Leland Kracher on MOJO and Getting his Groove Back (the smart way)
Once student, now Recording Connection mentor Leland Kracher doesn’t put much stock in the rhetoric many of us hear about musicians being different from the rest, held to a higher set of standards when it comes to making art yet (somehow) being let off the hook when it comes to being responsible, pragmatic, and hard working.
For Leland, being creative and working hard are two qualities aspiring artists, audio engineers, and music producers must have in order to have longevity in the industry. When it comes to combining musicality with sweat, determination, and good old-fashioned business smarts, Leland says such attributes aren’t at all antithetical to one another:
“While people think those things are separate and different, as far as having to be pragmatic with your creative side, if you really think about your favorite artists they are that. You just never see it. That’s how they got there. It’s because they worked their asses off trying to get there. They booked the shows. They messaged people on Facebook. They went to the shows. Go to shows! Even if there are only twenty people [there] one of them could change your life” he says, referring to the connection he made at a Denton weekly. That connection eventually led to his EDM funk band MOJO, a full scale band with synths and Ableton (which Leland plays live) becoming well known in the Dallas area. MOJO aka Modular Johnson is even seeing their hard work pay off with a healthy revenue stream rolling in!
While getting his MOJO going, Leland also took an entrepreneurial approach to building his career in audio. During his apprenticeship with mentor longtime mentor Rick Rooney (The Kildares, Tripping Daisy) he set his sights on becoming an invaluable asset to the studio. In fact, Rick just couldn’t get rid of him! “I just was there all the time. Any chance I had, if I heard him saying something about a recording session, I would accidentally show up thinking we were supposed to have class. I was that kind of guy.”
Going above and beyond during his apprenticeship enabled him to keep on working with Rick once he’d graduated the program. Already proficient in Pro Tools, Leland became a master in Ableton and recruited artists to bring into the studio to record. But Leland wasn’t always so gung-ho about getting a career in music. In fact, he’d once been on a completely different path: “I was working 60 hours a week at Hertz as a branch manager. So I was in corporate America, and my family told me I had made it. I would tell them that I wasn’t happy, and they didn’t understand why.”
Despite his family’s advice to just stick to the safe, prescribed path, Leland ultimately knew he needed to make music the focal part of his life and career. Nevertheless, he had responsibilities to consider, he says, “My mom has had cancer since I was a senior in high school, and I’ve been helping pay bills and everything. So I had to really make a choice of, ‘Was this truly going to be something that I could leave corporate America for?’”
After some soul-searching, research, and putting a plan in place, Leland decided it was time to make a change but he’d have to do it the smart way since his decision would impact those who depended on him. He was willing to make the sacrifice and investment it would take. He says, “I quit my job, I sold my car, and I was at the studio as many days a week as Rick would let me be, and the rest just kind of took off from there.”
Now, as a Recording Connection mentor who specializes in teaching students Ableton, Leland is helping other aspiring musicians and music producers get going with their own careers in music. He can speak at length about the students he’s graduated and where they’re at. Bud Brinson started his own livetronica band in which he plays Ableton live in tandem with drums, Blair Auzenne has sold a couple of his own tracks, and Hunter Thomas is getting his career going as a DJ armed with tunes he wrote and produced himself!
Now that Leland’s on the right path in life, those around him can see the change. Even the family who had previously told him he’d “made it” has come to see things differently. To illustrate the point, Leland recounts a conversation he had with his folks over the holidays last year:
“I’m pretty sure it was at Christmas when we were all eating, just sitting around, and I was talking about something, and I had probably been talking about how much I love music and just how happy I was, and I remember my mom and grandmother looking at each other and looking at me, and they were like, ‘We understand now. We get that you’re so much happier. We can see it in you. You’re happy from your core.’ It wasn’t about the money, it wasn’t about anything. It was about finding what I wanted to do and turning it into a real job, and that’s what I did.”