2% Rising: Meet Kallie Marie

Audio Media International is excited to present the latest in an ongoing series of engineer and producer interviews as part of our partnership with 2% Rising. Here, we catch up with LA-based producer, engineer, composer and author Kallie Marie…

Launched earlier this year by artist and producer Rookes and mastering engineer and AMI columnist Katie Tavini, 2% Rising was founded in response to the widely reported statistic that female producers only make up two per cent of the industry. The hub, which is currently 250 members strong (and still growing), is intended to serve as a safe space for women and non-binary producers and engineers to converse, share opportunities, ask questions and network. Sound designer Suze Cooper recently joined Rookes and Tavini as one of the group’s core staff members.

The partnership between AMI and 2% Rising will see us posting monthly spotlights on some of the most exciting new talent emerging from the network, while providing regular updates on its latest developments and activities.

Here, Kallie Marie tells us about her career to date and the ever-evolving nature of the industry…

Can you tell us where you’re based and what you do in the pro music and audio industry?
I am based newly in Los Angeles, CA and I am a recording engineer, producer, composer, and author.

How did you come to work in music and audio production?
I started working in music and audio rather by accident at first, but I do believe the inclinations were already there, even from when I was very little. Nearing the end of high school a friend of mine suggested that we start taking night classes at the local community college in Recording Arts, as they had a pretty great programme there, that was at the time all analogue-based, with a few MIDI suites running Digital Performer. This was around 98/99 so there wasn’t much software back then, not like it is today. I just remember thinking, at that point, never having owned a computer, and coming from a modest background that I could never dare to think that I could have equipment like this, let alone own a computer. It just seemed so improbable. I took the Recording Arts Certificate, as well as a music business and songwriting one, getting an AA and from there went to The Leeds College of Music to earn my BA (Hons) and MA in Music Production. So that was the start of it.

I moved to NYC after graduation and was fortunate to land an internship at Skyline Studio (which is now Reservoir), and work on Jeff Derringer’s first solo record… and I’ve been running amok ever since.

What’s been the job you’ve most enjoyed in your career so far?
You know, it’s a funny question, because I often feel like there aren’t jobs so much as roles, hats to wear, gigs, and projects. I love them all. I love working with a band and producing them. Every step of the way, through band practice and pre-production, to hearing the final masters. I feel like I practically join the band, and I try to live it with them and be in their world as much as possible. Even after the record is done I’m still deeply invested in their success. I love all facets of what I do. I love, love, love the gear, the people, the process. I love writing music for any medium – TV, film, dance, games; I honestly can’t pick a favourite project. I wouldn’t do anything I didn’t love. Thats a rule. If I am working on a project or doing a gig, it means I love it, I love working with the team I am with, or the musicians I am working with. It’s a ground rule.

Of which achievement do you feel proudest?
This one always catches me off guard. I keep my nose to the grindstone a lot. I often don’t know what I’ve accomplished until a friend or colleague points it out to me. I’m proudest of my varied experiences, my travels, my education. I am proud of the production standard and quality that I hold myself and the artists I work with to. I guess I am proud of artistic accountability. I can’t tell you what achievement I am proudest of… yet. Because I am just getting started. This is just lift off.

What’s been the most difficult or challenging aspect of your job?
A challenging aspect of this type of career, like any creative career, is finding out what your voice is, then finding your audience, and finding ways to earn a living from it. I suppose that’s a very general statement. Personally, I find managing the constantly changing software updates, keeping ahead of the curve with all the tools I need to be really good with, while keeping my music writing chops intact. It’s always a constant balance and refresh. There’s so much to do, and to learn. I will also say that perception is something I am learning to mould and handle better. I think a lot of people manage some of this in creative industries through social media, but it is tricker and tricker in our modern world to learn how to communicate accurately and succinctly what it is that you do, so that people know what to hire you for.

