Interview with EDDIE ‘G’ GALAN, producer for Mitchel Musso, B5, Clique Girlz - Mar 29, 2010
“I built a studio from the ground up in the garage. [It] led me to writing and producing for myself and then friends started to say, ‘Hey, can you record me?” or, “Can you record one of my friends?’”
Anyone with aspirations of becoming a top music producer would benefit from the wise words of Billboard award winner Eddie Galan, a man who has built a successful production career from the ground up. From beginnings in a homemade garage studio, Eddie G has gone on to achieve #1s for his work with B5 on the ‘Hannah Montana’ (USA No.1) and ‘High School Musical’ (USA No.1) soundtracks, and now boasts his own production company and record label. What’s more his self-made career success has led to him being in demand as an advisor to aspiring young producers.
Eddie G talks to HitQuarters about his remarkable rise, the trend for producers like RedOne to ‘sign’ their tracks, and sets a challenge for anyone who thinks they can cut the mustard in a super energetic music studio.
You originally studied film production at college before changing to music songwriting and production – what prompted the shift into music?
Music was always my first passion. When I was younger I never thought I had the talent to be successful in music, so I decided go to school to become an attorney, probably in sports or entertainment.
When I got to school I decided I didn’t like business and didn’t like the whole law program. So, I took a film class, really enjoyed it and became a film major. But while I was studying film that I started to develop my vocals and writing, and started a group, and that’s how the music element came about.
How did you actually make the leap into professional music production?
I had already started recording with other producers and other writers as part of the band and the act that I was a part of in college. When I graduated I decided that I was going to start my own studio from home, basically just to teach myself and to be able to record my own songs and demos.
I built a studio from the ground up in the garage. The process led me to writing and producing for myself and then friends started to say, “Hey, can you record me?” or, “Can you record one of my friends?” And that’s how my work started getting out there.
Word started to spread that I was a good writer and a good producer, and people asked me to start doing their demos.
What was it about your style that made your composition and production skills stand out and helped your career develop?
For me it’s always been about the feeling. I really believe music is such a passionate job that you really have to just go with your guts and go with the feeling. So, if something feels right, then I know it’s right. If it doesn’t feel right, and I know it’s missing something, then I keep working until I get that feeling inside that just tells me that it’s there.
You co-produced the B5 version of ‘Get’cha Head In Da Game’ on the ‘High School Musical’ soundtrack and ‘Shining Star’ on Disney’s ‘Hannah Montana Soundtrack’. In a career sense, how significant were these two successes?
It’s a blessing but also a challenge. Certainly, it helped put me on the map. ‘High School Musical’ has sold over 12 million worldwide, and the ‘Hannah Montana Soundtrack’ more than 7 million. I got a lot of buzz and a lot of people wanting me for my production and my writing.
Because they’re heavily Disney, it is good in the sense that it branded me and I was able to get other Disney projects in cuts, and a lot of the teen and tween market wanted to work with me. However, at the same time it has also been a challenge to try and overcome that so that people know, “Yes, I do Disney, but I can also do mainstream pop - I can do the Rihanna or the Britney Spears or the Katy Perry as opposed to just the Disney stuff.”
What is a typical working day like in the life of Eddie Galan?
On a general day if I’m in the studio recording masters with an artist then my day usually starts around 10am.
I wake up, get ready for my day, spend some time with the kids and the family, and then I’m in the studio by 1. Then I’m usually in the studio from 1pm to 1am, and then I drive home.
If I’m not in the studio cutting masters, if I’m writing, then I’m usually writing two songs a day, and I will have a session from 1 to 6:30 or 7, and then I have a session from 8-9 o’clock up until about 2am.
Is this all happening in the Sonikwire Studios?
I’ve had three different studios up to now but I’ve sold off each of them. Now I just have a small pre-production room at home where I just make tracks and am able to write and create, and then I go to one of three or four major spots to do all my major work.
I’m actually at Sonikwire Studios right now. That’s where I’ve done a big portion of my work over the last four years. Sonikwire is like home to me.
What is the atmosphere like in an Eddie Galan studio session?
