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THE PRODUCER'S CHAIR: MARK BRIGHT

THE PRODUCER'S CHAIR: MARK BRIGHT

By James Rea www.theproducerschair.com
Mark Bright

Shortly after Mark Bright left his position as President and CEO of WORD in 2010, I quoted Mark in my 2011 PC interview saying: "The more time I spent in the studio, the more I felt like I might be jeopardizing the jobs of all the people I was responsible for. My resignation was like a new lease on life." And obviously it has been. In two short years, Mark's body of work with engineer Derek Bason has been remarkable. In 2011 Carrie Underwood was nominated for ACM Top Female Vocalist and Sara Evans's A Little Bit Stronger was nominated for CMA Single of the Year. 2012 brought a CMA Best Album of the Year nomination, Carrie was nominated for ACM Vocalist of the Year, and Carrie & Brad Paisley were nominated for ACM Vocal Event of the Year for Remind Me. Carrie also received a Grammy nomination for Best Country Solo Performance in 2012 and Scotty McCreary won ACM Best New Artist. This year, Mark received nominations for CMA & ACM Album of the Year, Carrie earned another ACM nomination for Female Vocalist of the Year and Marks production on "BLOWN AWAY" blew everybody away winning the Grammy Award for Best Country Song of the Year. Writers: Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins.

And the hits just keep on comin'...Mark and co-writer Tim James received an ASCAP "Most Played" Award for co-penning George Strait's 60th #1, Give It All We Got Tonight. Bright's new publishing deal is with Delbert's Boy Music and...Mark and Kirsten Wines at Chatterbox Music have already had cuts with Tim McGraw, Little Big Town and a multitude of others since the name change. Staff Writers: Jason Saenz, Mallory Hope, April Geesbreght, Clark Kelly.

There's more...Along with Carrie's new album, Mark produced a record on The Wagoneers this year, out of Texas, signed Allison Veltz out of New York to a publishing deal, a development deal and a record deal on Blaster Records out of Cleveland – distributed by Warner Bros. He also signed pop artist Clark Kelly and is currently producing non other than Spanish/English, singer-songwriter, dancer, record producer, choreographer, and model, "Sensation" SHAKIRA, the highest-selling Colombian artist of all time - over seventy million albums and fifty million singles. SHAKIRA has won countless awards including five MTV Video Music Awards, two Grammy Awards, ten Latin Grammy Awards, seven Billboard Music Awards, twenty-eight Billboard Latin Music Awards and a Golden Globe nomination.

I must remember to ask Mark how he finds time to go fishing with Luke Bryan.

The Producer's Chair: How did you wind up producing SHAKIRA?
Mark Bright: Since she was a judge on THE VOICE, SHAKIRA has been around Blake & Miranda and really seeing where the genesis of a country song starts and becoming inspired by that on her end. So she started checking out country records and she like the ones I was producing. So her A&R guy from New York called me when I was in England and said; SHAKIRA wants to write and record with you.

Is the creative process different from artist to artist?
Yes...and what makes it different is the relationship that the producer has with the artist. Carrie has such an incredible handle on, who she is as an artist. She's very savvy in the studio in every aspect but she had to learn how to get there in the studio. On her first album she had a lot of people around her and she did a lot of listening, so she could get her feet under her. She goes out and she sells a gazillion records but more importantly, she learned a lot in the process. The second record comes out, all of a sudden she knew what snare drums make what kinds of sounds, she knew what kind of guitars made those particular sounds and she had an utter command of the types of songs that she wanted to record. She's always said publicly; "Mark doesn't tell me how to sing and I don't tell Mark how to produce." And it's been a magnificent relationship.

Another artist who has had hit or miss with their career is going to clearly have a little bit of insecurity about how there are perceived in the studio, so you have to just read it, in the moment. And, where an artist wants to assert themselves, you make sure that the players, the engineer and the producer are listening, because it's their record.

When pitching a new artist for a deal, do you have a better shot with a label who already has someone you produce, on the label or, one who doesn't?
I don't think I could perceive it as having a better shot. I just have special relationships with certain labels that are going to think...Mark Bright is doing this; we should give this a special listen. That doesn't mean however that, Mark Bright is doing this, let's sign it. That's a big distinction.

Do you ever go out on the road with your artists?
With Carrie Underwood, it's such a big tour with so many moving parts to it. I take care of the music aspect of it. I rehearse the show with the band here in Nashville, I actually did sound designs for some of the segways between songs. For instance, the show opener, I produced that and it's my arrangement. And then I'll go out and we'll rent out an arena for two weeks and put the show together. When this tour with Carrie started, I was out for two months. But in my world, I'm just taking care of the music part and Raj Kapoor takes care of how the sets come together and how they work, etc. But it's a lot of fun and then I'll go back out and make sure that, as we make subtle changes with the tour, maybe a song here and a song there, and check to see if we're getting the right kind of response.

Does an artist's road band ever have difficulty with the song arrangements that were established in the studio?
I think it happens, but it's rare. What's more common is that we encourage and particularly in the Carrie camp...you're going to be playing these songs every night and hopefully the way they play it, by the middle of the tour, is going to be better than the record. I want people to say; that show is better than the record." I love that comment.

