In today’s music business, many of us take on multiple roles to stay afloat. Roles that, in the music business of old, were often quite separate. This is the age of the hyphen and the slash, the age of the musician-engineer-producer-composer-booking manager-promotions guy-blogger-etc-etc…
Some have entered the age of the hyphen grudgingly, some have adapted more-or-less-easily, and some blessed souls have dived in joyfully. Meet Jamie Siegel of JRock Studios, a self-professed “Swiss Army knife” of the recording studio.
Q: So you’re basically a composer, musician, guitarist, producer, recording engineer, mix engineer, and studio owner, right? That’s a lot of stuff, and I’m probably leaving something out. How do you primarily think of what you do, and how does all that get organized in your life?
A: That’s a great question!! It’s not really a conscious choice on my part and finding balance outside of the studio has always been a tricky thing. I LOVE making records and working with artists, so finding the energy to work and be creative usually isn’t difficult. I think the most important factor is the emotional tie I have to music and the ability to communicate and understand the artists I work with. There is a ton of psychology involved in working with talented people (so maybe add psychologist to that list!). I consider myself an “all around” music guy. If the music is great, I’ll be happy to work on it with you and contribute in any way I can. Additionally, I’ve always had a good business sense and JRock Studios is the culmination of that.
When I started my career at Chung King studios, I really wanted to learn how to engineer and mix records properly. Composing/producing was always something I’d done growing up but I considered it to be more something I did for fun. I never tried to “push” those skills at the studio. Next thing you know, I’m being asked to play guitar on a Whitney Houston record or programming drums, etc for some other platinum-selling artists… I always asked myself “Why me?? Aren’t there much better musicians out there??!!” Apparently, I was capable and just needed some pushing.
It’s really dull for me to be tied down doing the same thing every day and I pride myself on having the ability to be a “Swiss Army knife” in the studio, so even though I didn’t set out to be all the things you mentioned, that’s how my career evolved. As far as how all that gets organized in my life. I have no idea. 🙂
Q: I like the metaphor of the Swiss Army knife. A lot of us in the music industry have jobs that require that kind of flexibility, and you clearly embrace it! When you’re producing do you bring in someone else to engineer or will you do both? Or does it depend on the circumstance?
A: I’d say that 99% of the time I’m engineering everything myself – unless of course I’m playing acoustic guitar — then I’ll have my assistant Tony engineer for me. Considering I’m mixing most of these projects, it’s a lot easier for me to get the sounds correct during tracking. It’s way more difficult trying to “fix” something after the fact — especially when recording digitally. Spend a few extra minutes listening and make sure the sound you’re capturing is going to work well in a mix context.
Q: Tell me a little about your studio. What is it about your space that makes it a good place to record and be creative?
A: JRock Studios is a warm, unintimidating space with some really great gear. I think of it mostly as an overdub/mix room but have actually cut tons of drums in the vocal booth! I spent lots of years freelancing in the big studios and I really enjoy having a smaller space to work in. I think the artists feel less pressure and it affords us more time to dig in.
Q: What do you look for in a mastering engineer and from the mastering process?
A: The main thing I look for in a mastering engineer is someone who isn’t going to be too heavy handed. I’ve spent a lot of time making sure the mix is as good as I can get it and I’d like the mastering engineer to enhance what I’ve done and not alter it too drastically. Scott Hull is my absolute favorite mastering engineer. He’s a true artist. Every time I get a master back from Scott, I am happy.
Q: Can you mention a couple things you’ve worked on recently or have coming up that you’re excited about?
A: I just had the pleasure of mixing Rob Mathes‘ solo album. That was an incredibly challenging and fulfilling experience. We’ve worked on a ton of projects including Sting’s birthday concert (which was released via iPad app), Jennifer Hudson, etc. I’ve also recently musical directed a variety/circus show called Absinthe which is running at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. This week I’m co-producing a song on the new Blondie album. In between all that, I’m always working with some great independent artists.
Contact Jamie Siegel at www.jrockstudios.com or at (646) 484-9240.