It’s all energy and vibe. Anyone who’s not involved in the session is not allowed here. We like it to be a place where everyone’s being creative, everyone’s working, where there’s a lot of energy, and we’re all bouncing off the wall [laughs]. I have a lot of energy, so for me I really like people to enjoy the feeling of each new studio recording.
What’s it like actually working with the artists - surely you must need great people skills to get the most out of such young artists as Jacob Latimore and Ashlee Keating?
It definitely helps. But then I am young myself [laughs] - I just turned 31.
I’ve been working with young teens and tweens for such a long time that I just know how to approach them. But they also have to be confident and trust you, and feel comfortable with you in the studio, and once they do then they’re going to give you everything they have.
The manager, the A&R, the parents - especially when you’re working with young kids - everyone has to feel comfortable with you.
What aspects define your signature sound? – for instance, is there certain equipment or instruments you always use, certain methods you record vocals etc?
When it comes to tracks right now, we’re using Nexus and Vanguard for our synths. In terms of the actual guitars, we use a lot of Gibson guitars for our rock stuff.
We’re pretty versatile in the fact that we do everything from pop and rock, country to R&B and urban dance. So, it really depends on the style of song and the style of artist and concept we’re working on, but I think for us, it’s big choruses, huge pop lyrics and melodies, and songs that are very catchy so you can’t get them out of your head.
There’s been a recent trend amongst pop producers to ‘sign’ their productions at the start of the track – JR Rotem and RedOne (HitQuarters interview) are both noted for this – why do you think they do this?
With things now being bought on iTunes if someone goes to download a track then unless they get the whole album where they get the artwork, most of the time they’re not going to know who wrote it, who produced it …
For producers part of being successful is marketing yourself and letting people know that that is your work. So, if it comes on radio or if you buy it on iTunes or a music video, you want people to know who worked on it. And since the credits aren’t easily available anymore, that’s usually the easiest way to let it be known.
Do you think producers should get greater recognition amongst music fans for what they do?
I think that over the past 10 to 15 years it has become more of a producer-heavy industry, where some producers, like Timbaland, might get as much recognition as the artists, if not more in some cases. But over all, unless you’re talking about a huge superstar producer, I believe that producers sometimes don’t get the recognition they deserve.
As someone that works a lot with young artists it’s obviously important to be very aware of current trends. So are you consciously listening to the latest charts and for songs from certain producers?
Yes, I follow all the latest charts, all the top hits, radio, what’s big on video, what’s high selling on iTunes … to know what the current trend is. If everyone is going more dance, you don’t want to be doing something that is too stuck on yesterday.
However, with that said, to really make a mark, I really push people and other producers and artists to go beyond the limits of what’s going on today to find a new sound. Maybe it’s combining a sound that’s hot now with something else. Maybe it’s something that the industry isn’t doing at all. If everyone is going more pop/dance, go do something more rock.
Just find something that’s very unique to you and that allows the artist to be really who they are, because authenticity and being genuine is the biggest thing that I think an artist needs to have in order to be successful.
Would you say your Latin-American roots influence your productions in any way?
They do influence but not too heavily. Sometimes we use latin rhythms or guitars, but most of the times I’m not really using it.
How do you secure your projects and placements? Are you yourself actively involved in searching for artists or getting placements, or is this down to your management?
I have a manager who is crucial in helping me place my products, but I believe no one is going to do better for you than yourself. So, I’m very active in terms of contacts, relationship building and connecting my product to all the right companies.
On top of that, I’m working with a couple of publishers, who do pitch my stuff and, of course, if they help land it then they get a piece of the publishing on that particular project.
As an example, can you explain how the Mitchel Musso placement come about?
In that project I was working with [songwriter/producer] PJ [Bianco], and PJ hit me up and said, “I’m coming out to LA to collab and I’ve been asked to get into the studio with Mitchel Musso - would it be something that you’d be interested in collaborating on?” And I said, “Sure!” I had a great relationship with Disney, and so did he so he thought it would be a good collaboration.
We got in together, wrote a record, showed it to management, they loved it, we cut the record. They liked it so much they said, “Let’s do another one.” Got in, wrote another one, they cut it, loved it, and then asked us to do another one. I ended up with three cuts on the record.