If a great song comes in at the last minute, does the lack of time with that song require a different approach in the studio?
That's a complex question. It happens fairly frequently but in every case that it has happened with me, we have all of those resources in place to be able to handle that. In that event, we already have 4 or 5 drum kits and twenty guitars on hand, so we're prepared for it. Generally when a new song is that important, we're excited that we had one come in here that's going to be a game changer.

In our last interview, you said: Producers are working 5-6 times harder to make the same money. Has your method of doing business changed?
Dramatically...everything in our lives can be scaled and this is no different. We have to scale it to meet what the expectation is going to be in the marketplace, directly. On a new artist, you can no longer spend anywhere close to the money you spend making a record. You've got to make it as good but, you've got to do it with half the money and sometimes less than half the money. And that means...for instance, where we used to spread the mix out on the consul, a lot of times we're mixing the whole thing inside the box meaning, in pro tools because it's just so expensive to spread it out. Maybe we're using more players on the session, so we get a more complete picture of a song. After the date, instead of having to think, let's get a bunch of these overdubs and sort of build an actual tracking date. In my world, there's a lot less of that going on.

We try to get the artist to sing one or two or three songs in one session during the day, instead of one song per day. But the idea is, you can't let the quality compromise. We're under the same constraints that labels are and how much they can spend going to radio. I love the good old days, but this is what we're in now and to me it's all about making great music. So whatever it is we have budget-wise has been, it is what it is and we're going to be happy with it and maybe do a lot more pre-production before we ever go into the studio.

Why is it that many producers and engineers in LA, NY and England have representatives and in Nashville they don't?
Culturally, we just don't do that here. We speak for ourselves if we need to talk. And I'm telling ya James, that's one of the biggest attributes of our culture in this town. Producers and engineers don't have reps, we don't need them here.

Are the big studios still dwindling?
It hasn't changed as much here for Starstruck. Over the past twelve years, I've been the primary user of the rooms. I keep one room booked out probably 85% of the time. Other large studios have shut down. It's tougher for the multi-room studio owner to make a living at this point.

You are on the NARAS and Leadership Music Boards. What have they been up to in the past couple of years?
The Recording Academy has a tremendous amount of programs for high school and college students. We have a thing called GRAMMY U. in colleges. People like me talk to college students to take an up-front and honest look at what their odds are of getting a music-related job. We're being honest with them. We also have GRAMMY CAMP which has high school students going in and getting really concentrated instruction at a very high level from the greatest musicians, engineers and producers in the world. The fruit of that was on the last Grammies when Keith Urban came out and performed with these kids. It was unbelievable how talented these kids were.

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The other significant thing that we're doing at the academy is...Building a fully functioning studio at Pearl Cohn High School here in Nashville. They also have a fully-functioning record label that is mentored by John Esposito and Warner Bros. That warms my heart. Now they have a program that is second to no-one as far as getting a recording education at the high school level.

Leadership Music quietly goes about teaching young and sometimes not-so-young people what the lay of the land looks like, in minutia. Leadership Music does the best job I've ever seen in equipping a music professional to understand how to navigate these rather muddy waters that is the music business today, and it does it brilliantly.

When an artist wins a big award, does it have an affect on the direction of the next album?
No...we just don't think like that. I think it's more about...wow, we did good but we did that a year ago. Now, what can we do good again. What direction do we want to talk about? An artist always needs to be looking forward so we don't look at the past.

Does the direction of a new album generally revolve around what is going on, in the artist's personal life?
Yes, a lot of times either directly or psychologically. With Carrie, she's in a very happy place because got married a couple of years ago, so her life looks different. So she typically wants to do songs about happiness and family instead of old boyfriends.

Carrie has had a lot of award nominations. How important is it to her, to win?
Greatly...she's one of the most competitive people I've ever known. You can't be a successful artist and not have that competitive spirit.

My thanks to Mark for appearing on the 7th Anniversary Show of The Producer's Chair

James

Read other Producer's Chair interviews:

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Dave Brainard

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Victoria Shaw

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Tom Hambridge

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Tony Brown

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Michael Knox

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Forest Glen Whitehead

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Mark Bright

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Scott Hendricks

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Trey Fanjoy

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Chad Carlson

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Jay DeMarcus

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Shane McAnally

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Doug Johnson

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Jeff and Jody Stevens

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Jamie O'Neal

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Fred Mollin

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Dann Huff

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Noah Gordon

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Carl Jackson

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Paul Worley

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Cactus Moser

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Dave Brainard

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Gretchen Peters

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Frank Liddell

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Victoria Shaw

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Jed Hilly

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Marshall Altman

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Julian King

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Brent Maher

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Tom Hambridge

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Jim Catano

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Michael Knox

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Keith Thomas

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Mark Bright

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Jimmie Lee Sloas

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Ron Haffkine

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Trey Bruce

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Doug Johnson

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Mickey Jack Cones

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Keith Stegall

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Ted Hewitt

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Carl Jackson

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Brett James

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Jeff Stevens

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Dann Huff

The Producer's Chair by James Rea - Paul Worley

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