Industry Feature Friday: Spencer Bleasdale (Record Producer, Mixer, Engineer, Songwriter)
Welcome to Industry Feature Friday, putting the spotlight on the people behind the music! From producers, radio DJ's and radio trackers, to photographers, managers, and everything in between. These are the music business professionals who work hard to help put your favourite artists (emerging, independent and hit makers) on the charts, DSP's, radio and on the map through their work behind the scenes!
I'm so excited to share the guest this week! Please welcome to your computer, laptop, tablet, or phone screen, the multiple award winning record producer, mixer, engineer and songwriter out of Vancouver, BC, Spencer Bleasdale!
Thank you so much for joining me, Spencer! I'm ecstatic to have you join the blog this week!
Spencer's talent, dedication and true passion for turning musical ideas into a cohesive whole is exciting and notable, and deserves far more recognition! He's gotten a lot of it, but it still deserves more.
Here is a little more about Spencer before you dive into the interview and here are some of the incredible accolades he has received:
"His music career started as a teenager, playing guitar and singing in bands. At age 21, he landed a job at the legendary Armoury Studios. He spent the next 10 years at Armoury, working with the industry's top Engineers and Producers on a wide variety of projects, spanning all genres of music. Early on at Armoury he was a part of the Bruno Mars recording session for Uptown Funk. Spencer has since Assisted and Engineered for artists such as OneRepublic, The Edge, and Diana Krall. He Engineered on the Juno Award winning album Open Road, by Colin James, was the Vocal Engineer on the Grammy nominated Soundtrack of The Year for Schmigadoon, and was the 2nd Engineer on the Grammy Award winning album Look Now, by Elvis Costello and The Imposters. He has also been nominated for Songwriter of the year at the BCCMA's, and recently won the 2022 BCCMA for Recording Professional of The Year. Having trained under some of the best mixing engineers in the world at Armoury Studios, Spencer is now actively building his name as a Mixing Engineer."
Showing that he’s a true jack of all trades (and very well versed in all of them!) when it comes to musical production, you gotta see and understand that the wider impact of Spencer's work is certainly not to be underestimated! His experience and loyalty to the artists, bands and projects is exemplary.
Spencer Bleasdale is a studio magician - and that's why I can't wait for you to get to know him better! If you already know him or of him - you're excited with me, IKYK!
Get to know more about Spencer here:
Sarah Scott (SS): Spencer, thank you so much for joining me for IFF this week! It's amazing to have you featured. You're a multi-award winning and nominated freelance Producer, Engineer, Mixer, and Songwriter!! Tell us what inspired you to work in the music industry and what did you love about production, engineering, mixing and songwriting specifically?
Spencer Bleasdale (SB): Hi Sarah, thanks so much for having me on Industry Feature Friday! I'm excited to be here.
There have been a few moments along the way that I think lead me to wanting to work in music. Early on in life, some of my happiest childhood memories involved music; singing Louis Armstrong in the kitchen with my mom, listening to my dad's classic rock Vinyls, or sneakily trying to listen to my older brother's "edgy" 90's rock that I wasn't allowed to listen to yet. I've always had a love of music, I took piano lessons briefly as a kid, and around 13 I started playing guitar and writing songs. Once I started playing guitar I got super into classic rock, and (as I'm sure my neighbours could tell you) would spend hours a day in my room blasting songs, and jamming along by ear with my electric guitar and amp. I was very inspired by The Beatles, and concerts like Woodstock and LiveAid, and the profound impact they had on the world.
So for the rest of my teens and early 20's I was a singer/songwriter/guitar player in bands, aspiring to be like some of the greats that I was so inspired by. But in 2006, as I was in Grade 11 and starting to think about what I wanted to do with my life, I saw Coldplay at what was then GM Place (now Rogers Arena) in Vancouver. It was my first arena show, and it was mind-blowing. I still remember the feeling, and knowing as I was watching it, that this was the industry I needed to be in. I knew I didn't want to work a dull 9-5 job, I wanted to do something that would have a positive and lasting impact on people. At the time I was really into film, and would shoot my friends skate videos. So I thought going to film school to learn how to make music videos would be a cool route to take. Eventually I switched gears and started a record label with a friend, and we both went to music production school to fine-tune our skills. While I was in school though, I was asked to be a Runner on a session for Billy Talent at Armoury Studios. I left school for a couple weeks to do this, and quickly realized it was a pretty incredible opportunity, where I'd get to work directly with some amazing artists. Luckily I was able to fill in part-time at the studio while I was finishing school, and started there full-time after graduation. This is where my appreciation and love of Producing, Engineering, and Mixing really started.
SS: According to your website, you've spent over 10 years having trained under some of the best mixing engineers in the world at Armoury Studios. You're now actively building your name as a Mixer, Engineer, Producer and Song Writer. To be honest, I'm not too familiar with Armoury (but I need to be!) and maybe some others aren't either (and they need to be!) Tell us about Armoury, and how you grew your name within Armoury and your experience. When did you know and what inspired you to go freelance?
