Jack Hale - Nashville record producer feature - Part Two
Very special thanks to Johnny Jaskot of Babblefish.com for his superb work in making this feature possible and to Jack Hale for sparing his valuable time.
Click to go back to the main Jack Hale page to watch parts One and Three.
After that unexpected and rewarding period Jack began making the transition into full time production and started his production company 'Hale House Productions'.
"Remember a producer may be getting around 40% of the gross budget plus points to 'produce', so you can see from an economic standpoint how important it is to make this decision correctly as an artist. Also keep in mind that to call yourself a producer requires only that you claim to be one. There are no tests to pass, licenses to hold. The person who paints houses and the person who painted the Mona Lisa are both skilled craftsmen who work with paint. This is very analogous to being a producer".
Jack believes a producer should be one of the best and most creative musicians in the studio (not to be confused with instrumentalist) and he/she should have enough technical expertise to get the sound they want in case the engineer or equipment is not up to the task. Having good instincts about music in general and having impeccable 'ears' are indespensible tools of the trade.. "Joe Hardy would set me up to get knocked down when I first started out. He’d say ‘which do you think sounds best?' and I would pick one – then he’d say, 'they are the same, you idiot!" “Use your ears and know what you are talking about” say's Jack.
"You can’t have too much knowledge of music, history, technology, human nature, finance, whatever. Never stop learning. You must relate to each artist as an individual entity. Be the 'fifth Beatle' like George Martin. Song selection, album order, instrumentation, even effect usage are critical elements. Remember, when you hear something that has just been released, it may have been 5 years in the making. Keeping an awareness of current trends is mandatory, but don’t limit your creativity to just what’s popular. That’s the past from a production standpoint. You need knowledge to make the right decisions quickly and the time to treat each project, as it’s the only thing in your life."
"Production is not a normal profession – it is a lifestyle, in my experience. You need to be a psychologist at times, a doctor, physical therapist, music educator, instructor, and a friend 24/7 to your artists. I happen to be a people person, so I enjoy making new friends and in general helping people take their music to the next level, whatever that may be. I also like to dig into other’s music to find what makes it cool for me. My way is to write out stuff, and make notes away from the studio environment. I memorize a lot of stuff while doing that, and “play it in my head”. When you do that you don’t hear a lot of the “horrible” things that may be on the track you have to listen to like out of tuneness, wrong chords, etc.. Our memory recollection kind of filters out that stuff…well I know mine does!” I also get arranging and recording ideas that way. Don’t work with someone or a group you don’t get along with, even if you love their music. It’s not fair to the artists and not fair to the outcome of the project. You can end up spending huge parts of your life with these people and if you start off not getting along…well, you’ve heard stories!"
Jack also describes himself as a guy who likes to read manuals, and does a lot of experimentation when not working. "If someone sees and hears me as an engineer, I hope to come off as a great one – like that is all I do - same with arranging, playing, mixing, programming, etc. You can be that good – it does take a degree of talent and a lot of time. I am fortunate to beta test a lot of incredible software and hardware – how cool is that? It’s a lot like seeing the future – what you do with it is another matter. It also helps to have a great support crew - family, friends, doctors, lawyers, other engineers, arrangers, producers, tech guys you can turn to."
Jack thinks that it's a great time that we are in now, with the ability for music as an art to recapture audiences. On the Seals and Crofts’ 'Traces' album that Jack produced, he believes that more revenue is generated from online downloads than actual CD sales. "Granted, you are selling less than the entire CD most of the time and the artwork part of the CD has not really gotten it’s due online yet, but there is no warehousing, 'returns' or physical distribution involved. This makes the potential to realize a profit faster, or put another way more money can be spent “making” the music/record. As for the artwork, I can see where this could be a huge selling point for downloading – imagine video, not just a static picture, for an album cover. The consumer could even design their own cover from elements online pertaining to the record. I think we are still in the early stages of this new era, so it’s anyone’s guess."