KNOW YOUR SCENE: Mitch Beer

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ROP: You’ve recently grown into an active producer role like in your work with OddKidOut. What do you see as the key to being a great producer?

Mitch Beer: You have to set the table right for the song to be great. You have to make sure that it’s being served as beautifully as it can be because there are so many great songs out there.

Most of the time, you have to have great playing that you can manipulate, because it’s about the feeling that great playing gives you.  There are times where I am considering redoing a take and then I or the producer I’m working with will say, “Nah man, it’s got that vibe.” It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, perfection is the enemy of greatness. The music has to catch that feeling and that’s why you call in great players. I’m not a good guitar player in a band or live setting, but, on a record, I’m a serviceable guitar player because I have musician’s hands and can make it feel good one time. A great engineer and producer can chop that and make something great out of it.  That’s great teamwork and that can lead to great production.   Great simple parts, great hooks, don’t have too much going on, and in the right producers hands it’s gonna be great.  

ROP: How did you first begin working with OddKidOut? What was it that stood out to you?

MB: I’ve been mentoring Butch (aka OddKidOut) since he was fifteen. I took him to his first jam session at the Boom Room about five years ago. He was already a talented drummer, he fit in perfectly, and it was then I knew he was special. He’s also amazing on the beat pad. Butch just got written up by Philly Weekly, who named him the “Instagram Impresario.” He is a very talented, smart, and social media savvy person. He just released his EP and it’s already reached 500,000 downloads, and that’s amazing without being a major label artist. I’m just excited about OddKidOut getting his name out of Philadelphia and the new opportunities that are coming his way.

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Photo by Brittany Salerno

ROP: It’s true, despite Philly’s active live music market, there remains a serious void for labels and other music businesses to fill within the greater music scene. What do you think bands and artists need to do to take their careers to the next level?

MB: You live and die on the song. A band can have success if you’re really tight knit and can tour forever. However, you might not be able to do work besides your band and without a great song, it doesn’t really matter. Having a song will let you eat from music and it opens up a lot more opportunities. The guys at Gamble & Huff always said, ‘The song is king.’ One of the greatest lessons I learned from engineer and producer David Ivory is the importance of playing the same part over and over again so that it actually disappears and the song can get you even more.  You stop paying attention to what the drummer and bassist are doing and you hear whatever that song is doing even clearer when it’s a hypnotic part. Writing those hypnotic parts is part of creating a great song.

As far as songwriting and production goes, it is way more awesome to me when I don’t focus on the virtuosity of the musicians and I only notice what’s being sung to me right now; because that’s what grabs people.  The average listener doesn’t care about a virtuosic instrumental performance. They care about the feeling they get from the music. I am a huge Max Martin fan as well as a Katy Perry fan, because they understand this, and I break this stuff down because I’m obsessed with the guy who’s writing more #1 hits in the world than anybody. There is greatness in the simplicity, and that is true musicality!

 

ROP: Did you always have this respect for that kind of songwriting?

MB: The journey I’ve been on went from only listening to super technical music like Yes and King Crimson, to twelve-minute jams by the Grateful Dead and basically shunning all popular music, to now listening to popular music and thinking ‘Holy crap that’s incredible!’ Paul McCartney has  said many times over the course of his career that popular music is where the greatest musicians find themselves because they see beyond what they are doing. They’re trying to communicate to as many people as possible. You’d be shocked by how freaking hard it is to do that, and simplicity is the key to that. Charles Mingus, one of the greatest bassists and jazz musicians of all time, said that, “To make the simple complex is commonplace. To make the complex simple is sublime.” It is really hard to make three notes or three words connect with somebody.

Think about a song like “Rock With You.” How simple of an idea is that? It captures that feeling perfectly. As a musician, that’s why I go to rehearsals because I want to rock with those people. That’s why I go to a show with my girl, Bo Rains, because I want to rock with her. To capture a simple idea like that is near impossible to do. That’s the brilliance.

 

I’ll listen to a song and I might think to myself, “Ugh this song sucks!” Then I’ll see it played for someone who doesn’t know anything about music and they’ll be rocking to it. Now I’m like, “This song doesn’t suck. I suck, because I don’t get what they’re getting right now. I need to be different; I need to understand what that person is feeling, because my dream is to make music that communicates with people. You have to do something that hits home, that means something to somebody that… somebody is going to put on when they’re at a party or when they’re sad. If a song has virtuosic songwriting, if it’s greatness, it will find its place.

What do YOU think of Philly’s own Mitch beer? Tell us in the comments below!

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