Ask someone what the term “music producer” means to them, and they will likely conjure up grand visuals of someone sitting in an immaculately lit recording studio, complete with million dollar mixer boards with enough knobs and buttons to make a cockpit look like a Fisher Price toy. Somewhere in the corner is a grand piano, complete with a leather-bound bench. Oh and depending on their imagination, they may or may not include a bottle of champagne on ice for the impromptu studio party.
This visual might have been a reality for some producers, but it most definitely was not mine. Unlike most artists who are talented beyond belief, I had absolutely no business being in the music industry; I had no formal training on any musical instrument, no one in my family comes from a musical background, and English was my third language so I barely knew how to write songs, much less perform them.
The only thing that I had was my instinct; I knew what sounded good, and I understood the way it made people feel. I had dog hearing so I could pick apart songs in my head as I heard them. Rhythms and song patterns were as intuitive as breathing. It all just made sense to me.
Unfortunately, my instincts were not enough to win over other musicians. My unorthodox method to creating music was a joke to classically trained artists. They called my process “the lucky guess” method (to be fair, a lot of it was guessing, but at least I guessed until I got it right!).
My lack of training made me extremely conscious. People didn’t really understand how I could create anything worth listening to, without even a basic understanding of music theory. Frustrated at their remarks, I would throw my laptop and keyboard into my backpack and drive to remote places where I could sit in silence and create freely, without feeling pressured or judged.
The coffee shops became my studio and my time in front of my laptop became my studio sessions. I was in my own world, and I would not have had it any other way. With each 8 - 10 hour block, my ears got better at picking up chord structures, song patterns and melodies. Eventually, words were put to those melodies, turning blank instrumentals into full fledged songs with a beginning, middle and end.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my backpack was quite literally my only companion during those early stages. It held my equipment, my notebook, all of my ideas were in that tiny bag. It seems bizarre to get attached to inanimate objects, but that backpack was right behind me every step of the way. All puns intended.
These days I’m bouncing in and out of those lavish recording studios with immaculate lighting, with enough buttons to make me feel way cooler than I ever was. More often than not though, you’ll find me tucked away in a corner of some coffee shop, plugging away at my laptop with my backpack at my feet.