Next Generation Spotlight: Ed Stokes

Audio Media International, in association with  Genelec, is excited to present our latest Next Generation Spotlight. Today, producer and mixer Ed Stokes tells us about his route into the industry and his ambitions for the future…

What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Ed Stokes and I am a producer and mixer.

What inspired you to get into studio work?
From a young age I have always been into music. I first picked up a guitar when I was three. My dad introduced me to playing the guitar and I was then taught by Terry Lees and Andy Williams. I even busked in my local town centre, and £80 for an hour is excellent for anyone, let alone an 11-year-old, even if it was in loose change. Every weekend I would have local artists come to my parents’ house and I would record covers and original music. Saturday would be my recording and production day and Sunday would be my mixing day. I did this for five years. I also had several opportunities during my summer holidays to go to the south of France and take part in music summer schools at Beauville Arts and received training in a recording studio.

I studied at Bede’s school and they gave me fantastic opportunities. I was allowed to take an after-school club in production and learnt Logic pro from Year 9. I then further studied music technology at A level and carried on taking lessons outside of school, producing and mixing music. I had a teacher called Steven Hopkins from Bede’s. He is one of the main reasons why I decided to take music as a career. He believed in me, gave me opportunities, such as teaching me Logic to a professional level, understanding the process behind what I’m doing and overall making me understand knowledge that isn’t the easiest to understand and process. I would like to mention the whole team from Bede’s these are: Louise Morris, Robert Scamardella, Simon Savage and Roy Hilton. These are the guys that inspired and encouraged me to fulfil my dream of making music a full time living.

Tell us about your route into the industry?
After leaving school I went on to study Music Production at the Academy Of Contemporary Music (ACM) In Guildford. I was taught by top industry professionals such as Alan Branch (Eric Clapton, U2, Jeff Beck) and John Gallen (Queen, George Benson, Motorhead). They helped me get into the industry and shared their skills and knowledge, equipping me with the tools I needed to use on my own projects today. They trained my ears to help me produce and mix to a professional level and understand the process not just how to do it but why I’m doing it!. I then interned at studios around London and currently freelance at Greystoke Studio, Ealing owned my Andy Whitmore (Atomic Kitten, Peter Andre, Alexandra O Neal) whilst running my own studio.

When I was at University, I met my now fiancée Oliviya Nicole (The Voice of Bulgaria finalist!). She is an artist and a songwriter. We as a team have helped each other’s route into the industry. There have been many vocal projects she got me on to engineer, produce and mix which has been awesome.

Tell us about some of the key projects you’ve worked on over the past 12 months?
Tracks I have worked on have been added Spotify editorial playlists such as Covers Unplugged & Acoustic Favourites. It has also been a joy to work with Brooklyn Wyatt. His songwriting and his vision blows my mind and being able to make what he has in his head come to life brings me a huge amount of fulfilment. He is great in the studio, is decisive and his musical talent doesn’t hurt either. I have produced his last two singles and currently working on others for future releases.

Another great project was with Callum Lacey. He is another super talented guy I have had the pleasure of working with. He’s an upcoming artist and always brings great energy to the studio. I have produced his last 2 singles and am currently working on more as we speak.

The achievement I am most proud of this year has been developing a base of great clients of my own. From a business development perspective I have found new ways to gain customers (for instance social media, web presence, and asking for referrals). I strongly believe that in order to grow and develop you have to work outside of your comfort zone, and have therefore purposefully pursued working with artists from different backgrounds and genres of music. Not only has this expanded my skillset from a technical perspective, but improved my interpersonal relationship abilities by dealing with a variety of different characters. This has allowed me to run a business which provides me with an income level that I can rely on as full-time job.

What is your approach to work in the studio?
Less is more. I strongly believe in continuous improvement. Over the last year I have been aiming to make every song I produce just one per cent better than the last. This might not seem like a lofty goal, but by the end of the year, by slowly tweaking and improving, my work will be more than twice as good. It is a long process, but I am committed to doing this for a life time, I hope it will pay dividends.

For me the most important thing when working in the studio is teamwork and you have to be able to listen. The artists opinion is more important than yours. I am trying to get the best out of artists and help them achieve their vision. If the artists want’s my visions then of course I will contribute but I will never override their opinion because that’s not working together.

Who/what have been some of your biggest influences in your career to date?
Josh Gudwin (credits inc Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa etc.) is one of the guys I look up to. His process is great and I try and incorporate some of his process in my workflow so over the last year I have been learning from his videos on Mix with the Masters & Twitch – Both fantastic platforms to keep learning and staying modern with today’s music.

Greg Wells (credits inc Katy Perry OneRepublic, The Greatest Showman) is another one of my influences. Again, I have watched his production and mixing videos on Mix with thew masters and Puremix and I just love his workflow and his arrangements.

Serban Ghenea. Not really much to say apart from he is the king at mixing. The depth he gets in his mixes is just unbelievable. I hope to be able to achieve a mix at his level one day! He really inspires me to craft a mix and get into the fine details. The small things that no one ever hears but would have a big difference to the feeling of the mix if those small things hadn’t been done. He just gets it.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the industry?
Over the last 12-18 months I always find the mix part the most challenging. It’s one of my favourite parts of the process and I love mixing records. I always mix with emotion, I want to feel it as much as I can hear it. The reason I find it the most challenging is because there is no right or wrong. I feel like no one is ever a perfect mixer it’s just how you feel and hear the song. 

My attitude towards musicians is that they are rather like painters. They have a thought or a picture in mind, but without their tools they are useless. I see myself as their paintbrush and their palette. It is my job to translate their vision into something tangible. My outlook therefore is that if you want to be a successful producer you cannot be narrow minded when it comes to taste. Fundamentally I strive to create the best and closest possible version of what the artist imagined, and if I can, get closer than they thought possible. I think too many producers push their own vision onto their client and the result is friction. There are of course times where this friction cannot be avoided, but it is important to remember that even if a client is hard to work for, when they tell their contacts in the industry about their experience, they will never suggest the problem was with them. By treating everyone as a priority customer and offering guidance (as opposed to orders) with a level of service to match that sentiment I have found my business going from strength to strength.

What projects do you have coming up?
I am currently working on lots of singles and a few EPs for various artists. Some I am producing the whole the project and mixing, other times I am just hired for mixing. The music styles of these project are pop, hip hop, and country. I am excited for the next 12 months for these tracks to be out into the world. One thing I have learned is you never know what job can come in or when you’re next getting a pay check, but to me that’s the beauty of it. It makes me work hard and keeps me on my toes. I love my job and wouldn’t change it for the world.