Misha Kachkachishvili on What it Takes to Work with the Greats
Formerly a classically trained session musician, Misha Kachkachishvili (New Orleans, LA) is a formidable producer and engineer with a stellar reputation amongst many of music’s greats.
Recent artists to record at his stunning, fully-appointed Esplanade Studios in New Orleans, include Solange Knowles, Common, Dr. John, Trombone Shorty, Joe Jackson, Aloe Blacc, Janelle Monae, Taj Mahal, T-Bone Burnett, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton and a slew of other notable artists from the world of jazz and classical music.
As a Recording Connection mentor, Misha expects nothing short of a tireless dedication to the craft and a willingness to go the distance. The industry veteran doesn’t sugar coat it when he talks about the nature of working in the biz:
This is the business of disappointments, from beginning to the end, not [just] on the technical side of it. It’s on the musical side of it as well. The industry’s so harsh. And if you do not understand it, you will never get to the final finishing line. So having right expectations and giving them constructive criticism is the key to [growing] that.”
Misha demands a lot from the apprentices he decides to mentor. Those who have the privilege of learning under his tutelage often have the opportunity to assist on sessions with world-class talent from an array of different genres. Recent Recording Connection grad Daniel Perez had the right stuff for Misha to entrust him with assisting on session, even hiring him to work with numerous artists including Trombone Shorty, Anders Osborne, Dr. John, Nolatet, Sasha Masakowski, Nicholas Payton, Jason Weaver and Dr. John. And… Daniel even had the opportunity to assist setting up for both Common and Sean Combs!
When asked what’s the most important trait any potential apprentice should have, Misha’s response might surprise you:
Confidence is a very important thing. You have to believe in yourself and you have to be very driven. So that’s, sometimes, it’s like a fine line. People that are overly confident, they just talk too much. And that can backfire. Knowing when to insert yourself but with confidence is a very, very important thing.”
Working with high-caliber artists requires the willingness to put one’s ego on the backburner and simply focus on serving the needs of the project, thus enabling the artist and their team to create with as little disruption as possible. Having artists like Solange Knowles, who recorded swathes of A Seat at the Table at Esplanade, demands a certain level of sophistication that can be hard to come by. Misha says:
The apprentices, they’re pretty much out there to assist and observe…Some projects, the artists are so friendly and so social. The other ones are really into the process and they don’t want to be distracted or anything. So it’s very important for students or apprentices to kind of be transparent in the studio and observe not only the process, but observe the dynamics of the studio work, as well, and insert themselves as needed to help, or just kind of pull themselves back and just kind of be there as needed…”
The ability to observe what’s going on and be responsive but not intrusive is key:
It’s very important to look at the dynamics of the studio and just watch how artists interact with the engineers and the producer, and just figure those things out, not just technically learn how to patch things but also musically understand the process—that’s the crucial element. Sometimes, engineers are de facto producers in sessions, and them having good relationships with the artists, that’s how they get called [in] for those sessions. That’s what students have to learn…how to not just make the artist sound good but also make them feel good about the process, and be helpful with the right kind of input, have the right input on a project. That’s the key factor.”
With more than three decades in the industry, Misha Kachkachishvili knows what he’s talking about. As a mentor, he’s playing a crucial role in ingraining the next generation of audio engineers and music producers with an understanding of the craft, superb studio etiquette, and the qualities it takes to continuously grind and build a rewarding career step by step, project by project.