What do you want to focus on in the future?
Getting better. The future for me is about continuing to be better than the last year. I of course want to keep working and making exciting records with people, and to keep writing music for exciting and engaging projects, but I also want to make sure that I am pushing myself to raise the bar each and every step of the way. Whether that means I am better at writing in a certain style, or for a certain medium, or maybe its getting faster at Pro Tools, better at Melodyne, better at playing guitar, pushing out of my comfort zone and recording in more challenging ways, familiarising myself with more microphones and techniques. There’s always something to learn. I’d like to focus on being ridiculously good at what I do.

How do you feel the pro music and audio industry has changed (or not) since you started to now?
Oh wow, its changed leaps and bounds. When I started there were really only two or three DAWs in their early stages. People learned differently. The internet wasn’t what it is today. Social media didn’t exist yet. Smartphones and tablets that you could make music with or record with didn’t exist. Thunderbolt connectors didn’t exist. I mean, the sheer technological advances that we have made are unbelievable. I can’t wait to see what even the next 10 years hold, as long as we are mindful in our application of technology. Technologies involved in creation, dissemination, and monetisation are really at the heart of what our industry faces. How will we ensure artists are paid? How will we make sure our music is heard? How will we make music with the tools we are given, and where will be able to record as the landscape of recording studios change?

A thing that hasn’t quite changed, but I feel we are getting somewhere with, is diversity. In ’98 I was almost always the only woman in my classes, and in 2007 I was the only woman on my masters course. Now it’s 2020 and I feel like social media and the internet have allowed people to raise their voices, learn things in a different way, and to establish camaraderie that is professionally nourishing. I’ve made lasting friends through social media, and I know they’ve bettered my life personally and professionally. This is changing our industry. It’s just a matter of time. I will also say that we can’t hope to change the industry in these areas until more of the general world at large changes with it. It’s not a music industry issue alone. Its a systemic issue.

Have you ever been star-struck by anyone you’ve worked with?
I am star struck by everyone I work with. That sounds corny but I think that what anyone in a creative or even technical field does, that does it with passion, is a deeply spiritual experience. I get start struck by recording studios when I walk into them. It’s like a holy place. I feel a deep reverence and awe when I enter these places, and if some one honours me with their time, their craft, their knowledge I can’t help but be humbled by their trust in sharing their space, creativity, music… it’s something to be reverent of when anyone chooses you to create music with, or share their knowledge with. Whether you are collaborating, or being mentored by them, or are merely a fly on the wall in a studio. I try to be a sponge for that energy. A reverent sponge.

Which artists and producers are you listening to right now?
I am listening to a lot of different artists right now. Stuff like Low, Sir Sly, Max Richter, Andrew Bayer, Cross Record, Ionalee. I listen to everything.

As far as producers are concerned, I spend time dissecting the great recordings, made by masters of this craft.. the definition of what ‘producer’ used to mean… producers like George Martin, Sylvia Massy, Steve Albini (even though he doesn’t like the title- sorry Steve!), Butch Vig, Flood, Steve Lillywhite, Trent Reznor and so many more.

It’s hard because I want to be more conscious of these types of credits, and I don’t get to see them on streaming services. I went hunting for hours the other day to try to find out who had mastered something and no matter where I looked I couldn’t find who had worked on it. I hate to say it, but in this case, I see myself mentioning some great names above, but there might be great new names to mention too, and I cant find them! I couldn’t tell you who worked on most of the music I mentioned above. That’s shocking. This has to change.

What do you feel that being a member of 2% Rising has given you?
It’s given me a greatly needed sense of community. I have belonged to a few groups and forums over the years, and they’ve all had wonderful things about them, but this group really was there at the right time, at the start of the pandemic. I found myself away from the recording studio, away from gigs, away from musicians and people… and yet here they were, with help for my Ableton questions, jokes for my down days, advice for little and big things, and so many many laughs. We have a lot of fun, but we really hold each other up. It’s wonderful.

Twitter: @DoomGolly
Bandcamp: https://explosivesforhermajesty.bandcamp.com and https://kalliemarie.bandcamp.com