 

Home recording gear increasing in quality. And digital replacing analog, especially in the editing area. .

 

What would be the major reasons to go into a professional studio over a home-recording set-up?

 

In terms of the actual recording medium, none, digital is digital. But a designed-for-a-specific-purpose  room and super expensive outboard gear such as $1,000 and up microphones, $3,000 preamps, etc, may be beyond the budget of a home recording enthusiast. But the biggest reason is to get a professional engineer and/or producer involved who has experience as well as access to tools and talent the amateur lacks. I produce meaning I take the rough a client gives me and make every decision that moves the project from the client’s initial rendering to a professional recording.

 

Does the room make a difference?

 

Absolutely. A room can have too much natural reverb or it may sound boxy, etc. and those are things not easy or maybe impossible to fix in the mix. Home recording folks try to build vocal booths and such but lacking budget, experience and know how usually end up with flutter echo and other issues that make their work sound worse instead of better. Our drum room and iso booths at Nashville Trax are designed for specific purposes, The walls are not parallel, there are angles and bows designed into the walls to reflect sound in a certain direction, we have bass large, expensive bass traps correctly positioned to tighten up the low end, etc.

 

What could a great-sounding recording do for an artist’s career?

 

It is the bargaining chip that gets you to the table. If you don’t have that you don’t really have a legit shot. If you have a great sounding recording and do everything else right in terms of marketing and promotion then a great sounding recording will launch your career.

 

Do artists benefit from networking?

 

Generally, yes. One contact leads to another and often leads to your next producer, radio promo guy, or an A&R person deciding to give your music a listen.

 

The cream rises. If you believe your act and your music product are the cream let people know about it. Especially in a town like Nashville where a huge percentage of people make their living from music.  You just never know who you’re talking to. The person that waits on your table at a restaurant may well have a close relative in the business or may even work full time at a music publishing company daytime, waiting tables at night. Give them a business card and friend them on Facebook or somewhere they might hear your music and become a fan, who knows what it may lead to.

 

How many of the artists you work with are able to match live what they’ve done in the studio? Is this the norm?

 

These days most can get very close because of “flying in tracks” which means that the drummer plays to a click track and music tracks imported from the recording session are “flown in” as .wav or .mp3 files and mixed with the live-played instruments. A band like The Swansons gives me a specific list of the tracks they need to make that happen: “We are playing an awards show next weekend, please export and load all fiddle, background vocal, steel guitar and percussion tracks on songs X, X and X  for a live performance.” Nearly everyone is doing it.

 

In your opinion, what classifies as a good mix and a good master?

 

A good mix has a depth and a balance between the instruments and vocals that translates well across all mediums: on computer speakers to big studio monitors and most important, on radio. If a mix is really good the mastering is nearly transparent in terms of how the mix sounds and mainly adds some compression and imparts maximum loudness. If the mix is lacking them mastering also becomes about making the recording sound better in a specific bandwidth, more clarity in the upper midrange for example,

 

How has this changed with the introduction of digital music and MP3’s?

 

It’s kind of crazy, Joe, the more technology has advanced the more people are listening to music in the mp3 format, delivered on cell phones and tiny, cheap computer speakers. So we record on expensive digital software like Pro Tools HD then  mix on super expensive studio monitors but the end product is played back over the cheapest system available. Knowing this, there is a trend to tailor extra specific mixes specifically for that medium.