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When you’re first starting out in the music industry it’s wise to expect to pay your dues for awhile. Expect it to take some time to lay the foundation for a strong future. That said, always be prepared to show what you’ve got. Justin Smith, apprentice with Larry Goetz at The Lair in Los Angeles showed he was bringing his A-game and it’s paying off with trial by fire!
When Larry, Justin’s mentor, recently needed someone to run a session since his assistant was out sick, he did what all pros do–he reached for the phone. This time, he called Justin. “Larry said he was going to throw me into the fire,” Justin says, “He heard that I have my master certification in Pro Tools, so he’s like, ‘Hey, can you run a session for like three to four hours?’”
Confident in his abilities, Justin didn’t hesitate to say yes to the opportunity. Speaking of the artist, he says, “She’s an actress and a model and she’s aspiring to be a singer and they were doing some vocal comps. They already had the track laid out the way they wanted it but they wanted her to come in and do some parts for the lead vocal and get some more of her parts right. So basically, we just recorded a lot of different takes and then we went in afterwards and did a lot of vocal comps. So we took all the parts that she liked and we added them to kind of a lead vocal. We threw it through the auto-tune and got a good level to where they like it, a good static mix.”
Justin is fine with being in the hot seat. In fact, he welcomes it. He’s made up his mind to pursue what he loves which is the sage advice his uncle gave him in his youth, to “Do what you love and what you can make a career of.” Since then, he’s committed himself fully to making music as a producer and audio engineer. So far, it’s working out extremely well for him. “I love music. That’s the only thing that’s stayed consistent in my life. All the different phases of sports and jobs and kind of figuring out what I wanted to do, music has always been consistent and I’ve always had a love for it.”
When asked what his goals are for the coming years, Justin says, “In five years I would love to be producing music. My niche is hip-hop, so I would love to be producing somewhere in hip-hop…I’m inspired by people like Chris Lord-Alge, Tony Maserati, big mixing guys. So that’s kind of where I want my career to be.”
Throughout his apprenticeship Justin has proven it to himself that he made the right decision to follow his heart. He’s made some valuable contacts that can help him advance his career in the industry. He’s going deeper in his quest, proving his worth, and learning the behind the scenes business of what it takes to run a studio and work with caliber clients. He’s saying yes to trial by fire and doing just fine.
Now Justin has some sage advice of his own to share with those who are coming up as Recording Connection apprentices. “The more you eager you are to soak up their knowledge and step back and take a second to learn, the more your mentor is going to be willing to teach you,” he says. “My mentor says there’s a lot of people who come in and they think they kind of already know what they want to do, and they just want him to help them make their stuff sound better without going through the things that they need to know…What a mentor is looking for [is] someone who really wants to learn and has the respect [and foresight to know] that they have a long ways to go, but they’re willing to take that process.”
Sage advice indeed.