The Clique Girlz’‘Incredible’ was used as the theme song for the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as being a featured song on the 2008 Olympics Team USA Soundtrack. How did that come about?
That was all done through Interscope, the record label for the Clique Girlz. We were really instrumental with pushing the record, and they ended up using ‘Incredible’ for numerous things including video games, television shows, commercials, and of course the Beijing Olympics. So, Interscope was very influential in terms of making that happen.
Is that right you discovered the Clique Girlz through MySpace?
Yes, I found them on MySpace. And now one of the girls from the group has left and started a new group, which is being managed by Howie Dorough of the Backstreet Boys, they’re called N.M.D. - No More Drama - and I helped put them together and have been helping them in the studio and helping develop them along with Howie and the co-manager of the group, Louie Moore."
So, if you’re wanting to get new projects that are different from what you’ve done before, are you actively seeking artists?
Yes, we do seek artists but generally, my work comes to me at this point. People know who I am and what I’ve done for the most part. So, generally, we get an email or a call from the A&R of a certain artist at the label and they’ll say, “Hey, we want to get Eddie in with so and so.” And then we just make it happen.
I’ve also been really heavily into the rock scene and the rock/electro pop scene lately because I got in with one band, and it went so well that the next band wanted in, and then the next band wanted in.
I’ve five or six projects with different bands in the same kind of genre and they’re all very happy with my work, so it continues to go on and people start talking and of course you get more work that way.
As you said, your manager - Bonnie Gallanter of Muse Artist Management - is crucial in placing your songs. What else does she help you with?
Basically it’s a matter of connections and relationships - just keeping me organised, making sure I’m protected, doing all my paperwork, handling my schedule, and just making sure that I’m able to do what I do best, which is create, write, and be in the studio doing songs.
You said earlier that for producer part of being successful is marketing yourself, so how much effort is involved in promoting yourself?
Pretty heavily. The one thing that I feel is lacking in the industry is the ability to promote and market yourself. It’s so vital. People need to know that you’re good at what you do, that you’re successful for a reason, and people need to know your signature sound.
So, for me, part of that is marketing and promoting myself, letting people know what I’ve done, who I am, what my team does and what we can offer them.
I just hired a full-time publicist who’s going to help even further by branding and marketing me and my company so we can hopefully move up to the next level.
You have quite an active Twitter account. What benefits does this have for your musical activities?
Twitter is a great way to connect, build relationships, promote and market yourself, and just allow people to know what you’re doing and who you’re working with and when you’re doing it.
It’s also a great outlet for an individual to just say what they want to say. Back in the day, they really didn’t have that ability, and now you have it available to the masses. It’s great.
If you were advising a first-time producer working on pop records, then what are important and useful things to bear in mind in terms of how they approach the production?
Well, I think the biggest thing is to listen to all the great producers that are out now, and all the great producers that have come in the past. People like Quincy Jones, Max Martin, and really listen to why the record is successful - what kind of instruments are they using, when does the chorus come in, how long are songs … Just tear them apart and you realise there’s a certain formula, a reason why these records have been big. These producers have done that themselves.
If you do that, and continue to do that and push yourself as a producer, then you’re going to start seeing the benefits and your songs are going to get better.
On top of that, I think it’s very important to get in with another producer who’s better than you. Collab, write, produce … do whatever you need to do with other people, so that you can see how they work, see how they react in certain situations …
Is there anything in particular they should avoid doing?
Don’t push it. If you feel like a song is being forced, it’s not going to come out right. You have to relax, make sure that the passion is there, and if you really believe in the part it’ll come.
Sometimes it happens to everybody, where you get stuck on something. You just have to leave the room, go do something else and come back. Being very cinematic, movies usually help, because they’re very visual, and they allow me to come back and really picture what I’m writing about.
Last year you taught at the Grammy Camp for high school students. What kind of things were you teaching?
Basically, I was teaching the process of songwriting, writing hit songs, producing hit songs, and also the general business aspects of the music industry, and what to watch out for.
That actually led me to do a panel at USC for their college students, and because of that I have recently been hired to be a professor of Music in Business and Production at USC in the fall.
