Geeks Out and Gets In!
When you’re working in a creative industry sometimes there’s only so much you can teach yourself. When you’re trying to get to the next level, you want to learn from someone who has already been there and done it. In short, you want to know how the pros do what they do. Charles Kirkpatrick had started off teaching himself. Flying solo, he was able to learn the basics of working in various DAWS like Logic Pro and GarageBand. Learning came through experimentation, trial and error, and through watching online tutorials. However, Charles soon found he wanted more.
He wanted someone with the experience and expertise it would take to tell him when he was doing something the wrong way. He wanted the tricks of the trade and perspective one gets from doing the work with someone more knowledgable than yourself. In short, he wanted a mentor.
Looking back, Charles is pretty humble and easily admits to what he didn’t know: “I didn’t really truly understand signal flow, any outboarding, a lot of gear. I had no idea about converters or anything like that,” he says. “I originally went in just wanting to figure out how to make the cleanest, most beautiful recording possible.”
Charles enrolled in Recording Connection and was paired with Kevin Butler at Test Tube Audio in Austin, Texas. “I was blown away. I knew immediately it was a very comfortable…logical, and just super nurturing place to learn…[Kevin] really knew his stuff. He would take me outside and have me listen to things that flew over my head so I understood the sound reflecting off my shoulders, you know? My sister is a doctor, and I know more about the human ear than she does because of Kevin Butler.”
Besides the one-on-one learning, Charles discovered the benefits that come from being in a real recording studio in which working pros are constantly coming and going. This may seem like a slightly inconsequential idea to some, but for someone who is attempting to break into the industry, it can be the lifeblood of their future career. They are able to talk to, connect with, and network with people from all walks of the industry. Sometimes these connections are just fleeting friendships. Sometimes they’re relationships that lead to other friendships that lead to paid gigs. And, they launch careers.
Even Charles himself didn’t realize how far some of the connections that he’d made while in the program would reach. After he graduated, he started sending around his resume, attempting to find work and before he knew it he was getting calls. “I just started sending [my] cover letter, resume, and letter of recommendation to every studio and broadcasting company from Dallas to El Paso, to San Antonio, to Houston,” Charles says, “I wanted everybody to at least know my name. And then before I knew it, I was getting phone calls.”
Based off of those calls, Charles landed a gig with Reelsound Recording, the company that manages the sound for the world-famous Austin City Limits television series and festival. Before he knew it Charles was working with acts like Florence and the Machine, The Black Keys, The Roots, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Neil Young.
A freelance producer and engineer, Charles has recently relocated to San Antonio where he’s doing everything from working with local artists to partnering in a new audio and electronics repair company. And that’s not all, listening to planes fly overhead and the science of accoustics is something that’s stayed with him ever sense his apprenticeship. “Another thing Kevin taught me very well was acoustics and how to design studios. I want to design studios, I want to build the equipment. I want to be with the musicians, I want to be a musician, I want to be a producer, and I want to be an audio engineer. I kind of want to be Rick Rubin, if you will.”
Work hard. Work smart and it will happen! Keep going Charles. San Antonio, watch out!