Recording Connection mentor Kelly Jones on The Relationship Behind the Glass, and More!
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Kelly Jones has been a Recording Connection mentor for more than a decade. As co-founder of Da Spot Recording (DSR) in Richmond, VA, the audio engineer/producer and manager is known for instilling our students with a deft understanding of the craft and the art of making quality music, right alongside superior studio etiquette and soft skills such as client interaction, coaching, and collaboration. We recently caught up with Kelly to garner a few words of wisdom we can put to use and to learn more about the Recording Connection graduate he just hired–Trevion Belton!
In a prior conversation with us, you mentioned “the relationship behind the glass” as being as important as technical prowess. Could you explain?
“A lot of times nowadays the engineer and producer lines kind of blur. So what happens is that artist is coming into the studio, this is their artwork, this is their baby. They’re entrusting you to take care of their baby in the recording process…They’re saying, ‘Okay, my vision is this. I want this.’ And that’s really a producer’s job, to get what the artist’s vision is onto the tape or whatever. [But] as an engineer you can’t be cold and just pushing buttons, a monkey can do that. So you have to let them feel comfortable while they’re there, make sure they’re comfortable, make sure they’re able to translate to you what they want, and just kind of make sure that session flows at a good pace and a good rhythm for that particular artist. That’s probably more important than being technically sound, is dealing with different personalities. And the goal is to make sure that artist feels comfortable, is great, and wants to come back to this studio versus go on to another one. So that’s a big, big part of it, and we spend a lot of time on just that alone, understanding what the artist wants.
Do you think students really need to be passionate about audio engineering, or music, or sound in general when they’re walking in the door?
“In this business, people get caught up in the lights and the glamor, and they think, ‘Oh, I’m coming into a studio.’ They know Kendrick Lamar has been here, Ashanti, all these people have been here. So they get caught up in, ‘Oh, I’m going to be working with all these stars,’ and all this and that. And the reality is you might see them once or twice a year, and that’s it. The reality is you’re going to be actually doing real work.”
Do you have any tips on how students can train their ears?
“Find a song that you think sounds good, and then try to pick it apart in terms of listening to every instrument, every vocal, all the different parts of the song…. I think that helps you train your ears to know what to listen for later. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s kind of where I’d start.”
What can a new student do to impress you?
“Be proactive. Come to class prepared and knowing that… Then have questions [prepared]…If they’re doing stuff on their own time and they’re coming in prepared, then I’m going to give them that much more. So I think that’s one of the things that Trevion did, to be honest with you.”
Trevion Belton who recently got hired by you?
“Yes…If you’re putting in the work, I’m seeing it…I just hired Trevion, who’s here right now. He just finished the program and I’m very proud of him.”
What skills or qualities do you look for in potential students?
“It really doesn’t matter to me that much what your skill set is…The less they know, the better. Because you know, sometimes there are people that know just enough to be dangerous. So the less they know, the better. Other than that, as long as they are computer literate, I think I’m okay with it, because I’m going to show you my way either way.”
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