Recording Connection mentor Jonathan Rego on his Journey from Audio Engineering to A&R
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The path to success isn’t always a straight one. In fact, it rarely ever is. No one knows this better than Recording Connection mentor Jonathan Rego (Los Angeles, CA) who started out as a recording and mixing engineer in his late teens and early twenties. From there, he ventured into the world of post-production and worked on multiple theatrical trailer campaigns as a sound editor on the Universal Pictures lot.
Today, Jonathan operates in Los Angeles and the Bay Area as an A&R for Fearless Records and also manager for mastering engineer Piper Payne of Neato Mastering (Oakland, CA) and Sam Pura of The Panda Studios (Fremont, CA), both of whom are Recording Connection mentors as well. We recently spoke with the busy music maker to learn more about his journey and to gleen a few valuable insights.
ON WHAT HE DOES AS AN A&R:
“If I were to summarize it, the A&R side is Artists and Repertoire, which means you’re not only seeking out talent, whether that be [unsigned] bands or solo artists or bands that are just coming out of their record deals and may be looking for a new label, but you are also heavily involved on the creative side, when branding a band or figuring out what story to tell in order to sell records.”
ON HOW HE WENT FROM AUDIO ENGINEERING TO A&R:
“One of my friends was heavily involved in the A&R side. He’s been at Fearless for two and a half years…and I had worked with him as a producer/manager. They had done lots of projects with lots of my people I represent, and when there came an opening to bring in someone to be involved in a support role for the A&R side, my friend reached out to me and said, ‘I think you’d be perfect for it. Why don’t you come in?'”
ON HOW BEING AN AUDIO ENGINEER INFORMS HIS ROLE AS AN A&R:
“Being able to speak the language goes a long way as far as being able to get other people to understand what changes you want and get things done faster. Basically, if you come from the engineering side or the producer side, you can say, ‘Well, I know what the personalities are like in this band and I know what they’re looking for sonically. I think that this producer checks all the boxes, and not only from a personality standpoint, but from a sonic perspective, this producer is going to give them what they want…’
And then also once you’re getting mixes back, like once it gets to the mixing phase and you’re listening to stuff [you can say], ‘Man, that lead guitar needs to come up three or four decibels,’ or, ‘That kick drum is way too round. It needs to have some frequency taken out of it because it’s muddying this whole mix.’ Being able to just communicate that to a producer, to an engineer, to a band, that’s so key and so vital, because if you didn’t know how to speak the language, you’re kind of just sitting there like, ‘I don’t know what’s happening here. It just doesn’t sound good.’ And then people just don’t really have a direction. They’re like, ‘Okay. You don’t really have notes for me. I don’t know how to interpret what you’re saying.’ It just makes the whole process way too long and stressful and strenuous.”
HIS ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO WORK IN MUSIC BUT DON’T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT TO DO:
“You’re never going to know what you want to do until you try something, and you shouldn’t just hold back just because you feel like you’re in a spot where you’re like, ‘Well, I don’t want to go that route, because what if I don’t like it?’ Well, guess what, you’re never going to know unless you try it.”
ON HOW RECORDING CONNECTION STUDENTS CAN MAKE THE MOST OF THE PROGRAM:
“If you’re trying to get the most out of the Recording Connection, you just have to be able to say, ‘I realize that the minimum amount of time that I need to show up is this many days or this many hours, but I need to go above and beyond and I need to see if I can actually be here more than what the minimum amount of time is. I need to try to be here the maximum amount of time,’ because that’s when you’re going to get the most out of it, and that’s also when you’re going to be around when opportunity presents itself. The more that you’re involved and present and around, the greater chance for you to get those opportunities that could lead to a successful career, or maybe the next path in your life.”
ON HIS UPCOMING SUPER SECRET FEARLESS RELEASE:
“We work hard on everything we release, but there’s something special about when it’s something that you kind of have your name attached to it… So the band that I signed is definitely not a Warped Tour band, they’re definitely not a scene band. They definitely could be on the same level as Death Cab for Cutie probably five or six years down the line… having a band that’s super young, you know, 19, 20 years old, and having an album that’s absolutely incredible… has me excited, because it’s one of those things where I listen to an album and realize, ‘Wow, these kids wrote it when they were 17,’ and they have so much going for them. I’m just super stoked to see where they can go with the funding and a platform and the team that we have at Fearless.”
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