Photo: Christaan Felber for Vulture
Producer, composer, singer-songwriter, and affair amateur Jon Brion has larboard an enduring mark on the face of pop, rock, and hip-hop over about 40 years of work. His absorbing résumé includes collaborations with Fiona Apple, Elliott Smith, Aimee Mann, Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, and abounding more. He has denticulate two dozen films aback the ’90s, analogous the apricot moods of gems like Magnolia, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I Heart Huckabees, and Lady Bird. Two years ago, Brion met the rapper Mac Miller, who had been in the action of autograph and recording actual for the albums that would become 2018’s Swimming and aftermost week’s follow-up, Circles.
The plan with Brion was to accomplishment and absolution the aboriginal album, bout it, and again amphitheater aback and accomplishment the second. In authoritative both, Miller approved out masters of altered agreeable forms in adjustment to apprentice new techniques. Alive with producers like Pharrell, he best up tips on how to assignment added calmly in the studio. About rappers like Schoolboy Q and Earl Sweatshirt, his lyricism improved. Collaborating with choir like Ty Dolla $ign, Syd Bennett, and Anderson .Paak got him added adequate hitting addendum and cogent affections application his own instrument. And the applesauce artist Thundercat fabricated him aflame to be added experimental.
Like Kanye West, who brought Brion in to beef up arrange and chart on 2005’s Late Registration afterwards falling in adulation with the Eternal Sunshine score, Miller was attractive for new means to get his annal to pop, for a additional ear to ensure that his excursions above hip-hop on the additional anthology were up to snuff. He was accessible to angular into the soulful singer-songwriter accordance of songs like “Come Aback to Earth” and “Soulmate” for the breadth of an absolute album, but borderline about assertive development in the action of recording.
To apprehend Brion acquaint the story, Miller was bigger at all of these tasks than he seemed to anticipate he was. What he absolutely bare was a few flat tips, a assemblage of instruments he’d never bamboozled about with before, and a drillmaster to get him added adequate in his own playing. Over the weekend, I batten to Brion on the buzz to get the adventure of his time as a acquaintance and agreeable accompaniment to Miller. He affectionately recalled the action of allowance Circles booty appearance adjoin the end of the Swimming sessions, and the gutting and alarming assignment of finishing the almanac according to Miller’s wishes over the year afterward his abrupt passing.
When I met Mac Miller, he was somebody who was absorbed in affair me. In truth, he had this array of abashed affair with me. I anticipate he presumed, absolutely honestly, that I’d had some array of agreeable ageism adjoin hip-hop or bodies who fabricated beats or something? These were his exact words: “Oh, yeah. Hi. I absolutely capital to accommodated you, but I don’t apperceive if you’d alike accede what I do as music.” That seems absurd, but it was a anguish in his head. Because of that, I bethink activity my abdomen change to this affectionate of thing, area I aloof capital to animate him immediately. I said, “Hey, man. Don’t anguish about that. It’s all animal expression.”
I told him article I had apprehend a cardinal of years ago that I begin absolutely moving: “Do you apperceive what Webster’s concordance describes ‘music’ as?” He’s like, “No.” I said, “They got it bottomward to two words: “organized sound.” The added you anticipate about it, the added admirable it becomes. That’s all it is. So, that was our aboriginal branch of speaking to anniversary other. I accept this anamnesis of him actuality absolutely sweet, and he happened to acknowledgment that he absolutely admired the music of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I was like, “Oh, that’s cool. That’s absolutely nice.” And honestly, it didn’t go a lot added than that.
A few months later, I got a alarm out of boilerplate from [Warner Bros. exec] Lenny Waronker, who’s one of the alone admirable bodies in the music business. He aloof said, “Hey, I’m peripherally complex in allowance this kid we aloof signed, and he’d absolutely like to accommodated with you and comedy you some stuff. And I anticipate he may accept met you.” The abutting affair I know, Mac accustomed area I work, we said our hellos, and he started arena things he was alive on.
I was anon taken with it. It was a aggregate of actuality that concluded up on Swimming and actuality that would become Circles. In his aboriginal four or bristles visits to me, he played four or bristles altered songs every time. I’d be absolutely impressed, and aback article was basically there, I’d say, “Hey, that’s basically there. It doesn’t charge anything.” If I anticipation article was acceptable but maybe had a sonic problem, I’d say, “Hey, I absolutely admired those parts, but I ambition they were recorded so you could apprehend them better,” or “I ambition the bass had added bass” — absolutely the development of circadian work. Best of the time aback I said that, he would ablaze up and go, “I agree. I aloof didn’t apperceive how to do it.”
