Recording Connection graduate Andrew Marshala Overcomes Addiction & Gets Hired at Mentor Studio
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Recording Connection graduate Andrew Marshala’s journey into a career in audio engineering and music production was anything but straight and narrow.
Prior to getting hired at the exquisitely appointed recording and post-production facility Castle Row Studios, the very same studios where he trained with mentor Hamza Lee, Andrew’s jobs had run the gamut from CNC machinist to specialty welder, to professional sprint car racer. Then, a battle with drug addiction sent him on a downward spiral, a bottom he might never have recovered from. Through it all, music was the constant positive force he held onto, the only thing which allowed him to “fill the void” and feel and express what was beyond words.
We recently connected with Andrew to learn more about his crucial decision to change tracks, enroll in Recording Connection for Audio Engineering and Music Production Program, and build a music-centered life.
Is it fair to say music has always played a big role in your life?
“I spent all of junior high and high school in drumline. I had my first drum lesson when I was, like, 3 years old. Of course, I only had, like, three of them because who wants to teach a 3-year old with ADHD how to play the drums? It’s not happening. So, I grew up with this love and this passion for music of all types: rap music, alternative rock [and] you know, my parents listening to oldies. I love The Beatles… I’m real big into EDM now, and I’m a hip hop producer…So I have this vast background in all types of music.”
Great. So, what led you to Recording Connection?
“A really big part…of my story has to do with my addiction to drugs and alcohol as well. And there for a while it got really bad… So back to like, three or four years before I actually enrolled…I had looked into you guys. And you hooked me up with this guy…somewhere over by Tulsa… And…I don’t know if it was my nerves of just being scared, of ‘Oh shi_t, I got to do something with my life now,’ or just the fact that I wasn’t sure it was going to be a good fit…. I backed out and got scared. Whatever. And then things in my life went way downhill for a while. At one point I spent almost a year living in my Suburban. It was bad, full on junkie.
Anyway, so I got sober about four years ago, a little less than four years ago. And after about a year in recovery and just…re-growing some brain cells and just getting my life back together, I decided it was time. It was time. I’ve done a lot of different things in my life, career wise. I was a CNC machinist for a while. I taught myself how to weld and was doing some specialty welding. I drove racecars professionally for a few years, you know…. I still hold a passion for racing, but music was always my thing…
I had about six months sober at that time when my dad died of cancer. And talking with my mother and other family members, they were like ‘Hey, given the opportunity, if you had the option to do whatever, what would you do with yourself?’ And it was a no-brainer. I immediately went back to the idea that I had had a few years before. You know, I want music. I need music in my life. Music has gotten me through some seriously dark times, and it’s uplifting in the good times. It’s always there. It’s always been a really big part of me.
I wanted to get back to basics, back to my roots which is music. So, I looked into the engineering program. Like I said, I already knew about you guys, so I just immediately went back to it.”
That first interview with Hamza Lee (aka Chartbreakers), do you remember what you guys talked about?
“I was just trying to take it all in, you know? I do remember that he was just very personable… Come to find out he’s the producer for Color Me Bad…I listened to them in the mid-’90s. My older sisters listened to them, you know. So that was really cool. But, you know, he’s been in the industry for about 30 years. He’s been in all facets of the industry from, chart-topping, being in the studio as a great, working with greats at different times. You know, he spent some time in New York. He’s been kind of all-around and has come back home and is doing this now.”
What was it like to train with Hamza as your mentor?
“My time with him was phenomenal. He was a very good teacher, answered all of my questions. A lot of times he gave me the opportunity to answer them myself because I have the propensity to overlook some things sometimes. You know, he’d give me a minute to figure it out…. But he was really good to work with…. I came into this thing knowing zero. My network was zero. I wasn’t even quite sure what I wanted to do. So, I definitely wasn’t sure what to expect coming into it. He taught me how to love my craft before I even knew what that was, you know? So overall, as far as all that is, it’s been a really good experience.”
It sounds like you really dove in and gave it your all.
Do you think that’s because you were seizing the opportunity to move into a different direction in your life?
“Oh absolutely. Absolutely…. Pretty much as soon as I got my [drivers] license, I learned how therapeutic taking a drive and turning the volume up was for me. That was when I started toying with the idea of making a living out of making music…. When I sit down at my desk and play my electronic instruments, what comes out is typically an expression of whatever I’m feeling at the time. I’m not a poet, or a lyricist…but I let my emotions come out of my mind, through my fingertips, and you can feel my pain, or my anger, or my happiness, if you just listen.”
After graduating, you stayed on at the studio and eventually got offered a place at Castle Row Studios as an engineer/producer on contract. Tell us how it happened.
“That conversation, I had been nervous about it… I’d been telling myself ‘I feel like I’m ready. I’m not sure if I am, but I feel like I might be.’…So I finally just, I snagged some time with the owner and said, ‘Hey, this is what I’ve got to offer. I would really like to make a home here, you know?’
And he took a chance on me…They knew me. They knew my face. They knew what I did, you know. Hamza vouched for me…. I’m really hard on myself, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready. And that’s another thing that I’ve learned…You just got to kind of…throw yourself into the lion’s den and see if you survive, you know. And it’s kind of trial by fire…You’re never really ready until you are, but you don’t know that you are until you just get out [there] and do it.”
What, in your opinion, did you do to convince those in charge at Castle Row to take a chance on you?
“I needed to prove my worth here. I needed to be indispensable. ‘Whatever there is that needs to be done, call me first. I’ll do it.’ …
I made sure to make myself available, made sure that everybody here knew that I was here to learn and here to work. ‘What you need? I got it.’ Always asking the other engineers, always asking the other producers, ‘Do you need something? What do you need for your session? Let me get this set up for you.’”
Learn more about Recording Connection, and how you can start building a career you love.