It’s not every day that I get to wake up and find out that one of my mixes has gone to number one on the pop charts. Even more rare is when it stays there for seven consecutive weeks to become the biggest pop radio hit of the summer of 2015 in Mexico.
I would like to have number ones more frequently. Who wouldn’t? A hit is good not only for the artist, but also for me and everyone else involved. Instead of clients asking me for a discount, they are simply asking for me.
I began contemplating some questions that might unlock the secret. Why did this stroke of good fortune happen to me? What did I do differently? How does this affect my daily life? What tips or advice can I give to my friends and fans so that they can get their own number ones?
I wish that this blog post could turn out to be a magic wand, life changing, master class in hit making, but ultimately it’s going to be one of my briefest, and perhaps most profound, posts so far.
The inside story is that I did absolutely nothing differently than I do for every other one of my mixes and artists. I simply asked the artist (Kalimba) and the producer (Stefano Vieni) what they wanted, then I wrapped my head and my heart around the song (“Estrellas Rotas“), and did my best to give the listener obvious focal points that would lead to an emotional connection to the song. If you’re really craving some technical details and mixing tips, SonicScoop featured me as their cover story this week: Making The Mix Room – Michael James It’s worth the read.
I think that the reason that I got hired to do this job—and therefore had the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time—is because I treat every song as if it were truly important to the artist. Further, I try to mix every song in such a way that will make me actually feel something from it, even if it means that I will not necessarily impress my engineer friends. Nothing about the mix of “Estrellas Rotas” is over-the-top. It’s more about removing distractions that interfere with emotional resonance. (It doesn’t hurt that the artist is brilliant and the production is excellent!)
So, has this recent number one changed my life? In the short run, yes. There was a windfall of good press, and as mentioned earlier, new clients were more interested in working with me than negotiating with me. My equipment sponsors were happy that they got another “victory story” to exploit, that was genuine, honest and organic. My friends any family were happy that my work was being recognized internationally. My independent artist clients were happy that their mix engineer’s “buzz” could give them more credibility and some news for their social media feeds. Everybody was benefiting from the rising tide— all boats were floating higher.
In the long run, however, I am confident that things will settle down into the usual routine. It happens every time I’m involved with a hit: there’s a rush of excitement, then life returns to business as usual. That’s fine—I enjoy the high times, especially when they can be shared with my friends and family, but there is always plenty of work to be done and precious little time to rest on one’s laurels.
If you’re looking for some good advice, mine is is simple: Make the record that you want to make, not the one that you think somebody else wants to buy. Your fans will love you because you are you, not an emulator of somebody else.