He was so accomplished at programming, at arena with samples, and he had taken the bound to absent to blend his own work. But he didn’t yet accept the specific ability about how to accomplish it complete the way he wanted. Maybe aural a brace of visits, he played article area I went, “Hey, I absolutely like that. I aloof anticipate the ambit should change center through.” I’d sit bottomward at an apparatus and comedy until I saw his analysis change in a absolute way, and we’d go with that.
Within an hour of his aboriginal visit, we were into that process.
There was article altered about him. There was article altered about the assignment every time he visited. I feel like he got added and added comfortable, and he’d comedy me added of the actuality he was, frankly, maybe abashed about because it wasn’t beeline hip-hop, R&B, or pop stuff. I anticipate maybe aback he had played that actuality for added people, they weren’t abiding what to do. I lit up like a Christmas timberline — “This is ambuscade in you?” A lot of that actuality is about the Circles material. As of that point, it was already activity to be two albums, but already we were working, he got inspired, and again it was activity to be a three-album cycle. He’d best the actuality he best for Swimming, and again we had this added pile. He was activity to go on bout and appear back, and we were activity to accomplishment up the Circles accumulation together. Knowing him, by again he already would accept recorded an anthology on tour.
When he died, anybody who knew him basically aloof … the accident is … it’s abandoned to put into words. It’s abandoned to say how abominable it was for anyone else. I was flattened, and I feel like by accepting to allocution about this stuff, I’m reopening the wound.
When the ancestors came to me was one of the added memorable canicule of my life, because a little bit of time had passed, but it was very, very, actual beginning for parents who had absent a kid. They asked me to see it through. I said I would. It’s absolutely candidly them as abundant as Mac that I kept in my apperception while I was working. I waited for the flat I capital to assignment in to become accessible to accept through the added songs and to get all their files. That took a few months. It was apparently February or March of aftermost year. I formed acutely slowly. It may complete odd that this took best on some alone jobs for anniversary song than it commonly would, because I was aggravating to amount out the way to change it as little as possible.
I was accustomed a agglomeration of actuality to accept through, and in it was actuality I hadn’t heard yet, that he hadn’t played me in all of our time together. I anticipation I should analysis out aggregate in case there was article abundant that should be included. In the process, I best four things he hadn’t agitated to comedy me in visits. The awning of Arthur Lee’s “Everybody’s Gotta Live” was one. “Blue World” was another. “I Can See” … I was abundantly impressed. The lyrics are so good, and I anticipation it was musically so good. The accumulation of actuality that became Circles were the things I admired the best and things I heard that had, frankly, little to do with me. I aloof heard them and was confused by them. “I Can See” is the absolute example. It fabricated me so sad he was gone. It’s one of those moments, like, Oh my God, he’s alike bigger than I thought. And I already anticipation the apple of him.
In retrospect, I could see why he was accoutrement “Everybody.” Music like that was acceptable one of his interests, and like aggregate he did, he had a active quality. If he got absorbed in something, he’d absolutely fucking apprentice about it. It wasn’t apparent knowledge. I’ve formed with bodies who like audition about a lot of things, but about so they can name-drop it to themselves: Attending at how abounding altered things I know. They’ve abstruse things, but they don’t absolutely blot them. Mac was different. His concern was of the added nature. I heard “Everybody” and anticipation it should be included. I didn’t do a hell of a lot except accomplish abiding that, sonically, it was like the actuality we talked about.
There are a brace of songs on Circles area I absolutely went to boondocks afterwards the fact. “Hands” is one of them, and it’s because Mac said to me, “I appetite it to be absolutely big-sounding, but I’m not abiding how to do it.” I told him I had an abstraction about an absolute orchestral-percussion section, but it still actuality absolutely simple: a agglomeration of instruments all arena actual simple hip-hop keyboard-influenced eighth notes, actual specifically, the way Dr. Dre uses the piano. He was into that. Had he lived, that would accept been a moment area he would accept abashed out in the ascendancy room, and I would accept been the one who had to see that through.
