Jared Wenkman on Getting Hired, Working with Bands & The Advanced Audio & Music Production Program.
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When Jared Wenkman found Recording Connection, he hadn’t spent years imaging how cool it’d be to work in a recording studio. He didn’t have Pro Tools on his computer. In fact, he knew next to nothing about recording music at all. What he did have was lifelong love for music, a mom who supported him through-and-through, and a pretty good idea that a career somewhere in the arts, not some 9-to-5 job, would be something he could find fulfillment doing.
Prior to finding Recording Connection you were on a different path. Tell us about that.
“I went through high school as a film student… with one of my best friends and we were competing through all the film competitions. We actually won first place in a lot of those, and that really pinned us in the direction of going to college for film…. [Then] I went to UTA of Arlington to study film. However, once I was there, I really wasn’t liking the classes…. I really wasn’t happy with it.
I ended up dropping out of college and sort of feeling a little… lost on what I was going to do…. My mom was saying, ‘Well, you know, have you ever thought about being a sound engineer? Have you thought about doing something in the music world?’… So, I’ve always been into music ever since I can remember. You know, I got my first guitar maybe around 10 or 12, been playing ever since then. …
When I got into Recording Connection my mind was blown. I really didn’t know anything about how Pro Tools worked, how music worked, how even recording worked. You know, one of the biggest things that blew my mind was stereo panning. I didn’t really even know left and right. Once I figured out you could pan a guitar left and right and it opens up the sound, it was like, ‘Oh, that’s how they do it.’… [From] not knowing anything at all to being able to put effects on tracks, separate through panning, create aux tracks, you know, stuff that sounds like mumbo jumbo to somebody who doesn’t know about it, but now I’m pretty well versed in everything.” Get Jared’s advice on working with bands in our Straight Talk video below!
That first “mind blow” came courtesy of longtime mentor Ricky Rooney (Warner Bros, RCA Records, Atlantic) who saw potential in you. Tell us about that.
“He saw something in me basically where he pulled me aside… [and said], ‘Look, I see something in you, you just have to be more driven about it. You have to put forth more energy into this. I think you could actually do something with this,’… At the time I was just like, ‘Am I in trouble? Did I do something wrong?’ But… looking back at it, I can properly say that I feel like he saw something in me and just knew that I wasn’t really sure of myself. …
Towards the end of the course when I was actually wrapping up… we were sitting at this mixing board and he was like, ‘All right, go through this board. You can only mix on the board. You can’t touch plugins; you can’t do that. You can send it off to the plugins that we have analog-wise, but no editing through Pro Tools or whatever.’ So, I was sitting there just messing with it… trying to find a good sound and he actually walked [back] in[to] the room and was like…’You did that on the board?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah. Yeah.’ And… I saw this look of like surprise on him. He was like, ‘Wow. Okay.’ And then he just walked out of the room. And it was like, ‘Whoa, okay. I don’t know 100% what that means, but I think that was a good thing.”
Flashforward to you moving to Austin and taking Advanced Audio Engineering & Music Production with Evan Kleinecke at 5th Street Studios (Tyga, Diplo, Pharrell, Leon Bridges). Thanks to you getting a good foundation with Rick, you and Evan could move into more complex terrain.
“When I got with [Evan], it was basically like, ‘All right, do you know how this works?’ I’m like, ‘Yes, I do.’ And he’s like, ‘Good. Do you know how this works?’ ‘Yes, I do.’ ‘Good. Okay. Well, we can put a lot of the learning stuff that you already know, we can put that on the side and start pursuing more and more advanced ideas…. All the… stuff that… a beginner really shouldn’t even be learning because that’s just a lot more information to jumble up in the head, but more precise things that, as someone who has experience with Pro Tools, has experience recording, you can really start getting into the fine details of it all. And that’s really where the advanced course, for me, excels. You have this knowledge, this predetermined knowledge…. Because of the curriculum that Recording Connection sets, they pretty much know where your understanding is at, so the Advanced course picks up immediately from that.
Going with Evan was an amazing experience…. I was able to book full days as a novice, just working with the band and be like, ‘Look, I don’t know 100% [of] what I’m doing, but we’re not really charging you guys so it’s sort of a mutual benefit. You guys get to learn the studio, I get to learn the studio, and we’ll come out with hopefully, a good product.’…
Maybe after the first two bands… it was more of [Evan saying], ‘All right, I’ll come in, help you set up, but I’m actually going to leave. So, you’re in charge of the studio, you’re by yourself. Don’t mess up anything. Hopefully, you figure anything out. If you need a problem, you can call me, of course, but you’re on your own.’
So honestly, I got to learn about how to talk with clients…. I learned a lot about troubleshooting stuff, especially when I didn’t really want to bother [Evan] every time something wasn’t going right. So, it was more of, ‘All right, I got to exhaust everything that I can on my end before I call somebody.’ And that really teaches you to work for yourself, get everything going.
I would come in maybe an hour or two before the band gets there and have everything set up. I’d have drums set up, I’d have mic set up, everything ready to go, so they can just walk in and sit down, and we can start getting sound.”
What led up to you getting hired at 5th Street Studios?
“It pretty much coincided that I was still using them to bring in some bands here and there… after I graduated. So, it was this situation where I [would] have to call my mentor and be like, ‘Hey, can you get to the studio to open up for me?’ and this kind of deal. But it turned out… they had a position opening up right as I was graduating…. So, I was like, ‘Well, you know, I’m here.’… I got the keys from one of the engineers… [and] he was like, ‘You know what, keep the keys. We want you to stay at 5th Street with us.’ And I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, holy crap. That’s amazing.’” [Note: After a couple of years with 5th Street, Jared has moved on to record rock at The Shire. He keeps in touch with 5th and refers artists to them regularly.]
What’s your advice to other Recording Connection students? How can they make the most of their time in the program?
“Coming into Recording Connection, especially the beginner course, understandably it’s daunting… especially a board with a patch bay that’s all hooked up with a bunch of wires. That was one of the first things I saw in the studio. It was like, ‘Oh, no, I don’t know if I’m going to do it. I don’t know if I can do this. That looks crazy.’
It’s really about pushing yourself out of that little timidness and be like, ‘Well, hey, what does that do? Hey, what does that do? Can we sit down and explain this to me?’ Your mentor is there to be a mentor to you. You’re a student. You’re here to learn as well as progress. So… ask questions, honestly, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your mentor understands that this is confusing.’…
This isn’t [conventional] school… like, ‘Oh, I can go home and read a book and maybe figure it out,’ this is something that you’re paying to have hands-on learning with. So, get your hands on that stuff…. Ask the mentor, ‘Hey, you know, I know we don’t have any bands coming in today, but could we maybe do, like, a mock setup? Like, could I just set up for drums or set up for a guitar real quick and maybe run some sounds?’
You know, it’s really about pushing yourself out there because if you don’t, the mentor can nudge you along but really along with anything out there it’s about you, it’s about what you put into it.”
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