Production is typically something that people graduate to after first being musicians or DJs, for instance. Are you introducing the art of production to the students or were there actually a lot of students that already decided they wanted to become producers?
Some knew they wanted to become producers, some had decided they wanted to do music, but didn’t know what field, and some just loved to play an instrument or loved to sing, and wanted to do something but really didn’t know what producing involved. So, it’s a little bit of everything.
With the ones that knew they wanted to become producer, did they tell you what was inspiring this ambition?
I think everyone has a dream when you’re younger of being a model, a big singer or an actor and these days producers seem to have these larger than life careers. Sometimes this lends itself to young talented kids that say, “Hey, I want to do that!” And so, that’s where these kids come in.
If high school kids are interested in production then what are you advising them to do next in terms of laying the first foundations for a career?
Making contacts, building relationships, reading books, studying music, going back to old songs – for me it’s not just about listening to records that were big two years ago, I listened to Temptations, Michael Jackson, Otis Redding … all artists that have been paving a way for the artists that are here today.
Can you explain what Mach 1 Music is and why and when you set it up?
Mach 1 is the speed of sound. Mach 1 is when a plane is going the speed of Mach 1 and they break the sound barrier. For me it has a double meaning - it’s breaking the sound barrier, because you do so many styles of music, and also it’s the speed of sound because we like to work very quick and get in with a lot of people and work on a lot of projects.
I started Mach 1 Music at the beginning of 2008 to be my personal outlet, and be my vision of what I saw in terms of business, music and career.
It’s been great. I have a great team of writers and producers. I have my own publishing company, my own production company that I sign people to, and we develop artists, and it’s been very successful, so we’re very blessed.
The team around you is obviously important, but what is it they need to have?
Surround yourself with people that are not ‘yes men’. They’re not people that are just going to say, “Yes, yes, yes …” to everything you say. You want honest people.
I have people around me that are going to say, “Eddie, I love that,” or, “Eddie, that’s not good,” or, “I like this but let’s try that.” You want people that are going to help make your product better, and then when you get in a room and everyone goes, “Yes, that’s a hit!” you know you have something special.
What are the record labels looking for nowadays?
It all continues - a hit song is a hit song is a hit song … they just want great records. A great record can transform into any style of music. You can take a great pop song and make it a country song, or a great country song and make it a rock song, just based on the production.
They don’t want demos. They want everything finished, radio ready. So, the one thing I tell up and coming producers and writers is, if you’re going to do a demo, make sure you find the best musicians, the best producers, the best singers to demo your songs, because you only have one shot to get it right.
What’s in the pipeline for Mach 1?
Right now, we’re working on several projects. We’ve just been working with The Cab on Warner. We’ve been in with School Boy Humor on Vagrant Records, Allstar Weekend on Hollywood Records, and also writing songs for Jesse McCartney and Justin Bieber.
Is there anyone you particularly like to work with?
Well, the one person that I would have loved to work with was Michael Jackson. He’s been one of my biggest influences. Certainly that won’t now get to happen, but Quincy Jones in combination with Michael is still a big inspiration.
There’s also Babyface - a great producer and writer - and also Polow da Don, who I had a chance to sit with recently and would love to get in with him.
In terms of artists, I would love to get in with Britney Spears, Madonna … some of the artists that have been around for a while - Justin Timberlake - that know what it takes to make hit songs, but also know the vision of keeping their music true to what they want.
What would you like to see Mach 1 Music develop into?
I have big visions. I’m definitely looking for that one big placement on an album that’s going to transcend. Someone like a Lady Gaga, who’s been able to not just do well here but also internationally - that’s important. So, for me, I see us with a much larger production and writing and publishing team.
I like to help others out, and if they’re talented, young, want to work and have a lot of energy, I want them on the team. Building that and bringing people along, so we’re all having success all together, is what I look forward to.
Interview by Kimbel Bouwman
Next week: Multiple #1 producer JR Rotem is the focus of the Monday Interview
Read On ...
* Lady Gaga producer RedOne on his long struggle to reach the top
* Eddie G is on the panel for the HQ Demo Review
* Interview with Galan's partner in Hannah Montana and High School Music success, Andrew Lane