Written by: Allison Del Fium
It is a bright Wednesday morning in mid-December. The man dressed in all black emerges from his car. With two briefcases containing last night’s work slung over his shoulder, he walks into a typical office building. He passes through multiple doors and by the coffee scented office kitchen and makes his way to his desk. He proceeds to settle himself into a deep, worn out leather chair and begin the workday.
At first, this might seem like a typical ritual for many office workers. This man, however, lives a professional life much different from most. The man in black is Jesse Wright and he is an audio engineer.
Jesse’s workspace is not confined by a small office or cubicle. It does not feature a standard desktop computer, an “in basket”, or a fluorescent desk lamp. In lieu of a jacket and tie, Jesse sports a hat, a faded band t-shirt, ripped jeans, and black converse sneakers. His work tools include a 24-channel soundboard, two wide screened desktop computers and a set of stereo speakers. Surrounding his desk lay keyboards, amps, drums, microphones, and numerous cables running from one end of the room to the other. And not to be forgotten, the requisite iPhone close at hand.
Millions of people listen to professionally recorded music in a wide array of places and ways. Some prefer the radio or an iPod. Where others fancy music through online streaming services or other platforms. Yet, many music listeners might not think past the basic elements of an artist’s song. Most consumers base their music attraction on the way that music makes them feel. What is less understood to many listeners, however, is the way these pieces of art are put together. The emotional and musical elements of a song do not solely come from the lyrical and musical content of the piece. A large influence over the outcome of a song is the way in which it is engineered. This is where professionals like Jesse come in.
Jesse Wright got his start in the audio engineering field at the age of eighteen. His father, Frank Wright, was and still is a highly respected musician and engineer working with greats such as Sonny & Cher and Chicago. Due to Frank’s knowledge and continuous involvement within the industry, the family eventually opened up a recording studio that Jesse helped construct. Yet, at the time, Jesse was not interested or involved with the engineering side of the operations. But once an engineering spot opened up at the family studio, Jesse was given a crash course and as he say’s “thrown to the wolves” in the steps to becoming an engineer. To his surprise, Jesse immediately fell in love with the career and after years of learning and gaining experience, Jesse has a resume that many engineers dream of. He has worked with big name artists including Warren G of the Regulators, Adrian Young and Steven Bradley of No Doubt, Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees, Sleepy Brown of Outcast, Fieldy of Korn and Cirious of Steel Pulse. His work has been featured on television shows including NBC’S Fashion Star and his work on Jeff Timmons album “Free” had over one million downloads by 2008.
Though, these opportunities did not simply fall in Jesse’s lap. It has taken him fourteen years of experience to get to his level of professionalism and he continues to learn and improve. Spending time with Jesse and seeing what his career entails, it becomes clear that engineering is much more than simply clicking a record button or checking microphone levels.
To engineer at the professional level, Jesse has mastered the use of music editing software such as Pro Tools by AVID. He also works with tools that can dramatically change the resonance of a singer’s voice or musical instrument with compression and E.Q. He works with numerous forms of editing to bring the highest quality music into the hands of music consumers. And although many will never know all the technical elements of an audio engineer’s profession, it is becoming crucial for music buyers to realize the work that engineers such as Jesse put into the industry. The knowledge of an audio engineer is what gives a song the ability to start as a raw musical piece and transform into a platinum-selling song.
For starters, Jesse’s job takes a considerable amount of hard work, wisdom, and patience. His profession is full of unpredictability and at times large amounts of pressure. Work hours are unpredictable and often include nights and weekends. A unique type of personality is needed to balance the responsibilities of the music, keep the equipment in check, and most importantly keep clients and consumers happy. The audio engineering profession is a constant balance of having confidence, staying grounded, and being meticulous.
As Jesse and so many other engineers have explained, the impact an audio engineer has, in regards to the music industry, is one many do not realize. The engineer has the ability to impact the destiny of a song. These professionals dedicate their entire career to making sure the quality of a recording is one that all consumers will find not only entertaining but also professional. A simple way to understand the impact of Jesse’s profession is to imagine a song that is constantly played. Then, imagine if mistakes had not been edited out of that particular song. Maybe the engineer decided to leave in a few voice cracks or the sound of a late cymbal hit made by the drummer. Would people still enjoy the song? Would YOU still enjoy the song?
The demand and expectations of music consumers has continuously risen throughout the last few decades. Our ears have become accustomed to hearing highly produced music and as a result, Jesse and other engineers have had to continuously evolve their skills and expectations when working with artists. It takes an awareness and dedication to make sure they are staying up with industry standards and the standards of the music makers and buyers.
Most people, whether they think about it often or not, understand that music is recorded in a studio. Fewer people, however, are aware of the professionals and technology involved to create recorded sounds. As music consumption and expectations continue to grow, it is crucial for music listeners to start seeing past the artist. To realize how impactful the behind the scenes professionals truly are. Jesse and many others are the “middle-men” between artists and their fans. They are able to create a recording so that listeners can play their favorite songs over and over. They allow music fans to consume music everyday without always attending a live concert. Audio engineers make music consumption more accessible and in many ways more enjoyable for fans.
It is because of engineers like Jesse Wright that the music we all enjoy today can be created. Recording music is not simply to make a profit but it is so music lovers all around the globe can listen to songs for years to come. It is because of their attention to detail and determination that Jesse and all audio engineers are the “unsung hero’s” of the music industry.