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Music producer and audio engineer Wyatt Oates is based in Atlanta, where he co-founded Madison Studios with studio partner Tanner Hendon. Wyatt has worked with an eclectic group of artists including: Blackberry Smoke, Justin Bieber, Collective Soul, rising star Chelsea Shag and a slew of others.
Because Wyatt knows just how hard it can be to get one’s start in the industry, he’s committed to helping those who show up and commit wholeheartedly by actively involving his apprentices in the day-to-day operations at Madison Records and Studio.
He also quietly vets his mentees to see what they’re made of, often unbeknownst to the person themselves. In such situations he says:
“They [the apprentice] doesn’t know that I got the call to engineer a Future session the past Sunday and could have easily put whoever I wanted to in that situation because they’re calling me to do it…”
But if someone isn’t proactive and they’re not showing Wyatt they’re ready and capable, then he must act accordingly, especially when it comes to letting students assist on recording major artists and referring them out for work.
“If I don’t feel 110% like I would put my name behind them, I can’t refer them to do gigs. I’m just not going to do it, because it’s bitten me before.”
Wyatt is upfront about his expectations and wants anyone who trains with him to do well and give it their all. He’s also pretty adamant about making sure the apprentices he takes on have solid people skills along with curiosity and a technical aptitude for the craft. Making connections and forging great working relationships with one’s peers, artists, and industry pros is a vital ingredient for anyone who wants to work in music longterm. Wyatt chooses to invest in those who are all about the longterm.
When it comes to the merits of learning “on the job” it’s terrain Wyatt knows well. Now, he’s compelled to give back to those who will be among the next wave of engineers and producers:
“Pretty much everything I learned, I learned interning and assisting after I was done with school. One of the things that I thought was really cool about the Recording Connection was the fact that you guys do focus on that model. I’m just a fan of it because it works. The real world experience is always better than classroom experience for these kinds of careers.”
Despite expecting a lot from his apprentices, Wyatt is clear that he has no problem training those who are completely new to the craft. In fact, knowing how to run a DAW or setup the patchbay aren’t skills he counts as prerequisites. He surmises exactly what he wants to see from the future audio professionals under his charge:
“Being on time, attitude, and then just being clear on what they’re trying to do…Are they trying to be an artist? An engineer? A producer? Or, are they really not sure?…After that, once they get started, I let them know pretty early that I can’t read their minds, but that I do want to tailor their experience to them. So, while I will ask them to do things pertaining to that session or that studio, whatever that day brings, I try to pick their brains on how they are learning, whether it be compression or vocal recording or mixing, and just really try to spend more time on what they’re stuck on and breeze by a little bit more the stuff that they naturally get right off the rip…I don’t want to pressure them too much, but I also don’t just want them sitting, you know, not getting their best experience.”
For Recording Connection mentor Wyatt Oates, being proactive and working hard is the prerequisite. Can you bring it?