Ryan Hewitt has been called upon to engineer, mix and produce projects by a diverse group of artists, including the Avett Brothers, The Band Perry, Sheryl Crow, Brandi Carlile, Jamie Cullum, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, blink-182, Flogging Molly, Alkaline Trio, Three Days Grace, We Are Scientists, Tom Petty and John Frusciante. Whew! What a list.
Additionally, producers such as Rick Rubin, Matt Serletic, Greg Wells, Jeff Trott and Max Martin have called on Ryan as much for his work ethic and sense of humor as for his recording and mixing skills. In his spare time, Ryan graciously writes for the Audio-Technica blog, imparting his knowledge and advice to readers all over the world.
As part of our Ask Me Anything (AMA) series from AES 2014, Ryan sat down with us to answer some questions from the audience and from Twitter. Here are some highlights from his AMA session.
Question: How did you get started in the business?
Ryan Hewitt: That guy right there, my Dad [Ryan points to his dad in the crowd]. I started as slave labor in the truck: cleaning wheels and running cables for terrible TV shows. I have always loved music through my father. He turned me onto jazz records, back in the day.
Wanting to hang out with your father is probably the best thing a son could ask for. I went on the road throughout the summers of junior high, high school, and college with my father. I just loved working with music, musicians, and all the people that came with the business. When I went to school, I went to college for electrical engineering. I actually discovered that I really liked recording when I got to see how boring electrical engineering was. I spent more time recording bands than really going to class, studying, and all that stuff.
But some how I still managed to graduate and made my parents happy that they spent so much money. That’s really where my love for recording took off. Then I got internships at studios, became an assistant, and so on. And here we are.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for someone who is just starting out and wants to do exactly what you did?
RH: These days it’s a little tough, I have to say. There aren’t as many studios these days and there are more people that want to get into the business. The main thing, I think, is being where you want and being where the action is. If you want to make rock records, you probably are going to want to be in Los Angeles. If you want to make country records, think Nashville; Indie stuff, Brooklyn. Be where the studios you want to work in are, because then you’ll have the opportunity to go and bang on their door every day until they let you in.
I know there are programs like the Recording Connection that hook you up with internships. I am working with them to expand their project into internships with people who have home studios, like myself. That’s the main thing. Once you get the internship, it’s important to work as hard as you can and not be the person who goes home at 5 o’clock when their shift is done. Instead think, I’m done being paid at 5 o’clock, but I’m going to stick around until everyone else goes home and learn how to do whatever – back up Pro Tools sessions – all the really boring crap that all the assistants and engineers don’t want to do. If they can lean on you to do it, you’re going to be the first person they want in the room, other than the artist and assistant.
When I was an assistant I wanted the best runner in the room with me all the time to show them how to do things properly. So when I was sick, couldn’t come in, or my client wanted me but I was off doing something else, I could say, You take that guy, because I trained him and he’ll do a good job like I do.
Q: What is the biggest challenge that you find in the industry today?
RH: The biggest challenge is, I don’t know, there is a list. Where would you like me to start? The recent one I’ve had is getting people to take our profession seriously. I was supposed to do a record with a new artist. We did all this pre-production and stuff like that. I sent them my deal and I showed up for the gig, and I was like, So we’ve signed the deal. And they were like, Well, no, we aren’t giving you any money for this. I just said, See you later. This is not my hobby. This is what we do for a living and people need to sort of take it seriously.
Watch Ryan’s complete Ask Me Anything session below: