Last week I had lunch with a new friend, a guy by the name of James Waddell of Lyricanvas Studios.
James is an audio engineer/producer/mixer here in Nashville. James has won two Grammy’s. James is awesome.
I’ll be posting a video tour of James’ studio in a few weeks on my weekly Studio Tours series. You’ll get to see the Grammys then.
I met James at a songwriting event I played for a few weeks ago. Had my buddy Sean not told me who he was, I would have simply assumed he was just a nice southern fella. Knowing who he was and the amount of success he’s had in the industry made me pay pretty close attention to him. (Of course, right?)
Here are some things I noticed about James. Are they super secret keys to becoming a highly successful audio engineer? Maybe, maybe not. But I find this all very interesting, and I think you will, too.
1. Enthusiasm Out The Wazoo
One of the things I noticed right off the bat about James was his enthusiasm. I always assume that if you work in the industry long enough, you become a disgruntled old fart. That’s not the case with James. His eyes light up when he talks about projects he’s working on or artists he loves to work with.
He’s not one of those guys who likes to name-drop for the sake of name-dropping. He has a genuine passion for good music, and it just sort of spills out of him in conversation. He’s the kind of guy you hang out with for a couple hours, and you want to run back to your studio and make music. I love that.
2. Genuine Interest In Others
Another thing that struck me about James was how interested he was in me and my work. He’s working on the latest Johnny Lang record, and he’s asking me about my projects. It all ties into the first point. He’s genuinely interested in good music, and he loves talking about it, whether it’s talking about a project he’s working on or hearing about your project.
In fact, at one point the first night I met him, James called me his hero. Haha. He came across my videos on YouTube, specifically my Presonus Studio One tutorials. He’s working on releasing some videos of his own, and he’s been studying my videos to see how I make them. Talk about flattered! Yes, I’m good at making videos, but I think this speaks more to James’ humility in being legitimately good at what he does but always also open to learning something new. That’s an attractive quality.
3. A Deep Network
I believe James’ interest in other people is a big reason why he has such a huge, deep network. I mentioned this in an article a few weeks ago: it’s all about who you know. As annoying as that phrase is, it’s completely true.
Just talk to a highly successful person like James or anyone else. You’ll hear story after story of “randomly” meeting this one person at an event and eventually working on X project two years later as a result. Put enough of those stories together, and you’ve got work coming at you from all angles.
The only way to do that, though, is to put yourself out there. Not only that, you’ve got to be genuinely interested in other people.
I will be the first to raise my hand and admit that I’m a hardcore introvert. If I’m not careful, I will fall DEEP into isolation. Guess what happens when I do that? Not much…that’s what happens. I don’t make new friends. I don’t stumble into new opportunities. Things get pretty stale pretty quick.
The music industry is all about people, connections, relationships. The more of those you have, the more chances you’ll get to make music.
4. Skills To Back It All Up
James is great with people, but that’s obviously not the only factor to his success. (We’ve all known people who are super nice and simply horrid musicians.) James is really good at what he does. When I visited his studio last week, he played several different songs he’s been working on, and they all sounded incredible. (Like, pack up my studio and sell everything incredible.)
He puts in the work to constantly improve his own skills, to make himself an asset to those people who decide to work for him. He’s got a great studio with some sweet gear (hello, vintage U-47!), but he also knows how to use it…really, really well.
The final piece of this Waddell-shaped puzzle is humility. We’ve all experienced highly successful people with massive egos. Humility, in my opinion, is FAR more attractive than bravado. The ability to produce killer results without feeling the need to call everyone’s attention to it all the time? That’s super impressive to me.
Go Ye And Do Likewise
If you apply these five lessons to your life, I guarantee you will win a Grammy.
He he…not really.
But it sure can’t hurt your chances of getting more opportunities to make great music.
Go get ‘em.
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Joe Gilder is a Nashville based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.