Interview: Seed, the Engineer

Seed, the Engineer

What is your name?

My name is Reggie Shelton. I go by Seed, the Engineer.

Where are you from?

The FLATS! I’m from Fairfield.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background in this industry?

I started as a kid writing songs and making music with my sister. Out of high school, I taught myself how to play guitar and a little piano. From there I started producing and then began DJing around the same time I started doing live sound for my church. Long story short, the church grew, so we moved locations and upgraded the AV system, but I needed to learn the more advanced technology, theory, and tools required to operate the new system, so I started going to school.

In school, I became a studio rat. I interned at a few different spots around the Bay and really focused on applying what I was learning and making these things applicable wherever I went. I was recording Rap, R&B, and Hip-hop in the studio; bands across multiple genres at the school, and gospel in the church, so I was exposed to a lot and carried these influences with me everywhere.

I graduated right after the pandemic and basically went to work. I got hired at Empire, started taking my own clientele, started at 25th street; I took live gigs, was still at the church, and I kept a job to finance the slow months.

● What inspired you to pursue a career in this field, and what keeps you motivated?

I really love music. It might be cliche, but I’m fortunate enough to live at a time where I can pick and choose how I want to live my life. Everything about what we do sends us through a rollercoaster of emotions, but if you’re level-headed enough to persevere through it all, by the time you finish and look back on your progress you can stand on it confidently reassured your best was more than just good enough.

● How has the industry changed since you first started, and how have you adapted to those changes?

The industry doesn’t change as much as the technology and organizations do. One could argue that it’s the new technology that triggers the shifts in the organizations because of how easy it’s become to create at a moment’s notice. People don’t need to go to the big high-profile studios and pay all that money to make a demo. You can do it at home. That puts me at a disadvantage, but we’re lifelong students of the game, so as the technology advances, we roll with the punches and learn how to optimize it so we operate at the high capacity.

● Can you describe a typical day in your role, and what are some of the biggest challenges you face?

The biggest challenges are always people and time. It’s easy to work so hard for something and fall into people-pleasing patterns because you feel like it’s what you need to do to keep it going or to rise to the “next level,” but people take advantage of that. You have to set boundaries with people including yourself because you’ll give so much to everyone and then forget to set aside a portion for your family or even yourself.

That’s why, depending on what my day looks like, I get up early and go to the gym. Get my mind and body right for the day. I reference my calendar for the week during a decent breakfast and get to it. I could be mixing at the house or studio; maybe I’m recording or I’m at the church. It never really matters. I set my intention and that’s what’s important.

● How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in your industry?

I have some really good people in my life. We trade ideas and share what’s on our minds. It’s rare but I’m thankful for the women in this field who have offered me unique perspectives and approaches. Even now, I sit in on sessions hopeful to learn something I can apply to my own arsenal. I told you, we’re forever students of the game. There’s so many ways to skin this cat.

● Can you walk us through a recent project or accomplishment you’re particularly proud of?

It’s a little far off into left field, but I had an opportunity to make some sounds with Skywalker Ranch for one of their then-upcoming shows “She Hulk,” which was nominated for a Golden Reel Award. On the music side, lately I’ve branched out and started recording more orchestras and small ensembles.

● How do you balance creative vision with practical constraints and budget limitations?

We make it happen. We don’t make excuses. I try to be very transparent with people about what’s possible and what’s not an option, so from the beginning we can develop a plan that’s feasible and execute it minus dramatic variations.

● What advice would you give to someone just starting out in this field?

Keep an open mind. A lot of stuff doesn’t happen how you draw it up. Whatever gameplan you had or timeline you made for your career in this field, don’t allow your dreams to be crushed when it doesn’t go that way. There’s a proverb that says, “many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Do your best, even if it doesn’t pay, or pay well, it all pays off in the grand scheme of things.

● How do you approach collaboration with colleagues and clients, and what do you consider the most important aspects of successful teamwork?

Do what’s best for the song. As long as we can all keep that in mind, it doesn’t matter if the best idea came from me or the artist or some assistant in the room. If we’re all focused on doing what’s best for the song or whatever the work is, then we can put our egos aside and prioritize the quality of our product. After all is said and done, that’s what we stand on.

● What do you think sets your work apart from others in the industry, and how do you strive to differentiate yourself?

A lot of my work speaks for itself. I do what I say I’m going to do and I genuinely do my best for my clients. At the church I made a training manual for the new system. In the studio, I learn from other engineer’s mistakes and develop systems to prevent the same situations from happening. I show up early or on time, I’m efficient, and I’m experienced so it puts me in a position to teach others.

● What are some of the biggest challenges facing the industry as a whole, and how do you see it evolving in the coming years?

The biggest challenge is collaboration and camaraderie. A lot of people carry this attitude that they have to do it all on their own or that they don’t need anyone to succeed. What that does is it puts a full load on one person and makes everything 10 times harder because you have to stretch yourself thin to accomplish the same tasks a team of people are able to knock out easily. In LA and Atlanta that’s not the case. There are small hubs or groups working together to push the sound to the next level and elevate the creativity & efficiency to new heights.

● How do you measure success in your role, and what metrics do you focus on?

It can be measured in a few different ways. Short term success is more day-to-day. I had a mentor once break it down like “if you’re not making changes, you’re not making progress.” So are things staying the same or are we pushing the narrative little by little, getting just 1% better everyday. That’s all it takes. This might manifest in the artists or bands I’m working with. Before this year I couldn’t tell you how to record a choir or small ensemble. A lot of people get wrapped up in numbers or high profile placements but for me a big part is personal growth.

● Can you discuss a time when you had to make a difficult decision, and how you navigated that situation?

It’s always the live stuff that creates the biggest challenges because everything has to happen in the moment, and there are no redos or second takes. So, I’m running sound for the mayor’s funeral. People‘s reputations & potential projects are on the line and you can just imagine the personnel in the room. A lot of pressure. Long story short, the video team plays the wrong video presentations, so what shows are moments and pictures from someone else’s life. We play the first 7 seconds before we realize what’s happening and the only option is to take it down and buy time to upload the proper video. I call down to my band and have them play a little slow jam while we figure things out upstairs. Then I get my stage manager on the horn and have her proceed to the next part of the program. My guys upstairs are really hard working, solid individuals so by the time we get through that next part of the program, the new video is ready. Thankfully, the audience laughed because you know that can only go one of two ways.

● What are some of the most important qualities for someone in this field to possess, and how do you work to develop those skills?

You just need to be open-minded, patient, proactive, and a little tough. Little by little, work on setting your pride aside for the bigger picture. Time will have a funny way of teaching you patience, so be all you can while you’re waiting for this to catch fire the way you want it to. You don’t have to play some tough guy character to be tough. Tough is how you deal with rejection; how you bounce back from losses; and how you move forward despite adversity and unlevel playing fields.

● Finally, what are your goals for the future, and what are you most excited about in your work right now?

I meet a lot of fun people doing what I do. This year has a lot of events on the calendar. Part of the work is just showing up, so I’m excited to meet new people, try new things, and go where the music takes me. There are new frontiers in some of the new studios I frequent, so putting my head together with those guys is going to be a blast. They have such great energy.

● Include any information you feel was left out, links to your social media, etc.

You can find me on IG @mixedbyseed. I take new clients year-round for recording and mixing. And don’t be afraid to show up at church one Sunday morning!

Seed, the Engineer: From Church Sound to Skywalker Ranch | by Josh Gordon | Apr, 2023 | Medium

Seed, the Engineer: From Church Sound to Skywalker Ranch | 365 Interviews

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