Ebonie Smith, an award-winning music producer, audio engineer, and artist from NYC, shares some of her seasoned advice to producers on ways to foster trust with others in the studio.
With a wide span of experiences working with the likes of Janelle Monáe, Ms. Lauryn Hill, The Roots, D.R.A.M., Kat Deluna, and Santigold, Ebonie Smith has also gone on to create Gender Amplified, a nonprofit organization that celebrates and supports women and girls in music production.
Communication helps to create trust which is essential to a successful collaboration. Producers help facilitate an artist’s vision and should understand the dynamic between the roles. Ask questions that cater to the artist. What do you want to make today? What are you listening to? What references should we consider as we approach this project? Being able to communicate to the artist that you, as the producer, are there to be of service will help set up trust within a partnership that will hopefully last.
Create the environment for the collaboration you want. It doesn’t happen automatically so take the effort to create the space that you would want. Communicate on a human level — build a rapport and a comfortable setting where ideas and thoughts can be exchanged freely without judgement. Creating music is an intimate and vulnerable process; the setting can really determine whether or not a collaboration works.
Understand that the process requires give and take. Producers bring great value to a project as they’ve worked with multiple artists and are familiar with what works and what doesn’t. Allow the artist to try their ideas and be open to what they have to offer. Respect what they have to say and they will reciprocate when it’s time to consider your input.
Find ways to make the recording process work for the both of you. Become sensitive to how your artist works and adjust accordingly. Smith shares that she will sometimes record the artist in the control room with her as opposed to the vocal booth which can be both alienating and intimidating. This allows for personal interaction and places both the producer and the artist on a more even playing field.
Share your knowledge. Feel free to explain a little bit of your process so that the artist is more privy to what’s going on. This helps involve the artist while building their confidence and trust in you. Taking the time to explain your choices or technical questions can make you more approachable and further establish trust between you and your collaborators.
Collaborating with others can be extremely fulfilling. Building trust and open communication early on is the first step to any successful creative partnership.
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