Some of us go to bed listening to bedtime stories. Music producer, Steve Sundholm was “lullabied” by cutting edge music. Son of Conrad Sundholm, co-founder of Sunn Amps, Steve grew up with access to the some of the greatest sound equipment and recordings in the world. For Sundholm, music is the stuff that dreams are made of. Those dreams turned into a successful career as a music producer working with some of America’s favorite music artists like, Hall & Oates, Green Day and Lil’ Wayne. With a life colored by music and a career built on it, Sundholm provides keen insights for those heading to the studio.

Avoid Music Prejudice

We all grow up in communities that affect our music interests. This can lead to music prejudices. Sundholm confirmed this, sharing a personal experience in our interview. When leaving Portland for LA, Steve Sundholm found these prejudices confining, even detrimental to his career:

“I think there’s too much criticism of different genres and different styles. I didn’t even realize that affected me when I left Portland to go to LA. ‘Rap was awful and pop was stupid,’ and you have all these ingrained preconceived notions. I didn’t realize how being quick to judge another genre would hold me back when I got into the real music business.”

When moving to Los Angeles, Sundholm found that music prejudices were inappropriate. Artists from all genres respect each others’ work. They may not like the final product, but they appreciate varied aspects of each style. “People (in the music business) don’t say bad things about music they wouldn’t necessarily buy. They see the good in it and they respect what’s good about it and they respect that it actually means something to someone else,” said Sundholm. Successful artists learn from each other, employing the best in music to build their individual sound. Artists don’t let music prejudice keep them from making it to the studio.

Leave ego at the door

Studio work is humbling. It takes dedication and compromise from all studio participants to reach a great final product. One of the biggest detriments to this process is artist egotism. According to Steve Sundholm, the hardest thing about working with artists is dealing with ego:

“The better the musician, the more ego. . . . and it’s understandable. It’s like telling a doctor or a lawyer that they’re wrong. They’re so wrapped up in their education and they’ve spent so much money on their education they’d never admit that they’re wrong or that they don’t know something. Musicians are the same way. They’ve practiced and worked, you know, sacrificed hours, untold hours. When a guy like me steps in and asks them to dumb it down back to their first or second year of playing, they have a really hard time with it. It’s kind of a jarring experience because they want to show off what they can do.”

Good artists choose their producers wisely and trust them. They listen to their producers and are humble enough to follow their lead in the studio. Sundholm encourages artists to thoughtfully engage in the process while being respectful of the producer’s expertise. He advises artists to check their egos at the door, avoid negative speech and to never talk back. It’s one thing to be constructive and cooperative; it’s another to bring a bad attitude.

Be Prepared

A huge pet peeve for music producers is working with artists or musicians that are ill prepared for studio time. It’s not only expensive on studio budget, as most studios charge hourly, but it’s also disrespectful to the producers, engineers and others involved. Steve Sundholm suggests musicians tune their instruments, warm up, re-string their guitars, etc., having everything ready for the studio experience. Smart artists save time and money by being prepared and on time to studio sessions.

Reaching out and learning from artists of all genres, keeping ego out of the studio and properly preparing for the studio increase artist success. Practicing these basics help musicians and artists avoid basic industry pitfalls and overcome studio hurdles. The sooner artists learn these concepts, the faster they realize their professional dreams, with or without the lullabies.

Record with Steve Sundholm at Kung Fu Bakery Studios

Related Article: Steve Sundholm Series Part 1, “Music Architect Steve Sundholm on Choosing your Producer”

By Marzee Dyer

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