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Being forced out of work gave Michael plenty of time to reflect on what he’d been doing with his life up until that point.
The long and short of it was this: he’d been working jobs just to work and keep the bills paid. The mentality is one many of us are all too familiar with, something that goes like this: “Just get a good paying job and hold onto it but don’t expect for it to be something you that fulfills you.”
“No matter what I was doing in the world or what I was doing at that time in my life, I always circled back to music regardless. I never really stopped writing… I would write hooks in all day.”
Michael says his love of music probably sprang from singing in church on Sundays. During high school he founded a singing group. When he wasn’t singing he was rapping and figuring out new rhyme schemes, lyrics for tracks he wanted to create—someday.
After years of eking out a “normal” life, he’d become disillusioned with the self-described artists and producers in his periphery. He knew lots of people who talked the talk but never showed up to do the work. He says, “I kind of got tired of dealing with the ‘maybes’ the ‘what ifs.’”
The pinnacle realization happened when he sat down and made the choice to explore his options for working in music professionally.
Michael, as he describes it, took “ownership of myself” and “really ended up doing it.” He applied to Recording Connection in Atlanta and went on to apprentice with producer and engineer Vance Vexed at Solar Sound Studio (Waka Flocka, Ludacris, Akon, T.I.). When asked about the experience, Michael says:
He took me on as a brother. He’d sit me down, and he was like, ‘Just sit there and listen. Just listen and see if you can feel me changing the bass lead, the EQ frequency, or cutting out low over high to make a person sound different.’ He took me by the hand and showed me that… He gave me the track and he would let me go in and he would critique the mix afterwards. So I kept stuff busy. I always wrote…I’d write a hook, even if it wasn’t to his beat or whatever. I just paid attention to him tracking stuff like that. And really I was all about, not about having all the expensive gear, but researching what’s the right gear to have.”
After apprenticing and interning at Solar Sound Studio, Michael got his foot in at Soapbox and used the skills he learned from Vance to move up the chain, ultimately working with artists like Yo Gotti, Ciara, and Jeezy.
Michael took a potentially devastating setback and turned it into an opportunity to change his path in life.
Music is no longer a hobby for Michael Shelton. He’s got his own studio now and places emphasis on getting “pristine, present tracks with good vocals” and mixing which is a particular love of his. “I just go somewhere with the mixes. I can sit down with a song and basically get lost in it.”
So far Michael’s Atlanta-based recording studio M.A.S.S. Musiq has had clients from across the spectrum:
I’ve dealt with rock bands as well, he says. “I’ve dabbled in everything, R&B, even a little gospel has come through…I’ve actually done a live show with bluegrass. So I’ve had my hands in pretty much everything.”
Hip hop sessions are frequent. Artists who’ve recorded at M.A.S.S. include Jeezy, Juicy J, Slick Pulla and Bangladesh. And he’s enjoying the voice over work he’s getting too. “We had the opportunity to bring Margaret Cho through and did a voiceover with her at the studio…She’s a hoot.”
Michael decided to dedicate himself to the pursuit of building a career in the music industry and he’s doing it each and every day. At the moment, he’s busy composing for Third Level Entertainment, and Sean Barnes.
So what’s Michael’s advice on how to make the most of one’s time in Recording Connection? He says, “Sit down, be humble about it…Literally watch whenever they track… take the knowledge and apply it.”