Recording Connection mentors Parker Ament & Danny Ferrare on Elevating Production Skills, XLNT & Mentoring
Powerhouse mentors Parker Ament and Danny Ferrare of XLNT Studios (Hollywood, CA) are the quintessential example of music producers who are entrepreneurial in their approach. In this interview we discuss how XLNT and their popular YouTube webseries XLNTSOUND came to be and we get their proven insights on making your own path in the industry.
So how did XLNT come to be?
Parker: About three years ago we were both making music separately, but showing each other our music and getting each other all pumped up and stuff… We wanted to find a vehicle to release our own music and produce individually. So, we were trying to figure out how to do that without a record label, without anybody else’s help…We wanted to do production clinics at the studio, but the studio wasn’t ready [yet]…We both watched tutorials online, like on YouTube all the time, and we were like, ‘Why don’t we just do production tutorials?’
Danny: We saw a niche, and also we just wanted to do it for fun. It just seemed like a fun thing to do.
Parker: So we could do those tutorials online and then have people come to the studio. In turn, that would get business for the studio and get our names out.
Many of your online tutorials instruct people on how to do remakes of popular songs. Do you consider that a good way to elevate one’s production skills?
Danny: When you’re remaking a song, what you don’t realize is that your brain is essentially learning, getting ideas and getting inspired by these things. So later, when you’re actually are creating your own music, you might remember a certain thing that you did for a remake that was really cool. It might be a completely different genre, and now you’re using that trick or that tool that you figured out while you’re creating music on your own (XLNTSOUND).
What are you doing on that first meeting when an artist walks into XLNT Studios? What’s the objective?
Danny: We want to get their expression and creativity out, and help them achieve what they’re trying to do. We get a lot of artists that have the ideas in their head, and they give us their tracks or like an idea, but they don’t know how to achieve what’s in their head. So I feel like that’s the biggest objective. I would say Parker and I, we have a gift at being able to meet people and get close with them really quickly. It’s just because we like people…
Just getting somebody in the room and not even really getting right into it, just making them feel comfortable with you as a person, expressing your personality and your true self; if you’re confident in your own personality, people will like you. Once somebody likes you, and then the vibe is really, kind of, already there, because you want to be making music with your friend, not some stranger.
That’s been successful for us. If we just get somebody in the room, even with the kids that are interviewing for us, wanting to extern with the school, we want to bro down with them and get to know them.
Parker: And when we’re showing them our stuff and when we’re listening to their stuff, we’re watching them. You know? We’re watching their expression in their face to see how they react to certain parts, and vice versa…You have to be attentive in that way, instead of just looking at the screen while you’re listening to music. You have to be present with them, if that makes sense.
Completely. So how should an extern handle themselves when you let them sit in on a session?
Parker: They should be like an attentive fly on the wall. So, the first rule is: you don’t say anything unless somebody asks you. And even when they ask you, you should keep it short and sweet. You can’t kind of go on tangents, because then that might drive the session in a certain way…
That’s super important because the reason why they’re there, in the session, is not for an opinion necessarily, it’s to learn how the session is going and to learn the process. So, I think it’s really important to be a fly on the wall when you’re an extern and literally take notes, if that’s your thing, or sit as close as you can to the screen, out of the way of the client and engineer, while really watching. Because, with every little note or trick, you’re going to be learning something new every second. Even if you think that you know everything, there’s going to be something that you didn’t know when you’re watching us or a particular engineer.
If students are really serious about making it in their careers, what should they be focusing on?
Parker: I think the biggest thing is putting in the hours.
Danny: What I found is, if I do something long enough, if I commit to doing something and I say, ‘Look, I’m going to make money at music’ or ‘I’m going to be a musician or a music producer,’ or ‘I’m going to have a studio,’ if I make a conscious effort every day to try to attain that, eventually it will happen.
What qualities do you look for in the students you choose to train?
Parker: The word is passion. We can see who is passionate about what they’re doing right when they walk through the door. Even if they’re shy, we can sense the passion. And I feel like that is the most important thing. If somebody is socially awkward or they don’t really know what to say during the interview or something like that, we don’t base any of that on what we’re looking for. We’re looking for passion, we’re looking for dedication, and we’re looking for somebody that is going to create their own path. So if somebody has the opportunity to extern with us, we want them to make their own path with the opportunities that we are showing them.
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