Visions of a Music Producer
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B. Seed : Thanks for being on brightseedblog. Matthew Shell, recording engineer, grandson of a famous math/computer scientist, featured twice on GRAMMY.com, and music producer. For those who don’t know, what exactly is a music producer?
MTS : To me, Quincy Jones is the best example of what it means to be a true music producer. A music producer is someone who arranges the music, organizes the best possible musicians to play the different parts, communicates the vision to bring the song to life, and sees the song to its proper completion.
B. Seed : Your Grandfather, although he is most widely known for his Shell Sort algorithm, Donald Shell’s Ph.D. is also considered by some to be the first major investigation of the convergence of infinite exponentials, which was pioneering work in the field that is commonly called Tetration. Do you have an idea of what that is?
MTS : Yes. But only vaguely. I know that this foundation is used by a lot of computer programmers and astrophysicists.
B. Seed : “VICTORIOUS” features Ian Cameron on violin, bassist Markus Huber, pianist Vahagn Stepanyan, bassist Teo Lee, strings arranger Jonathan Wesley, Grammy Nominated arranger & co-producer Arun Shenoy, drummer Sebastian Wyrobisch, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., trumpeter Greg Adams, and keyboardist Marcus Johnson. What is it like working with such great musicians?
MTS : As PBS’ Charlie Rose put it, I like working with people who are smarter and better than me. What’s the point of collaborating if I could do everything myself? It is an honor to work with some of the best musicians in the world. At every turn, I try to make sure the collaborators I work with get their fair credit. The purpose of my music is to represent the collaborative spirit as profoundly as possible.
B. Seed : You are first and most a music producer & audio engineer. Have you done any singing/song writing, perhaps joining your clients behind the mic?
MTS : Yes. I do enjoy writing, but I steer clear of singing. Why sing when I could hire someone like Kenny Wesley who has a four octave vocal range? I think my range is half an octave. I leave the singing to the professional singers and stick to the areas I’m more naturally gifted in, such as music production, engineering, arranging, etc.
B. Seed : Your production “VICTORIOUS” is a collaborations with various artists. I think maybe you are most comfortable doing collaborations, or is that a big part of being a recording engineer?
MTS : Yes. As a recording engineer, if the client feels comfortable and able to achieve their 100% best performance for their recordings, then I have achieved success for the day of work. This mentality of consistently creating a comfortable atmosphere of inspiration, positive feedback, focus, speed, and excellence builds trust with any artist or musician I work with. Quality music production and quality engineering go hand in hand in this regard.
B. Seed : Sydni Alexander, “Why Don’t You”, a sixteen year old singer-songwriter from your area says “I couldn’t be who i am without these guys”, meaning your crew. It must be nice to help people for a living don’t you think?
MTS : Yes. I’ll even go as far to say that working with others in this way, by helping aspiring artist meet their goals, is often more fulfilling than working on my solo material.
B. Seed : You’ve worked with Grammy nominated Carolyn Malachi, who performed “Beautiful Dreamer” on FOX News and was interviewed in a tribute to those who have been bullied. Were you involved with her song, and/or her latest CD?
MTS : Yes. “Beautiful Dreamer” is featured on Carolyn’s newest album “Gold”. For “Beautiful Dreamer”, I produced, engineered, mixed, co-wrote the lyrics, arranged, and played the acoustic guitar, drums, ambient instruments, and some of the piano. As I mentioned before about being a producer, part of my work was organizing the musicians who played, including Vahagn Stepanyan, Markus Huber, Devin Spear and others. Carolyn’s original lyrics were “Baby you bug me; you get on my nerves…” and we got some advice from James McKinney and my family to rewrite the lyrics to better fit the positive vibe of the song. At the time, one of my close friends was battling suicidal thoughts. One night I awoke suddenly with lyrics to encourage this friend of mine that life is worth living. The new lyrics I wrote that night went as follows:
You can do anything
Despite what you’ve heard
You’re on the verge
Of more than you can conceive
The world needs you
You need to be heard
I know it hurts
but I love you here
I love you here
B. Seed : Your bio says you are a Washington, D.C. native now living in VA. Were you a victim of bullying growing up?
MTS : Yes. All successful people were bullied at some point in their adolescence. I always disarmed bullies by bringing cakes and deserts to class. No one can hate on someone with great food. Ha ha.
B. Seed : I interviewed singer Tarrynn Ashley who spoke a bit on being bullied. Selena Gomez also talks about it. Why do you think society is just now, after all these years, addressing the issue?
MTS : Thanks to our digital and connected culture, it is easier to learn about new ideas, and with increased knowledge comes increased tolerance for those that are different from you. The short answer is that in an uneducated culture, it is cool to be a bully. In a culture that values education and intelligence, the bully becomes the outcast.
B. Seed : Speaking of Selena Gomez, i believe you did some remixing for her. What does that involve? are you still working with her?
MTS : Networking is how that happened. Selena Gomez’s record label, Hollywood Records, submitted “Come And Get It” to Jason Kidd (the program director at WPGC 95.5 FM), who felt the pop version didn’t fit WPGC’s format. Selena’s rep at Hollywood Records asked Jason if there was a producer who could make a remix of the song to better with the WPGC format. Jason connected them with WPGC’s own DJ Flexx, who enlisted me to run the session. I requested the full session files separated out from Hollywood Records and then Flexx brought the musicians from the 4DC Music Group and together we re-produced the track. Since we used live instruments, with congas, live drums, electric guitar, keyboards, and funky bass guitar, it just made sense to call it a go-go remix. Hollywood Records loved it, and by the next morning that remixed version was on the air. The “WPGC Exclusive Go-Go Remix of Come And Get It” played five times a day for four months straight on WPGC.
B. Seed : You are at Assembly Line Studios now, i believe. What do you do there every day?
MTS : Yes. Assembly Line is where I got my start and I still work at this studio and 4 other studios in the area. So I’m not at any one studio everyday.
B. Seed : You’ve been featured twice on the Billboard charts top 10 with O.A.R. & Marcus Johnson. Was that a “wow” moment for you?
MTS: Yes. It’s a wow moment when any success happens. I just thank God and then keep working.
B. Seed : So what’s next for Matthew Shell in 2014?
MTS : I’m looking forward to continuing my work producing and engineering for Sydni Alexander and other great artists. As for my solo work, I never plan that. Bursts of inspiration suddenly develop. It’s always worked better for me that way. No pressure. Just inspiration.
B. Seed : Thanka again Matthew for being here. Anything you would like to say to our viewers?
MTS : Thank you. Much love to my wife, Terra. All praise be to God. I hope to honor God and my family with all that I do.