Name: Glenn Rosenstein
Occupation: Producer, mixer, engineer, psychologist, father, broker.
When and how did you discover your passion for music?
I didn’t discover my passion for music; it discovered me. It came in the form of The Beatles, The Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Al Green. Crosby Stills & Nash, CCR, The Who and Led Zeppelin. The music Of Motown. The music Of Muscle Shoals. Of Memphis, San Francisco, the 70’s LA country scene, Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s. It was delivered in big trucks to enormous record stores, racks teeming with vinyl. To department stores and record departments where a young boy could hide amongt the cover art while parents shopped for mundane household goods. To friends basements that stunk of the Glade-masked odor of ounces of cheap pot and the sound of even cheaper transistor radios. To the early stages of NYC counter-culture FM radio, where DJ’s with names like “The Night Bird” seduced a hundred thousand aspiring high-school aged rock and rollers every night. It was powerful stuff and it demanded passion to listen and to absorb.
How come you ended up in the control room as oppose to playing an instrument? Was the interest in engineering and production always there?
I started my early years as a guitarist, but quickly learned in a very competitive NYC market that I was average at best. A buddy in high school had a 4 track recorder (when 8 track was the pro format), and we recorded many neighborhood artists, along with our own music. The astounding thing was I had no idea you could be paid for that. I quickly got the sense that quite probably this was what a record producer did. I then studied recordings, listening more for the production then the guitar solos. I found it intriguing and inevitably wound up in a studio. The fun part is I still get to play on some of the records I produce. That I had enough successes to sustain a career is a blessing.
You started your career in the studio scene of New York and now primarily work out of Nashville. Talk a little about the scene then compared to now.
I cold-called Lordes Keane, studio manager at The Power Station and talked my way into a job. Essentially, it was a down period for recording studios and Power Station wasn’t in a hiring ‘mood’, as Lordes put it. I rebutted that the industry would recover and having a well-trained & well-prepared assistant would be an asset. I was hired the next day. As a part-time receptionist. But it was an “in”. And suddenly, I was part of a fraternity of world class recording studios the likes of which would never be seen again. The aforementioned Power Station, such a powerhouse that it spawned a star-studded, eponymously-named multi-platinum selling band. The Record Plant. Hit Factory. A & R. Sigma Sound. Right Track. Media Sound. Atlantic. CBS. Electric Lady. Unique. Too many more to mention, all of which were fully staffed with world class engineers, assistants, tech support, all of which had their own sonic culture, signature and following. It was competetive – it was fraternal. Now, it’s bedrooms, plug-ins, downloads, streaming. That’s progress.
How did you end up in Nashville?
While I was working with Talking Heads, I saw Robert Altman’s film “Nashville” and was intrigued. I remember discussing with the drummer and bass player the concept of getting down there and taking the temperature, but understandably, there was little or no interest. Remember, this was 1986 Nashville, not the hotbed of songwriting, production and artistry that currently defines Nashville. I mixed an couple of records for Jimmy Johnson in 1987 and had the opportunity to go down to Muscle Shoals, which I fell in love with. That love affair continues to this day, where Jimmy and I are currently co-producing a project for a young Mississippi alt-blues artist, Wes Sheffield. While Muscle Shoals was an amazing place, commercially it was somewhat in decline at the time. I was then asked to produce a rock band for MCA that was from Nashville – I finally got my wish. Within a few months of working down there, I bought a residence and have maintained a home there ever since.
You’ve worked in countless studios. Would you agree that there is a certain “magic” to some of them?
I have two rather contradictory thoughts about that. On the one hand, the legendary studios where cultural touchstones were recorded practically demand respect. Within these walls, some of the finest examples of contemporary sonic art was created. And I’ve had the luck and privilege to have worked in many of them. Its hard to deny that Aretha Franklin sung “Respect” in Studio A at Fame in Muscle Shoals where I’m producing an artist – and to assume that it has no effect on the psyché of that artist. On the other hand, a room in the hands of a novice creates nothing on its own. It’s the people and their insanely great gifts that have made those rooms reverberate with life, passion and precision. So, for me, the tools have to be in the right hands to cross into near-legendary performances. When you have a talented songwriter tethered to an accomplished artist, competent producer, sensitive engineer and architecturally musical room, the table is then set for magic to occur.
You’re a longtime user of Toontrack products and just started working with Superior Drummer 3. What are your thoughts on the new sounds and software?
I’m truly smitten with the new workflow. Superior Drummer 3 is a great platform, made only better in its latest iteration. Many of the feature requests were not only addressed, but exceeded. And only Toontrack could be so meticulous as to undertake all the surround-based solutions now built into Superior Drummer 3. There isn’t a single project I do now that doesn’t touch Superior Drummer 3.
Finally, any tips to those looking to make a career in music production/engineering?
Don’t imitate or emulate. Instead, invent. As you listen to great production, think about how you might have approached that project differently. Also, remember that music production/engineering is not only a creative endeavor, but also a business. Prepare for that. Take time to understand, especially now, what the modern music industry looks like, where the revenue comes from and what a practical role for you might be. If you are enrolled in a school, take some business classes, get a sense for the things that you might not be as passionate about, but will come in handy as you prepare to support yourself. Be open, be a sponge. Spend less time on social media and more time being productive, creating and inventing. Don’t read about it. Do it.