There were assertive things I knew I had to do on “Hands.” He hadn’t ample out all the chords yet aback he was arena the Rhodes (an electric piano) allotment and the guitar track. I begin his Rhodes and amid two missing chords, and I’d sit there and comedy for a while until I ample out how to get his touch. We formed for a while to bout the tone. We approved altered accessories until it added or beneath matched, and again we’d admit the affair I knew he was about attractive for aback he was tracking. If there was actuality I had to replace, we’d agilely assignment to accomplish it airy aback it happened. All the actuality on “Hand Me Downs,” for example, sounds like it would apparently be last-minute, in-studio ambient tracks, but it was all actuality from the aboriginal night he played it to me. All the high-end, studio-y aural overdub actuality was from actual aboriginal on. I set up the longest, best asinine alternation of guitar furnishings to get article that articulate like it was begin electronica. The actuality added on were the missing genitalia he hadn’t ample out yet, and me arena drums forth with his boom part, like he and I discussed.
“Good News” was addition song that was abundant added of a accord than best of them. He had a vocal, but didn’t absolutely apperceive what to do, and he had the verses, all of which dead me. There was some meandering actuality abaft it and I aloof said, “Hey, it aloof doesn’t complete like you fabricated a accommodation about the music, and it’s not as acceptable as your lyrics and your melody.” He agreed, and said he didn’t apperceive what to do and capital me to accept a go at playing. So I played keyboard live, and I’d comedy ambit changes until maybe he’d jump up and bottomward or I’d see his anatomy move a bit. That’s affectionate of a fun, agitative action if you’re arena — aback somebody aback gets evidently affirmative.
He started accepting absolutely aflame and singing forth in the ascendancy allowance and walking about in advanced of me while I was arena keyboard, and he started singing what is now the chorus. I looked up and went, “That’s great. Get on mic.” He’s like, “Ah, I’m not sure. Maybe that could be a accomplished altered song.” In a attenuate moment of absolutely aggravating to put my bottom down, I leapt up and went, “No, that’s your chorus. That’s great.” I kid you not, he said to me, “Really?” A few bodies who were about looked on, I’m not sure, to be honest, in abhorrence or not. The architect I formed with, who was walking through the room, heard this accomplished thing, and he aloof stared at me with the attending of, like, “Yeah, acutely that’s the chorus.”
I bethink Mac asking, “Do these two things go together?” I said, “Yes. My point is your hidden knows they do. We’re not grafting two things calm about because you don’t accept a accomplished song and there’s some awe-inspiring deadline. It’s not like some of the ’70s annal area they aloof did that.” I’m like, “This is great.” At a time area bodies are too self-aware about the criticism of others, it’s abundant that he had this abundantly claimed ballad talking absolutely aboveboard about his self-awareness, about his faculty of his own demons and activity through that in the face of people. To again accept the lyrics of that accurate choir appear in is not alone appropriate. It’s absolutely great, and I was afflicted by it instantaneously.
There were alone two bodies I arrive to comedy in the finishing process: Wendy Melvoin and Matt Chamberlain, both of whom are on “Good News.” They were bodies I had talked to Mac about, as able-bodied as James Gadson, and Jim Keltner, because I heard some Prince access in some of his keyboard choices specifically. I told him, “You should apperceive these drummers. I anticipate these are bodies you’ll assignment with for the blow of your life, alike if we’re not alive together. You should acquaintance it because I anticipate all of them will access the way you do added things. I can adjure to that, because everybody I aloof mentioned to you has had an access on me.” Aback the time came to absolutely accomplishment off “Good News,” Wendy, Matt, and I played calm to Mac’s articulate and all of the instruments I had ahead recorded. I put a marimba on it, and anon it was what you’re hearing, because the adjustment was already actual able-bodied mapped out.
Mac wondered about everything. He wasn’t abashed to anticipate out loud about it. He was a absolute writer, and any time he wrote something, he hoped it would accept an effect, that addition would apprehend it and understand. He absolutely saw all of it as a anatomy of work.
The appellation I begin myself application aback chief what to add to Circles was “complete thoughts.” They weren’t thoughts I had to complete for him. This was a guy who batten actual able-bodied for himself. I shouldn’t alike be actuality talking about it. In agreement of anyone else’s perception, I can’t do fuck all about that. The alone affair I affliction about is bodies accepting to apprehend it. The bodies who are afflicted by it accept the account of actuality afflicted by his acumen and his articulation. Aggregate abroad doesn’t matter.
12 Best Live Sound Engineer Resume – Live Sound Engineer Resume
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