AHD: How did you get your start in the music business?
JR: Went to college and studied music. Got slapped in the face with the reality that I didn’t have the chops to cut it as a serious player. During that same semester I was interning at some studios in Dallas and it all sort of clicked. I knew what I was supposed to be doing and all of the practice finally made sense. I worked with Geoff Rockwell and Forever the Sickest Kids on their first record with Universal Music and I was off and running. Haven’t looked back.
AHD: For readers who may only consume music, how do you describe what being a music producer entails?
JR: A record producer is probably the most important dude in the record making process. The finished product sits in his head and he has to communicate that to everyone else. He controls the budget, the food, the flow and vibe of the process and now days the mixing, tracking and songwriting. He’s the guy the label trusts to make sure their money doesn’t get squander away on dumb ideas that they can’t sell.
AHD: Does recording, mixing and mastering fit under the mantle of “producing”? If not, how are they related?
JR: It honestly depends on the project. You have to understand the gear. You have to understand the entire process from start to finish. Some budgets and projects I do everything. Sometimes I just write and produce the session but we hire a tracking engineer and eventually send the baby off to mixing and mastering. Sometimes I do it all from writing to mastering and everything else. These days with budgets the way they are thats not to uncommon in my world.
AHD: Does a producer rely more on natural ability or formal, technical training?
JR: It depends. I’ve seen dudes with no musical training make some of the best records you’ll ever hear in their basement. I’ve also heard dudes with a masters in composition not be able to make a decent song to save their life. It really is an art. Some guys are super technical and work by dials and numbers etc. Some guys work by what they feel and speak in very abstract ideas. I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle of all that.
AHD: What do you most enjoy about the work you do?
JR: Other than being an almost 30 year old man-boy and working in the music biz everyday? Ha. For me it’s all about the connection you get to make with people. People never get that, and it’s something I see all these college and universities missing out on teaching. Music and Art is an emotional connection. Thats all we are selling. 3:30 of a connection someone has. Being able to relate to someone else is the main focus. I like that. Figuring out what makes a particular person tick and then crafting a song or idea that speaks to them.
AHD: How has the Fort Worth/Dallas music scene enriched your experience as a producer?
JR: I learned how to be good at what I do back home in DFW. There were enough talented players pouring out of UNT and other places that I could build a team and get songs cut well and done quickly. It’s a big town. I think people that live there forget that.
AHD: What is your opinion of the current Fort Worth/Dallas music scene?
JR: I think most bands in DFW are lazy. They lack drive to really make something remarkable. When most people look at Forever The Sickest Kids or Owl City they see some cheesy pop group and write them off. I see a different side. I see a group of guys that stopped at nothing to get everything they have. They’re some of the hardest working people I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around. These guys worked with passion and were completely authentic with what they were saying. They built an incredible team, sacrificed it all and kept swinging till they hit it out of the park. Thats what it takes.
AHD: You’re one of the many guys behind the scenes with Owl City. How did you meet Adam?
JR: Myspace! I love the internet. Adam hit me up way back in 2006. He was making tracks on his laptop in his moms basement and was asking with help mixing down parts. The first time I heard his voice I knew there was something really special about him and had to be apart of it. You can call it god or the universe or whatever, but something def hit me. We started chatting and sending tracks back in forth. It’s been a crazy ride ever since.
AHD: What insights have you gleaned during your time with Owl City?
JR: Adam is really unique. The way his brain works. Everything you hear is Adam. He doesn’t try to be anyone else but that. If you like it then great. If you don’t no big deal. I love that. He’s a very devout Christian. I’m talking like, we pray before we start tracking most days. I’ve never really felt as moved as that towards religion but it’s nice to be around people that are. I love that sort of passion towards anything. It’s really inspiring to be apart of.
AHD: What do you consider to be the music’s highest aim for people trying to make it?
JR: Well thats kind of 2 fold. You have art for arts sake and a lot of people operate on that and it’s great. But those people don’t sell records for a living or ever get jobs with the people I have to work for. Thats not a bad thing. It’s just the way it is.
My job is to sell records. Commerce dictates the art, and commerce always wins. It’s just the way it is. It was that way for Miles Davis and it’s that way for Katy Perry. If my projects don’t make a return on their investment I don’t get a call back. Thats the way the game is played. I have 45 seconds to connect with someone emotionally. I have to know their insecurities better than they know them themselves.
We write love songs because who hasn’t been in love before on some level? everyone can relate! We write songs about loss or heartbreak because who hasn’t been kicked and shoved emotionally. We all go through these things on some level everyday.
AHD: How can readers get in touch with you?
JR: The inter-webs. I love talking with people on Facebook and youtube and twitter and email and…yeah. Just go here: www.thejonathanroye.com or here: www.youtube.com/users/jroye82
AHD: What advice would you give to the up and coming artist about to enter a pro studio for the first time?
JR: Everything in life is in the details. From relationships with your closest peoples to making records. Know your parts. Be able to play them. Clean. Like really clean. Like really really clean. Be prepared to learn. I try to educate all my artists. so that when we’re done with the record they’ll leave better and smarter players than they were when we first met. Thats what its about.
Also be open to ideas. Thats my only real rule when I make records. The best idea wins. I don’t care where it comes from. Your mom. My mom. The bass player. The lead singers girlfriend. I don’t care. If its better than anything else we’re going with it.