From a certain perspective, it seemed like Chingas Kempas was already on his way to a successful career as an audio engineer. Self-taught from his teenage years, he says he had worked a former hobby into making actual income in his own part-time professional studio in New Jersey, recording a string of local and regional acts.
So why would a guy showing so much promise choose to shutter his studio? Because sometimes, you have to move backward temporarily in order to move further forward.
“It was an accumulation of a thousand things,” he says, “but…at the end of the day, I was just an unhappy person. I knew my heart was in music, and my day-to-day job was in oil. And you can’t wake up and be unhappy every day. It just doesn’t work.”
Chingas also admits he knew he had hit a threshold as far as his own growth as an engineer, and he needed something more to take things to the next level. “I’m self-taught,” says Chingas, “so I had five years of my studio and no one ever told me whether I was doing it right or wrong. I wanted to be on a professional level.”
So Chingas took a step back, which meant closing his studio, quitting his job in oil, and relocating to Nashville to try and up his game. He started looking for education opportunities in the area, and when he discovered that the Recording Connection could place him as an extern in a real Nashville studio, he knew he’d found the answer. “Having the option to be with a mentor instead of just being one of 15 or 20 in a class—that spoke to me the most,” he says.
As it turned out, there was an externship/externship opening available with a top Nashville producer/engineer: namely, Ric Web (Taylor Swift, Alan Jackson) at South Street Studios. From his first sessions with Ric, Chingas could see the gaps in his self-training and how to start correcting them.
“I got to sit down with the mix and show my mentor exactly what I did, every step that I took,” he says. “Having him hear it with his ears and his experience, and then let me know what I could have done differently, or what I might want to try next…These are questions I never had to ask myself.”
Since starting his externship/externship, Chingas says Ric continues to help him fine-tune his mixing approach, crossing those few degrees between a good mix and a great one. “It sounds good to 95% of the people listening, but it could be a little bit better,” he says. “That’s where we are at now, really just fine tuning things to push it to the next level.”
Since making the move to Nashville, Chingas also sees a future for himself in music that he wasn’t able to grasp working in his New Jersey studio. He networks at industry events whenever he can, and he’s got long-term plans to set up his own publishing company one day. Once again, he looks to his mentor for guidance. “Anything that [Ric] tells me business-wise, I really try to hone in on and decipher where he is going with it,” he says, “so that I can really just embed that in to my brain and use it in the future.”
Sometimes you have to step backward in order to move forward a little forward. For Chingas Kemps, that meant closing his studio to move to Nashville, essentially jumping in with both feet. It’s not easy, but for Chingas, it’s one step backward, three steps forward.
“I followed my passion,” he says. “My passion is music, and I’m just going to cut all ties to everything else, make it work.”