A Path Not Walked…Yet
Jasmine Charleston, engineer and owner/manager of Decode Studios in Atlanta, GA, is both a Recording Connection graduate and now, a Recording Connection mentor!
In the four years since Jasmine graduated the program she’s developed her clientele, enriched her skills and style, and entrenched herself in the local Atlanta music scene. The years she spent working for local recording studios enabled Jasmine to develop concrete goals and to, ultimately, open her own studio.
We recently spoke with Jasmine “Jazzy Beatz” Charleston to hear what she has to say about the “Atlanta sound,” get her unique perspective on the program, and talk about “women’s place” in the world of recording.
RRFC: So what kind of stuff are you recording at Decode Studios?
Charleston: Pretty much everything goes. I’ve had some RnB, Hip Hop, soul, EDM. I’m just really into making music. I also wanted to do something a little different with my studio. I’ve always wanted to be in the music industry as well as the film and TV industry. So, at Decode it’s not just strictly recording artists or instruments but recording voice actors and voice-overs. I just want it to be an all around audio recording studio rather than just artists.
RRFC: We also heard you’ve recently done a few film scores?
Charleston: Yes. The last one I did was called Hazardous Play. Another one I did was called #NoFilter (coming out on Netflix), The one I did before that…I think it was supposed to go into a film festival, but it was called FireFlies….I also composed for a campaign for a lady who was doing a project for Google Glass. I did that and another film, it was a Spanish film.
RRFC: Any recording artists that you’re allowed to mention?
Charleston: I work with a lot of local people in the Atlanta area, Huey [who did] the song “Pop, Lock & Drop It,” I worked with him. I’ve worked with one of P. Diddy’s ghost writers. I’ve worked with D. Woods, who used to be in a group called Danity Kane under P. Diddy. I’ve worked with Will EQ, Richie Porter…lots of local people.
ON THE ATLANTA SOUND
RRFC: So what do you think it is that makes Atlanta so unique, because it does have its own sound.
Charleston: Yeah, it does. I’m not sure what makes Atlanta unique. Maybe it’s the excessive use of bass, I don’t know. A lot of people really like the bass. And it’s like the down south type of thing. So that could be it…It’s becoming the place where people want to come to do music, and a place for people to get famous in music. So it has to be something in particular.
RRFC: What kind of work do you have your students doing when they come in? Do they get to track with artists that you’re working with?
Charleston: Definitely. I want them to be just as hands-on as I was, and I think Recording Connection was a blessing…I was Googling all night and I found Recording Connection. Immediately I got in the studio the following week, I believe, after doing the interview or maybe a couple days later. That first day, I was inside of a session miking up instruments. I guess it’s because I was already familiar with miking up. But from the first week I was involved in a session and I know how good it felt to actually be doing something when you come to the studio, actually learning hands-on. So I want them to pretty much do the same thing.
RRFC: And because you’ve been an apprentice yourself, if you had to give any advice to potential apprentices on how to make the most out of the program, what kind of recommendations would you make?
Charleston: I would say don’t just limit yourself….If you can, stay at the studio and soak up as much as you can. When I was at the studio with [mentor] Cortez Farris, I pretty much went there in the morning and stayed till the end of the day. I was learning from someone else who was already in this industry. If you could learn as much as you could learn, I would say go for it. If they say, “You don’t have to leave yet,” I would just stay longer and get the most out of the program as you can. And don’t just study while you’re at the studio, also do it outside of the studio.
RRFC: When you were apprenticing, did you make a habit of mixing a lot of stuff on your own time?
Charleston: Yeah, when I started Recording Connection, there was a sample session that you could mix on Pro Tools, I believe, or maybe I found it somewhere. I’m not sure, but I would practice on that system and save it and then learn a little bit more and practice with the same session but with the new things that I learned. I would start a fresh new mix and I would compare it over time, “How does this sound compared to my last mix?” but I remember, I used to have a session that I would just practice mixing.
RRFC: And by the end, were you just mixing it really quickly? You knew exactly where the weak spots were and you knew the EQ amount and everything?
Charleston: Yeah, I definitely got a lot quicker.
RRFC: Are there any students that stick out to you that have been doing a really good job?
Charleston: A student by the name of Sara and a student by the name of Willett. I actually think Sara has graduated already, but she and Willett were very serious about going through the Recording Connection program. They were really quick learners and they pretty much were already doing their own thing. Sara, she was a writer, and Willett, she wanted to learn how to create music for her films. I just think they were really on top of what they were set out to do.
RRFC: Do you have anything unique to your teaching style that you bring to the table that you like to have with your students?
Charleston: When I’m teaching, I try to relate. Everybody probably does that. I’m not sure. I try to relate to something. I would ask them, “Have you had such and such experience?” If they have, then I would say, “Okay, well, this is something similar,” try to break it down in a way that they could relate based off of an experience that they had and do that. I try to also teach people to work with what they have, because a lot of people think because they don’t have this outboard gear or this plug-in or an instrument that they can’t record an instrument or they can’t do certain things that most other people who have all these high tech things can do. So I also try to break it down to basics, to simplify things. A shaker can be anything. You can use your keys.
RRFC: Yeah. Creativity and being resourceful is always great no matter how much fancy gear you get.
Charleston: I like to relate things and I also like to show people that they can do so much with whatever little that they have.
ON WOMEN IN THE RECORDING INDUSTRY
RRFC: A lot of people have varying opinions on what it’s like to be a female in this industry, because the perception is that it’s male dominated and that it’s a boys’ club. But I’ve also heard the opposite. I’ve heard that there’s a hunger for women to be working in this field and that they can move up quickly if they have the right attitude. What do you think?
Well, I think I’m the one of those who thinks it’s the opposite. I’ve had a few people doubt me because I’m a girl and they think that I can’t possibly know anything about the music industry. But I think there’s not enough of us in the industry, and I think because of that, it’s kind of like Nicki Minaj, she doesn’t have any competition, and she’s the only woman, only rap female that’s out really doing anything right now. So she’s dominating that area. That’s a pathway for us to go through, because not too many people are out there, not too many females – engineers, or what have you.
RRFC: So it’s wide open, huh?
Right, I just believe that it’s a path not walked yet…I think at this time women can do just as much, you know. You have some female bodybuilders out there, you know, who might be a lot stronger than some guys. We want to get up there!
Thanks to Recording Connection mentor Jasmine Charleston! We’re very proud of the success you’re creating each and every day and we look forward to having you guide a number of hardworking, self-motivated students towards achieving their goals in the music industry.
Every female who walks the path not formerly taken becomes part of the strange and beautiful world we sound/music people inhabit. We can’t wait until the question “How does it feel to be a woman in the industry” is a purely a remnant of a bygone era.
In other words, YOU GO JAZZ! And to all the other women out there who want to make it in music, we say GO GO GO!!!