Producers produce—or make—things. Can’t get any simpler than that. But the specific duties of the job can vary a lot depending on the field you’re talking about—usually music and moving pictures (TV and movies).
For movies, the producer can be someone involved with the project from the very beginning, perhaps even coming up with the story concept. They may pull together a team of people; writers, directors, camera folk, financial backers, and distributors. In other cases, a producer can be someone who contributes money to the project and nothing else.
As an in-between example, a friend of mine, Edgar Struble, is an amazing musician (fifteen years as Kenny Rogers’s music director), but in recent years he has added movie producer to his arsenal of skills. He acts as a right-hand man to the director, making sure that everything goes smoothly on the set. Click here to read about his credits.
A music producer’s job is to make the recording session go smoothly.
A music producer’s job is similar to Edgar’s—to make the recording session go smoothly, but it can also expand to include coming up with a concept. T Bone Burnett is credited with inviting Robert Plant to sing with Allison Krause on the album that became “Rising Sand.”
When I got my test copy of Baldori and Migliazza’s “Disturbing the Peace,” I discovered that Bob had listed me as Executive Producer. Wow!
Well, don’t be too impressed. It was a bit of a joke. I had been bugging him to give me credit on the album, and he made sure to do it up big.
“Boogie” Bob Baldori is one of the two Boogie Kings, the other being Arthur Migliazza. Together they’re the top Boogie Woogie players in the world. One of Bob’s many accomplishments is having played more dates as a sideman to Chuck Berry than any other musician on the planet.
Bob generously allowed me to work as an engineer in his studio over the past ten years and has taught me a lot about recording and working with people. Because of his extremely busy schedule, he had asked me to help keep the already-once-derailed Boogie Kings project on track with the promise of the title Co-executive Producer.
For “Disturbing the Peace” I mostly operated as an engineer, although I did occasionally bug Bob when too much time elapsed between recording sessions, or when I thought we needed to review what we’d already recorded. But he just as often checked with me. We partnered on the project—which is why I was so surprised when he gave me full credit.
Arthur Migliazza, Jonathan Stars, Bob Baldori
An engineer’s job is usually to record the artist and keep their opinions to themselves. However, during this and a couple previous projects, I discovered that I have the ability to know when a performance is uninspiring—and the opposite: when the performer/s do something extraordinary.
An artist is busy thinking about other things during the session, and they need feedback. Since we had no other producer, the guys often asked my opinion of a performance. So I would keep track of the overall impact of a “take,” and also the minutiae of when something as small as a single note seemed out of place. I would let them know if they should record the song again, or if they should simply fix a small section. After they double-checked a few times, they began to trust me. This allowed them to work faster, since they didn’t have to listen to every take before trying again or going to work on the section that needed a touch-up.
I AM A PRODUCER
When I got to thinking about it, I realized that I’ve produced 10 albums of my own along with demo recordings of more than 140 songs I’ve written, 100 nonfiction articles, and 10 books. Creating all that “product” prepared me for what I did with these guys.
And so, I became one version of a record producer. But believe me, if I hadn’t been around, Bob would have found someone else to help him. On the other hand, I’m glad he chose me. It’s a terrific recording! Find it here.
To get a taste of what these guys can do live, click the video below which I filmed New Year’s eve 2017. I guess you could say I produced that, too.