Ryan Hadlock Talks Producing
Wed, 13 Mar 2013 11:31:38
Ryan Hadlock's quickly become one of the leading producers in music right now. He's got an ear for a great song, and he helped guide The Lumineers to massive success. However, his resume also boasts production for the likes of Milo Greene, The Gossip, Blonde Redhead, Ra Ra Riot, Stephen Malkmus, and more. He's got an intimate and innovative approach to working that helps cultivate and yield incredible songs.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Ryan Hadlock talks his production and so much more.
How much of producing is a balancing act between infusing your own style and preserving the artist's identity?
Usually, if you go for serving the song, it seems that those details work themselves out. As a producer, my role is to help with the album and the songs and pull it together. A lot of times, those things work themselves out. If you're doing the right things to the songs, the artist is also happy with everything too.
So the song always takes precedence?
I think so, if you get it right. I work with a lot of bands and singer-songwriters. With a band, you use the instruments in the band and the songs they wrote. For other projects, you'll have a singer-songwriter and you bring people in. Those artists and what they bring to the table helps define what you get out of the project.
How do you approach each project? Is there a different mindset?
As far as my mindset goes, I'm always in the same place. When working with an artist, the most important thing is finding a connection where you can really bond with them and talk about the details of their visions of the song. Once you find a way to connect with somebody, communication becomes easy. I go into every project with the same mindset. I grew up being around this process. You find the right vibe.
How much of it is about building a vibe?
You have to do that. It has a lot to do with getting to know the musicians and making that intimate connection. What's the best way to talk to this possible? When you find the best way to communicate as people, it's usually the best way to communicate with them in terms of art as well. I tend to like to work in places that have vibe. My studio is more like being in a house than a corporate building. You're surrounded by personal things, posters, and items bands have left in the studio. There's a real sense of atmosphere. I've worked in some legendary studios lately, but they have absolutely no atmosphere inside of them. You have to bring it yourself, adding things that make it feel more home-y.
What was the process like for The Lumineers?
I got handed some demos early on. They had their songwriting and structures together. Wesley Schultz is a gifted songwriter. He has a beautiful voice and a vision to what he's doing. It was about really making the song everything it could be. Those guys had never really been in a big studio before. It took a little convincing. I'd be like, "Hey, I know you have this great set of drums you've toured with and have had for a long time, but I have a set of drums like the kind Ringo Starr plays, do you want to try them?" For some projects, you can go and say, "I want you to do this and that". With bands, you have to make suggestions rather than ordering them to do things. Working with them was about how to spill out Wesley's vision, which was basically acoustic guitar and vocals. We collaboratively put everything else on there.
Sonically, it's very potent.
Thank you! I work a lot with space in recording. It's the tendency to put a microphone really close on somebody. The room I have is 50x50 with a 30-foot ceiling so we'll do things like put the mic 20 feet away from the band and have them sing into it. You get a real cinematic sound that way. There's depth as well as texture. I think you can hear that.
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