SB: In my opinion Armoury Studios is one of the best recording studios in the world. It's a 5 star studio, both in equipment and service, and fully-private, so it's a very comfortable space to work in. I once had a Producer from Nashville tell me Armoury was the 2nd best sounding room he'd heard other than Abbey Road. The studio was originally built from the ground up by legendary Songwriter Jim Vallance, and soon after bought by legendary Producer Bruce Fairbairn, who's family still owns it. Working at Armoury was a life changing experience. I started there at age 21 as a Runner, and worked my way up over the next decade. Garth Richardson got me the job, Eric Ratz (who was recording the Billy Talent album on my first session) gave me a great review to help me keep it, and then a lot of hard work, and attention to detail allowed me to stick around. After a few days on that first session Eric told me, if I'm okay with having no social life, no money, and no girlfriend, I'd be great. And he wasn't too far off!
Being a Runner and Assistant at a recording studio is a grind! It can be weeks on end of 12+ hour days, sleeping on couches, or in the back seat of cars, wondering how you're going to pay rent, canceling dates last minute because you get called into work, and eating a lot of KD, instant ramen, and peanut butter toast. But every morning, I'd wake up excited to go back, and every night I'd be stoked about what had happened that day during the session. So I knew I was in a pretty cool place, doing something I loved, and achieving my goal of working at something I felt was really worthwhile. During my time there I trained under some world-class mentors, and worked on sessions for some incredible artists, eventually working my way up to Engineering sessions there. As amazing of a place as Armoury is however, there is a bit of a ceiling career wise for how far you can move up at a Studio, so the next natural progression is to go out on your own.
After a few years of being a studio Assistant and Engineer, I had learned so much from so many incredible Producers/Engineers/Mixers, I felt my skills had progressed to the point where I was ready to go freelance.
SS: Working with the industry's top Engineers and Producers on a wide variety of projects, you have worked in all genres of music. Do you have a favourite genre and how would you describe your production and mixing style?
SB: One of the best parts about working in a commercial studio is that anyone who wants to book it, can. And as a result you gain experience working on pretty much every genre imaginable. Most of the work was in the more common genres of Rock, Metal, Pop, Country, Jazz, Blues, Hip Hop, etc, but we also did a lot of Classical/Orchestral recordings, and EDM mixing. I've even worked on sessions recording Cuban music, traditional Chinese music, traditional Indonesian gamelan music, and lots of other unique genres with really cool instruments that I'd never seen or heard before. I've always loved pretty much every genre of music, and was influenced by a very wide-variety of music growing up. For me, a good song is a good song, and the genre I'm working on doesn't really matter, it's more so the people that make the project and experience what it is. So I wouldn't consider myself a "Rock guy" or a "Hip-Hop guy", I love it all, and I love working on it all.
As a result I try to be transparent as a Producer and Mixer, and not have one specific recognizable sound. I try to really listen to the artist, what their inspiration and vision is, and work with them to create a song or mix that they love.
SS: Getting comfortable with mixing can be a journey. New engineers may be eager to dive right in and get projects started, but for both the production and mixing, giving yourself a bit of a roadmap before you dive into the project can be really beneficial. What are some questions producers and mixers should ask the artists/bands before they start a project with them? And Visa Versa?
SB: Absolutely, a roadmap is a good example. It's hard enough to get somewhere driving if you don't know where you're going, even though you can see the road. So it's that much harder to get somewhere with something you can't even see, like music. Especially when you're first starting out, learning the process of creating a song from start to finish with all the required gear, and software etc, can be very daunting, similar to learning a new language. So working with the right people makes a big difference.
I think I'll answer this in 2 parts, Producing and Mixing separately.
When it comes to deciding who to work with as a Producer or as an Artist looking for a Producer, it's important to meet in person, and make sure this is someone you click personality wise, and musicality wise. You're going to be spending a lot of time with them, so being on similar pages is important. As a Producer it's not just the songs that draw me into wanting to work with someone, it's also their story, who they are as people, and how hard they're willing to work. Ultimately I only want to invest my time and energy into projects where the Artist is A: a good person, and B: willing to put in the work required to actually make the project move. Being an Artist isn't easy, and success doesn't just happen magically, there's a lot of hard work required to make it. Once you've found the right person to work with, you want to spend a lot of time on Pre-Production. Spend as much time as you need going over every song, picking the best ones, writing, re-writing, figuring out what you want the songs to sound like, instrumentation, tempos, structures, melodies, lyrics etc, making sure they're 100% the best they can be before you hit the studio to record them. And make sure you document it all, this will be your roadmap to making your songs the best they can be!
When it comes to mixing, most of the roadmap has already been completed. It's time for the Producer and Artist to find a Mixing Engineer who's going to take the song to the next level, and ultimately finish the song/album, so that it ends up in a place both emotionally and audibly that's inline with the Artists original vision. As an Artist, it's important to look at the Mixing Engineers credits, and ask for some examples of mixes they've done, to see if they'd be a good fit for your music. And as a Mixer, I find it very helpful to ask Artists what their vision and inspirations were for the songs, both from a big picture point of view, as well as getting specific artists and songs who's sounds they love, for reference. That way, instead of mixing with my ideas in mind, I can mix with the Artists ideas and visions in mind.
SS: Happy New Year! We're at the beginning of 2023 and it's gonna be a good year! What are you hoping to achieve this year?
SB: Happy New Year! I'm very excited for 2023. I think this will be another big year of fun challenges and growth for me, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens. I've got a few exciting projects lined up already! My main goal for this year is to continue expanding my freelance business, specifically in growing my Producing and Mixing credits, and to have another fulfilling year helping to create music that hopefully inspires a lot of people!
If you want to know more about Spencer or work with him on a project here are his links: