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Producer & Engineer Gena Johnson: How To Create Total Harmony In A Recording Session

Gena Johnson

 

Photo: Courtesy of Gena Johnson

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Producer & Engineer Gena Johnson: How To Create Total Harmony In A Recording Session

"To care for someone in a recording situation is to ensure their comfort and anticipate their needs. Get out of your own head and tune into the signs around you"

GRAMMYs/Nov 12, 2020 - 05:22 pm

In a brand-new editorial series, the Recording Academy has asked its membership to reflect on their their career journey, the current state of the music industry and what we can do to collectively and positively move forward in the current social climate. Below, producer and engineer and Nashville chapter member Gena Johnson shares her open letter with GRAMMY.com readers.

Moving to Nashville not knowing a soul (like most young engineers), I discovered it takes a while to find your footing. It takes even longer to feel a part of a true community, to build your tribe and to carve out a slice of the pie that tastes best to you. For me, it happened in waves. The community I love and connect with continues to grow more lush and empathetic as the years go by.

When artists and I collaborate, we strive to create music that represents them—not to just get songs on the radio. Before we even begin working on music, the focus and energy has to be right. Whatever it takes to get there, I’m in. When the energy is right, the music will be right. Every record or side I’m a part of is unique, and in turn moves the needle toward my internal growth as a human and as an engineer.

I feel exorbitantly fortunate to have been in the rooms that I have. Sometimes I have to pinch myself even dreaming up what that would be like to my younger self. Starting off as an intern, then assistant engineer, to production assistant and then making the transition to head engineer and producer, there are so many things to consider.

Each one of these roles, at the most basic level, is a customer service job. The most important thing to remember is: the artist must feel heard and respected in all ways. If you care about each person in the room, whether you are at the bottom or at the top of the "hierarchy," you will go far. I’m not saying that you must care about every intimate detail of everyone’s lives. But to care for someone in a recording situation is to ensure their comfort and anticipate their needs. Get out of your own head and tune into the signs around you. Perspective is a blessing. Give your complete self every time, or you could miss something really important. Even simple things like getting hot tea for the artist instead of having them get it themselves contributes to keeping the artist in the moment. It is their day. Customer service. Kindness, caring, positive energy, vibe.

With each new project, endeavor, new producer or new artist, be sure to keep an open mind. If you don’t know how to do something, even technically, show up as your absolute best self—no one can fault you for that. Leave all personal drama at the door. Be honest with yourself and others. If there is something going on in your personal life that will affect your role, express that prior to beginning of the session and, in advance, find a substitute that has greater or equal skill to you. It happens. Be a pro and handle it professionally.

As an engineer, the way something sounds is your opinion. If the producer isn’t digging what the engineer is providing as a soundscape for the record, the producer will let the engineer know. The producer’s job is to be the "adult" in the room—the person who is responsible for bringing the artist’s vision to life. It’s a team effort. It has to be a team effort, a “we” effort. As a “we” effort, ego goes out the window and coziness is allowed to settle in. Creativity and vulnerability become tangible. The vibe is set, the candles are lit, the fragrance of palo santo is in the room, the lighting is on point and we’re ready to begin.

Every session is different. You don't always have the time to set the scene quite as described, but it’s essential to find ways that will be special to each individual client. What is best for the situation at hand? Think about it and find a way to make it happen. Maybe it’s making sure the drummer has the right kind of creamer for his coffee or that the artist feels a part of the old inside jokes the musicians are telling. Create unity and keep the artist as the central focus.

Once a project is finished, all that the world hears is the music. The artist leaves with the experience, a combination of all the small details and how you and others made them feel, in addition to the music. I believe that if the experience is special, the music will be that much better—maybe even next-level magic. The little things ARE the big things.

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Dr. Dre To Be Honored At The 13th Annual Producers & Engineers Wing GRAMMY Week Celebration

Dr. Dre

Photo by Gari Askew

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Dr. Dre To Be Honored At The 13th Annual Producers & Engineers Wing GRAMMY Week Celebration

Known as the official kickoff to GRAMMY Week, the signature event will pay tribute to the artistic achievements and innovations of Dre—one of the music industry's most groundbreaking producers of all time

GRAMMYs/Nov 1, 2019 - 10:00 am

Revolutionary producer and GRAMMY-winning rapper Dr. Dre and the music industry's most revered producers, engineers and artistic professionals will gather on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at the iconic Village studios in West Los Angeles for the Recording Academy's 13th annual Producers & Engineers Wing GRAMMY Week celebration.

