Welcome back to my epic interview with David Norris, of Norrisong Productions. David knows what it takes to draw the best performance out of an artist, and make a great recording. In part 1 he talked to me in depth about what a producer's job is. Now he focuses on getting the most out of a recording session, and how to increase your chances of getting a song cut.
Why would an artist hire a producer?
One of the main reasons is to have somebody they trust behind the glass to give a professional and educated ear. But the other, as you have read is that it’s a HUGE project. The artist needs room to breathe and be an artist so he will delegate the responsibility to a qualified producer who gets the vision. Another main thing is that any good producer knows the dynamic and the pulse of where things are headed and understands the formula of being cutting edge but commercially viable.
How do you draw the best out of an artist?
The biggest way to get an artist to perform beyond their means is to lighten up the room with good vibes and laughter. I truly believe that you can capture a smile on tape and if the singer is having fun while they’re singing it, the listeners will have fun listening. When there is a strong comradery in the room and the air is light, time flies and before you know it, you’re done with great results. But of course you still have to give an amazing amount of guidance, patience, and professionalism.
How do you draw the most out of a song? Is it a matter of arrangement? Vocal delivery? Instrumentation? Finding the right instrumental talent?
The answer is all of the above. Every ounce of energy should be dedicated to groove, tone, pitch, direction, and dynamics.
How do your songwriting, producing, and recording, engineering skills overlap?
Everything you have accumulated in life up until now is apparent in your skill set upon playback. Simply put, the more creative you are as an individual, the better it’s going to be in the end.
How much of your job happens after the recording is finished?
It really isn’t the obligation of the producer to try and get the artist a deal unless otherwise stated in the producer/artist contract. However, it does make sense for a producer to put his best foot forward before, during, and after as there is a point scheme on the intellectual property of the master tracks. So if the artist wins, the producer wins.
When you are selecting songs for an artist, what are you looking for?
Theme, believability, commercial appeal, different angles, well crafted, no holes in the lyrics, fresh melodies etc.
How do you select the songs that make the final cut?
It’s a combination of things really. Ratio from upbeat to mid to slow tempos, and do they sound like they actually belong on the same album. But mainly, could any one of these songs be a single?
How do you think songwriters should go about writing songs for, and pitching songs to artists?
Get to know the producers and/or the artists, and what they are looking for. Record label A&R employees are also a great inside as well as publishers and song-pluggers. But I would never suggest to anyone to write for an artist unless an opportunity has arisen and they have the inside scoop. Main thing is to just keep writing a lot and write from the heart. You have just as much of a chance to win as the next guy, so give the world a song through your eyes and don’t settle until you think you would actually buy it.
What advice would you give independent songwriters trying to get their songs to artists?
Keep on keepin’ on and network like the wind. Co-write as often as you can to develop not only another angle, but another avenue at pitching your material. And last but not least, listen to the greats and get a true sense of the working formula. Then be yourself.
What do you think is the greatest strength in the Nashville songwriting world today?
The underground, believe it or not. There are so many terrific writers and bands in this town and the talent flow is overflowing. Today’s underground is tomorrow’s sound.
What do you think is most lacking in songwriting today? What could new songwriters bring that isn’t already there?
I truly think that radio is squashing art by only allowing a certain amount of singles to be released. Everybody is trying to rewrite the same song to ride this very narrow minded wave, and frankly there is better out there in my humbled opinion. I think Nashville could take some more risks and excite the scene again. If children CAN listen to good music, children WILL like good music. Problem is, they are force fed what the radioheads think are good for their pre-recorded programs. New songwriters bring a whole fresh angle to the scene and hopefully one of these days we all start a revolution of true art.
What is your philosophy on networking, or expanding your list of contacts?
Simple, the more connections you have, the easier it is to get where you’re going through influence. Nobody can win this thing alone, it’s much too big. Finding like minds and alternate disciplines in this business is a very strategic move to furthering your career as well as the friends that are in your circle. Mutual respect and having a strong likability factor is essential in this industry.
Is there anything else about you or what you do that you want people to know?
Well, I couldn’t really see myself wanting to do anything else for a living. I’ve been wired like this since I picked up my first guitar about 35 years ago. I have seen a lot on my journey, the trials and the successes and either way, I wouldn’t change a thing.
To learn more about Norrisong Productions and listen to David's songs, go to:
Norrisong Productions website
Norrisong Production Myspace page