With over three decades of experience in the music industry, David Reitzas has served as a music mixer, engineer, and producer on countless critically-acclaimed albums. Since his start as an engineer with acclaimed record producer and songwriter David Foster in 1987, Reitzas has worked on hundreds of different albums by a variety of musicians, including Madonna, Barbra Streisand, The Weeknd, Josh Groban, Whitney Houston, and Céline Dion. His hard work has earned him numerous Grammy Award nominations, claiming 7 of the Grammy statuettes for his mantle. Over the years, he has earned a reputation for utilizing innovative recording and mixing methods.
We recently provided David Reitzas with some audio equipment for a confidential album he was working on. As it turns out, that album was Luis Miguel’s ¡México por Siempre!, which was recently selected as album of the year and the best ranchero/mariachi album at the 2018 Latin Grammy Awards. Following the win, we sat down with David to learn more about his music career, involvement in this recent album, and advice for aspiring music professionals.
What made you want to become a professional music mixer, engineer, and producer?
0My mom and dad enrolled me in a course at the local community college to study engineering when I was 14 years old. I had no idea what engineering was about. When I was 17, I went into a studio for the first time with a band as the drummer to record a few songs. I wanted my drums to sound like John Bonham, but they didn’t. It was at that moment that I decided I was going to learn how to be an engineer so I could make my drums sound great. I moved out to Los Angeles from Massachusetts to study engineering at the Institute of Audio/Video Engineering. This time I paid attention to the art and science of recording and I fell in love with being in the control room. That was the start of my career over 35 years ago and I never looked back.
Over the years, you have worked on quite a few different albums. Can you tell us a little about one of your more memorable recording sessions?
There have been so many memorable moments that it’s hard to pick just one, but I’ll give it a try. I started working with David Foster in 1987. This was a dream job for a young up-and-coming engineer. For a few years we worked on some very cool projects, leading into a huge success with Natalie Cole’s album and song “Unforgettable.” Following that record, we started recording with Whitney Houston on what would become one of the biggest selling soundtracks of all time, “The Bodyguard.” One of the most memorable moments of my career was on the song “I Will Always Love You.” That song was recorded live in the ballroom of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. We had a truck and the band was strategically placed on the wings of the ballroom stage, using the curtains as baffles while Whitney performed for the cameras. It was pouring rain outside and the truck wasn’t completely soundproof. But you could definitely hear well enough to know that history was being recorded that day.
After Miami, David Foster took the tapes to New York to do some edits while I returned to L.A. to continue a project that we had started with Michael Bolton. When David returned to join me at Ocean Way studios (now EastWest Studios), he asked me to do a quick rough mix of the song so that we could send it to Clive Davis to hear. I spent about an hour doing a rough mix from the heart; not too much thinking, just using my gut to show off how great Whitney’s performance was. After we sent the rough to Clive, David and I spent the next couple of months working on the album and that song, doing overdubs and fixes. To make a long story short, Clive Davis had fallen in love with my rough mix, and despite numerous attempts to beat that rough mix, Clive got his way and released my rough as the final mix that became an incredible hit around the world. That was an experience that definitely boosted the trajectory of my exciting career!
You recently worked with popular Latin artist Luis Miguel on his album ¡México por Siempre! How did you get involved with Luis and can you describe the recording process?
The first project I worked on with Luis was in 2003 mixing for his album 33. Luis told me that he really liked my work with Barbra Streisand and that he wanted to try me out as a mixer for his music. I guess it worked out really well, because I was a mixer on all of his albums since then. When it came time for his latest project, ¡México por Siempre!, he finally requested that I be a part of the recording process and record him and the musicians. We booked a few weeks in Studio B at United with the famous musicians of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. It was an incredible experience! Luis and I moved over to Westlake Studio D at the end of 2016 to go through the songs and continue working on vocals and overdubs. Then in the summer of 2017 we took over Westlake Studio A to continue the same process of vocals and overdubs, finally ending up in Westlake Studio C for the mixing. Because this was a follow-up to his award-winning 2004 mariachi album México en la Piel, we had a lot to live up to regarding the feel and sound of the record. Luis is one of the most passionate artists I have ever worked with, and he put every ounce of emotion from his heart into this album. I am so proud to have been by his side for all of these years and especially for this most beautiful recording!
How did you feel when you learned that the album you worked on with Luis Miguel won “Album of the Year” at the 2018 Latin Grammy Awards?
I was totally not expecting that to happen. While I do love this record and I think it’s one of Luis’ best, there were so many other talented and popular artists in the category, that I thought there was no way it was going to win. I was actually in the back of the venue when the category was announced. I thought it was going to be announced at the end of the ceremony, but it was only halfway over. When Thalía announced Luis’ name I was caught off guard. I started to walk up to the stage, but by the time I got there I was too late. Oh well, maybe next time.
As an audio expert, what features do you look for in your equipment to get the ultimate sound quality for each album?
I actually look for gear that is made by people that have passion for audio and the people who they make the gear for. I have a pretty large collection of A-T mics that I use on all of my projects and I also still mix mostly on an analog console with lots of outboard gear. I’ve come to have a few favorites along the way, but I’ll use anything that helps me get the sounds that are in front of me closer to the way I’m hearing things in my head.
Can you describe the setup in your recording studio?
I use Pro Tools into an analog SSL 9000J console, and I have all of the equipment at Westlake Studios and my own gear at any moment to patch into the console. I mix through the console and then back into Pro Tools. After a mix is done, I print stems so that I can always make changes to the mix with just my laptop if needed. I also use a lot of plug-ins if needed.
Do you have any advice for aspiring music mixers and engineers to help them achieve the kind of success you have?
Most important things are to pay attention and be prepared. The only reason that I’m any good at what I do is because I learned from some of the greats in our field and I do a lot of preparation before any of the work starts.
You also have to have passion and pride in what you do. I’m usually the first one into the studio and the last one to leave. Treat everyone you meet with respect and people will want to work with you again. And finally, never give up in following your passion. There will always be moments that are hard to get through, but if you keep going, eventually those hard times will end and the fun will return.
What’s your favorite song from the ¡México por Siempre! album David worked on? Let us know in the comments below!