Known as the official kickoff to GRAMMY Week, the signature event will pay tribute to the artistic achievements and innovations of Dre—one of the music industry's most groundbreaking producers of all time.

"Dr. Dre is an influential force in music," said Deborah Dugan, President/CEO of the Recording Academy. "Dre breaks boundaries and inspires music creators across every genre. His evolution as a producer solidifies him as a leader of the pack within our industry, and we watch in amazement as he continues to shape the future of music."  

In addition to celebrating Dre's legacy, the event will also salute the overall industry influence of the Producers & Engineers Wing's more than 6,400 professional members and their commitment to creativity and technical prowess in the field of recording. Year-round, the Producers & Engineers Wing continues to advocate for excellence and best practices in sound recording, audio technologies, and education in the recording arts, along with proper crediting, recognition and rights for music creators.

GRAMMY Week culminates with the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, airing live on the CBS Television Network, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. 

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Latin Pop Producer Maffio: Why I'm Proud To Be A Voting Member Of The Recording Academy

Maffio

Photo by John Parra/Getty Images

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Latin Pop Producer Maffio: Why I'm Proud To Be A Voting Member Of The Recording Academy

"I'm grateful for the many opportunities and initiatives the Recording Academy sets forth, such as maintaining the traffic and/or providing the platform for composers, producers, songwriters and artists to mingle and exchange ideas"

GRAMMYs/Nov 10, 2020 - 11:50 pm

In a brand-new editorial series, the Recording Academy has asked its membership to reflect on their their career journey, the current state of the music industry and what we can do to collectively and positively move forward in the current social climate. Below, Dominican producer and Florida chapter member Maffio shares his open letter with GRAMMY.com readers.

Dear Recording Academy Members,

Being a GRAMMY member and a voting member has been an honor and privilege and I couldn’t be prouder of being part of this organization. Admittedly, I’m a proud and "diehard" member.

I’m grateful for the many opportunities and initiatives the Recording Academy sets forth, such as maintaining the traffic and/or providing the platform for composers, producers, songwriters and artists to mingle and exchange ideas for the better. In addition, my experience with the Recording Academy has been a supportive and collaborative experience and one in which provides and pushes artists to deliver the very best in music.

In conclusion, as artists, producers and songwriters, we have to make the best in music and ensure there’s quality control in our music. The gold gramophone awarded at the GRAMMYs represents a worldwide recognition from your own music industry colleagues. No other organization recognizes artists in this way. It is for this reason that the Recording Academy continuously pushes artists boundaries and we respond by raising the bar. This is what the GRAMMYs and the Recording Academy represents, and I can't emphasize enough how proud I am of being a part of this.

Maffio 

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VP Of Member & Industry Relations Kelley Purcell On How Recording Academy Members Can Make A Difference

Kelley Purcell

Photo: Ashley Stewart of ANS Photography

 

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VP Of Member & Industry Relations Kelley Purcell On How Recording Academy Members Can Make A Difference

Purcell talks to GRAMMY.com about her new role and why it's so important for Recording Academy members to vote in the upcoming Awards cycle

GRAMMYs/Nov 5, 2020 - 08:00 pm

The Recording Academy has announced the appointment of Kelley Purcell as Vice President of Membership & Industry Relations. The appointment follows the Recording Academy's restructure, which aims to streamline the organization and sharpen focus on its service to music. Reporting to Chief Industry Officer Ruby Marchand, Purcell will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of membership outreach, peer review, member account services, and the Academy's Chapter systems, including regional and local teams, Chapter events and programming, and all facets of Chapter service. 

"We are pleased to have Kelley as our Vice President of Membership & Industry Relations," said Marchand. "Her expertise and history of being a driving force within the Membership & Industry Relations department make her a great asset to this organization. This is yet another step towards the Academy's transformational commitment as we strive for greater inclusivity and work to ensure our membership reflects the diverse individuals who make up our music community."

Purcell joined the Recording Academy as the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Chapter in 2013. She later transitioned to Senior Director of Member Outreach, leading industry outreach efforts across the Membership & Industry Relations department. During her tenure, she project managed a cross-department team of IT, Digital Media and Communications colleagues over a two-year period and successfully implemented historic changes to the Academy's membership systems. She also led the recruitment efforts to diversify Academy membership and was the liaison to the Academy's first-ever Peer Review Panel, responsible for training this body and serving as its point person.

Below, Purcell talks to GRAMMY.com about her new role and why it's so important for Recording Academy members to vote in the upcoming Awards cycle.

Can you tell us a little about your professional background and what led to your new role at the Recording Academy?

I have loved music since a young age but I think the power of music, and the arts in general, was cemented for me in college. I was an Economics major, but throughout my college career I was also very involved in lots of arts-focused extracurricular activities that gave me purpose and helped me develop a stronger sense of self. During that time I realized that if my career was going to mean something to me, it had to center around the arts in some way, and I committed to using all of my business skills to further something that had real meaning to me.

After building my career in arts administration in various positions, I was thrilled to join the Recording Academy as the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Chapter where I could focus my professional energies in support of music makers, specifically. Since joining the Academy I have held several roles within the Membership & Industry Relations team and am honored to now become the Vice President, where I can apply everything I’ve learned thus far for the greater good of the department as a whole.
 
What specifically do you hope to bring to your new role in Membership?

I want to ensure that every member of the Recording Academy understands that their membership can make a difference. Whether that’s participating in the GRAMMY Awards process, advocating for the rights of the music community in Washington D.C., or raising money for MusiCares or standing up for music education, this membership body plays a huge role in shaping the music industry that we want to see. Every member's voice counts and we are stronger together.    
 
Why is it so important for current Recording Academy members to vote in the upcoming Awards cycle?

The GRAMMY award represents what professional music creators decide are the best musical works of the year. Because it’s the only award that is peer-to-peer, it is ideal when all peers are reflected in the process.
 
What can you tell us about the benefits of membership at the Recording Academy?

Membership is the lifeblood of the Recording Academy and the foundation of all that we do. Recording Academy members have the opportunity to play a part in creating a better world for music and its makers. In addition to advocating for the rights of music makers, supporting the next generation of the music industry and helping fellow music people in times of need, members can submit projects for GRAMMY Awards consideration, propose amendments to GRAMMY Awards rules, run for a Recording Academy Board, participate in member-only programs and more. The Recording Academy is a very special community of people who are united by how much they care about the music industry and want it to thrive.
 
What can you tell us about how all 12 Chapters engage RA members on a year-round basis?

Each of the 12 Chapters are a great resource for members to learn more about the best ways in which to get involved in all the Recording Academy does. Board members are elected at the local level to represent their communities and provide connective tissue between each member and the organization as a whole. In addition to producing local events and programs, Chapters help members become aware of all Academy initiatives and how each person can be of service to the greater mission.
 
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

To learn more about how to join the Recording Academy, please visit grammy.com/join!

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Recording Academy Moves To A Community-Driven Membership Model

Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS via Getty Images

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Recording Academy Moves To A Community-Driven Membership Model

Two key elements have been added to the new member submission model in an ongoing effort to build a more representative and relevant membership body

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2018 - 02:41 am

In order to continue building a diverse and more representative membership group, the Recording Academy has announced it will implement a new community-driven and peer-reviewed membership model that will shift it into an annual cycle and add two new elements.

The membership's key elements will now include industry recommendations and peer review. Beyond the Recording Academy's basic requirements, new membership submissions must include two professional recommendations to be considered. In addition, a Peer Review Panel of music creators will gather every spring to assess new member submissions with diversity in mind, craft and genre in mind.

"The GRAMMY Awards are already renowned for being a peer-awarded honor, and our new membership model further reinforces that peer-driven commitment to excellence," said Laura Segura Mueller, Vice President of Membership & Industry Relations in a statement.

"Membership is the lifeblood of the Recording Academy and a privilege we strive to uphold. Our new membership model puts the power in the hands of the music community and is designed to build an active, representative membership base that reflects our broader culture. By changing the process to Recording Academy membership, we remain committed to setting a positive example for the music industry as a whole."

These changes are a part of a continuing effort from the Recording Academy to make its membership more inclusive. The shift to an annual membership review cycle is in hopes of looking at both existing members and prospective submissions and, "Be thoughtful about how each individual new member decision stands to shape the collective body."

In October, the Recording Academy announced that it would be inviting 900 music creators to join it as voting members.

The official statement from the Recording Academy can be found here.

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