Name: Alex Kline
Company or Organization: Cotton Gin Productions, Starstruck Writers Group/10,000 Hours
Artists or projects worked with: Tara Thompson, Adam Brand, Erin Enderlin, Maggie Rose
FEMMUSIC: How did you get started in studio production?
AK: As a multi-instrumentalist I wanted to learn how to do good guitar vocal demos for songs I was writing. From there it snowballed into learning how to program drums and learning how to use all the software so I could get my tracks to come out the way I was hearing them in my head. I started making all my own demos, but didn’t really consider myself a producer until about 4 years ago when Erin Enderlin asked me to produce her record, and said she thought I would be good at it. I learned as I went along and really was flying by the seat my pants. After that, I was hooked, and decided that producing was what I really wanted to do, along with songwriting.
FEMMUSIC: Producing an album takes on many forms. Tell me about what you do? What do you look for in a project? What are your goals with a finished product?
AK: When I am producing, I aspire to create music that contains unique elements that will cause a listener to pause and realize that this is something they have never heard before. My goal is that the music I create will be something that I will still want to listen to and will still be proud of decades from now. I have always been a hands-on producer. I like to pick up an instrument and experiment with different sounds and ideas. I make demos of most of the songs I record in my home studio and will play them for the band when I go into the studio as a good road map. Sometimes I bring in a lot of the tracks I recorded, and just add a few live elements to them, like drums or some new guitars. On some occasions, especially if the tracks are more pop leaning, I’ll just build the whole track in my home studio myself.
What I look for in a project is to be inspired by the artist and their perspective. If they have a great voice and something unique to say that I haven’t heard before, I’m likely going to be excited to work on that project. It’s more rewarding working on a project with someone who knows exactly what they are, and honing in on that musically is incredibly rewarding.
FEMMUSIC: What challenges do you see for women in studio production?
AK: The biggest challenge for women in studio production is that there are so few women in the producer chair that there can be an assumption by people in the business that they may not have the same level of expertise as their male counterparts. This can also, to a degree, be an asset as it’s easier to catch them off guard and really impress them when they realize that your work is as good, or even better, as any of the guys. There is a space left open and an opening for women to come in and stand out. Women producers have a different voice than the men, and I think listeners will be excited to hear that perspective. I have been playing lead guitar since high school and was one of few girls in the guitar department at Berklee College of Music, so have learned how to see adversity, and being in the gender minority, as an opportunity.
FEMMUSIC: What mentors did you have when learning?
AK: I didn’t really have one specific mentor. I have been inspired by, and learned from, other young producers in town, who are incredibly generous in sharing their perspective. Perhaps my primary mentor, though, has been the internet, as millennial as that sounds. For the most part, I taught myself all the software programs for my production work, and have also taken advantage of youtube videos to pick up specific tips and tricks.
FEMMUSIC: Are women in studio production treated differently than men? How do you see this?
AK: Expectations of women producers are lower. The assumption by men in the music business often is that a woman producer will not be at the same level as the men. However, it’s always gratifying when they hear my music, if I am able to prove their preconceived ideas wrong.
FEMMUSIC: What advice do you give to women wanting to go into studio work?
AK: If you are passionate about wanting to be a producer, don’t hold yourself back. Just start doing it and work as much as you can because everything I know I basically learned along the way. Don’t let supposed gender roles hold you back. See being a minority in the field as an advantage to blow some minds.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you change about the music industry?
AK: It is becoming harder and harder to make a living in this industry. It is difficult to see amazing and talented people struggling when they ought to be rewarded for their tremendous contributions. I’ve seen songwriter friends who’ve had dozens of cuts have to get jobs at department stores, publishers I’ve respected move over into real-estate, major record label employees get let go by the dozen in a single day, all because music isn’t financially valued the same way as it once was, and in my opinion, should be and it breaks my heart.