RC mentor David Mikeal: The Best Way to Predict Your Future is to Create It
After working in the recording industry for close to two decades David Mikeal is one of the most in-demand audio engineers and producers in the Orlando area. A lifelong musician, David’s youth was spent touring the country with major label bands signed to A&M Records, CBS Records, etc as a lead guitarist and vocalist. Today, David owns and operates StudioLiveUSA in Oviedo, Florida, which just saw the completion of a their new Live Room with truss lighting, full sound system, new digital board, and a raised stage with 12 foot ceilings. The new studio addition is large enough to service a small orchestra. Right now, it’s where StudioLive is producing a series of live performances that, if all goes as planned, will be airing on a syndicated television network, showcasing the Orlando’s ecclectic musical talent.
Also a longtime Recording Connection mentor, David’s involvement with our program is just one of the ways he tries to pay it forward, providing today’s up and comers with the perspective that comes from experience and relevant entrepreneurial thinking that’s geared towards meeting the needs of today’s musicians rather than staying stuck in out-moded thinking:
“People I know used to get offended in the old days, big studios, they would be offended if they couldn’t do the whole project from the ground-up, from the very beginning to the very end. [But] now, I advertise, ‘Look, if you recorded something at home and you want to take the last step for your project, and take it up a couple of notches, come to us. We’ll mix it for you.’ Or I have people hire me just to do guitar solos for them on the record, or I have people just come to the studio just for their drum tracks, and they do everything else at the house, because they can’t do drums at their places. They don’t have enough mics, or they can’t make that much noise. So I’m happy to do any and everything that anybody wants to do. I’m not offended, you know? And if you do a good job for them, and you treat them well, chances are they’re going to come back and want to do more with you…”
David’s approach to working with artists in the recording studio as they need establishes a relationship of trust, enabling them to feel surefooted and supported rather than “led” or “coached.” Knowing how and when to give advice and when to stay out of it is often a major factor that can determine whether or not you earn their repeat business:
“If you want to keep a good mood in the session, and be successful with artists, you got to be able to read them… I suggest to them [his apprentices], before they really learn how to read people, ‘You know, just do your job. Be polite. Even if you don’t like what they’re doing, be polite. And do exactly, and as quickly as you can, you know, what they ask you to do. And only if they ask you for your opinion, you know, like in the beginning, until you get to be good at it. Only if they ask you your opinion, you know, then you’re allowed to speak up and say it.'”
When asked what are the essential qualities any engineer needs in order to succeed, David says, “There’s two skills that are going to get you just as far as knowing how to run all the equipment. Number one is you have to be a really good people person because you’re going to have to deal with some very difficult people, and you may have to spend 12 hours at a time with them in the control room, and you might not even like what they’re doing… The other thing is you’ve got to have a good set of ears…Having a good set of ears and knowing the right mixture for stuff, without being prompted too much, I think, is a gift. Some people have that, and some people don’t.”
David surmises his final tidbit of advice to Recording Connection students in a saying attributed to none other than Abraham Lincoln: “The best way to predict the future is to create it” he says, pausing before he explains further. “The only reason to get in the music business is because you love music. If you’re doing it for the money, [it’s] probably a mistake. But you know, that could work for anything, because if you’re lucky enough to be able to do what you love, or at least be pursuing what you love, taking education in it, then the money will follow. Because you’re doing what you love, you’re passionate about it. Enough said.”