Meet The Team! Q&A with Matt Cotterill
You might remember a few months back we introduced you lovely people to the talented producers and engineers that work with us here at Gospel Oak Studio! Well, we’d like you to meet another member of the Gospel Oak team! Matthew Cotterill is an incredible producer and engineer based in the Midlands, who has worked on some seriously exciting projects in our studio. Find out all about him…
- How did your career in music production begin?
Like many of us in this business, I began simply as a music lover who enjoyed listening to records and playing in bands. I spent a few years pursuing a career in film and media music – I loved the diversity of the work and the collaborative nature of working with film people. For one reason or another it didn’t work out for me, but I had a lot of good experiences during this time. It advanced my production skills and more importantly I learnt some fundamentals about producing music for other people; that it is about serving others and serving something bigger than just yourself, your taste and your ego – it is a partnership. Around the time I was feeling a bit disillusioned with my future as a composer, a band I knew invited me to produce their debut album, which was a watershed moment. I look back on the process of making that record with fond memories, knowing that it was the start of something very good.
- How would you describe what you do to someone who knows nothing about sound engineering?
I refer to myself as a producer rather than a sound engineer, but in the studio they are closely related. In a recording session, the producer works to get the best out of the musicians – i.e. a great performance, the right parts etc… The engineer works to capture the performance as well as possible, by placing microphones in the sweet spots to make sure everything sounds right on a technical level. Quite often I find myself doing both jobs, which is a challenge as I’m flexing both sides of my brain!
- What’s the most fundamental piece of advice you can offer to studio artists?
Be comfortable in your own skin and don’t be a people pleaser. Know who you are and make the music you want to make.
- What particular unique skills do you think you can offer?
I like to think I have a knack for pairing an artist with the right musicians in the right studio, which creates a chemistry between everyone involved that makes for great music.
- How do you achieve ‘the perfect track’? How would you describe the process?
I’m not sure any producer would claim their work to be perfect, but at the heart of the best music that has stood the test of time is usually a great song, a powerful performance or an irresistible feel. To a greater or lesser extent as a producer I’m involved with all of these elements but in the styles I work in I’m responsible for getting the best out of the song, the artist and all the musicians. It is their contribution and not mine that will be remembered and celebrated. At the heart of my process is the idea of fulfilling everyone’s potential.
- If you could work with any artist/band who would it be?
Hozier. That man’s on a whole ‘nother level.
- What do you think makes Gospel Oak stand out from other studios?
It is a genuinely lovely inspiring place to work, wholly professional but wholly fun and chilled out. I really trust what I’m hearing as well, and I always like what I’m hearing. It’s basically a great a place to make records where you finish one day and go “I can’t wait to be back to make more great music”
- How do you think sound engineering has changed since you started? (technology etc.)
2 products that have sprung up over the last few years are revolutionizing my workflow – the Universal Audio Apollo and the Kemper Profiling Amp. In terms of new technologies that are freeing me up from fiddly convoluted setups so I can actually focus on the music and capturing great performances, these guys are top of my list. Melodyne of course was a game changer too, which has given freedom to a vocalist and producer to go with a performance that has the right emotion and tone, not necessarily the one that is completely “in tune”. Sometimes music feels better leaving things out of tune, incidentally…
- What advice would you give to aspiring sound engineers?
Strike the balance between believing in yourself and being humble. Find people who inspire you to greater things and get to know them, learn from them. I think that’s the best advice I could give to any aspiring professional person.
- Any experiences that stick out in your mind?
I can think of a recent project that at its outset was fraught with complication due to a difficult individual that took a while to be “removed”. Suffice to say there were many times when I wanted out, but I believed in the artist so much I was prepared to stick with it and commit myself. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Most things in life that are meant to be come fairly easily, but not all of them. Sometimes the hard graft can have the biggest payoff.
- What are the biggest challenges you face as a sound engineer?
I throw my all into everything I’m involved in. It gets pretty hard to stay motivated and energized when projects drag out. It sucks when you have to admit to yourself that you’re not enjoying the music you’re working on anymore. I’m increasingly conscious of managing recording sessions so that they don’t drag out – this way the process is instinctive, decisions are made on gut feel, nothing’s over-analyzed and second- guessed. Ultimately everyone should leave happy and excited; the process hasn’t allowed the music to feel stale.
- Do you have a favourite style of music to record?
Not as such. Again for me it comes back to the combination of song, performance and feel. Generally the music I love has a human touch. This is not to say I’m against electronic music by any means. I’m all for electronically manipulating real performances and using electronic sounds and effects, but for me I like hearing the human behind the music.
- What’s your favourite piece of equipment at Gospel Oak?
The vibe and sound of the studio is so much more important than any one piece of equipment. But if I had to pick one piece it would have to be the Blue Bottle Microphone. Probably the most beautiful sounding and versatile microphone I’ve had the pleasure of using.
We think you’ll agree, Matt is a pretty exciting producer to work with! If you’d like to work with him on your next project at Gospel Oak Studio, check out his Facebook page here, or give us a call on 01564 785 875.