Record producer Simon Small: How to create musical albums during Covid-19
Small has been working on the new musical The Rhythmics
Simon Small is record producer, engineer and mixer based at his private studio in Dalston, London. His expertise as a producer has earned him a client base spanning from leading West End talent to international rock bands, and his work has been featured across a variety of stations.
He has collaborated with many leading singers, musicians, bands and producers. Among them, John Illsey of Dire Straits, Mercury Music nominee Jimmy Robertson (who has recorded and mixed albums for a wide range of British music groups, including Depeche Mode, Arctic Monkeys and Florence + The Machine), and Rachel Tucker, semi-finalist of BBC's Any Dream Will Do TV show and the longest-running Elphaba in the West End.
When lockdown hit at the start of 2020, the musical world was turned upside down. Live events were – and still are – postponed. But another huge part of the music industry sector – the making records – was also plunged into the unknown.
Small explained how he's overcome the issues at hand – including the logistical nightmare of making cast albums with up to 15 artists at any one point: "Mixing The Rhythmics album for Metta Theatre/Aria Entertainment was my main project for two months at the start of the pandemic", the producer said from his private studio in Dalton, East London.
"We were collectively finding our feet with recording and producing the album remotely but we quickly found our way. After four projects together I'm still yet to meet the team in person!"
Not meeting your clients has become the status quo over the last year Small said, and the responsibility has made him think innovatively about how he now produces music with artists. "We didn't reopen to the public for a long time as it just didn't feel safe. There was a lot of pressure to keep everyone safe, including my colleagues and my family. This meant we were finding new ways to offer our services remotely."
Taking on the challenge of remote recording, like many producers today Small has trained himself on new programs. Transferring his experience over his ten years as a studio engineer and lead producer, he's embraced software he would never imagined he would be so reliant on for his everyday work.
"Remote sessions with Metta Theatre have been made so much easier with software from Audiomovers and Zoom. I've been able to stream the recording sessions in real time, it's like they're in the studio with us."
But the remote sessions, like many have experienced while working from home, don't come without their complications. Even during periods where government guidelines allowed London to move around freely, there was a huge upheaval of practices within his studio.
"Acting as your own compliance officer is honestly a pain when you're trying to work and keep the vibe going in the room, but safety has to come first and after a couple of hours everyone is used to me passing hand sanitiser around constantly!" The good thing, he says, is that his clients are prepared to do whatever it takes to get the job done: "Luckily for me all my clients have been very respectful of the new COVID rules that we set in the studio."
Small's account has been penned by Giles Bidder.
You can watch one of the numbers from the show here: