By James Rea
Details at www.theproducerschair.com.
Two-time Grammy nominated producer/engineer/mixer Greg Archilla was born in Manhattan but grew up in Fayetteville, NC. Inspired by his music biz dad, Greg got his feet wet in the industry by booking shows. He then moved into road management and live sound.
By 1985 Greg was 22 and had spent four years on the road with Badfinger and others. He moved to Atlanta, and scored an internship at Southern Tracks Recording Studio, working with studio manager Mike Clark and engineer Doug Johnson (today an executive at Nashville’s Black River Entertainment). Greg gained a lot of experience at Southern Tracks, and had the opportunity to work with artists including The Burch Sisters, Doug Stone, and Billy Joe Royal.
After five years under Johnson’s wing, Greg moved to Memphis and became an independent engineer. A chance meeting with Collective Soul led to Greg mixing the band’s No. 1 hit “Gel.” Producers Ed Roland and Matt Serletic invited Greg to work with them on Collective Soul’s album, and later on Matchbox 20’s record-setting debut, Yourself or Someone Like You.
In 1991, Greg engineered and mixed Albert Collins’ Iceman (Point Blank), which received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album. In 1997 his skills behind the glass received another Grammy nod, this time for Best Rock Album on Neil Young’s Broken Arrow (Reprise). Some of Archilla’s other studio credits include Edwin McCain, Buckcherry, James Brown, Mavis Staples and Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as live productions with Neil Young, Matchbox 20, Collective Soul, Santana, Survivor and a slew of others.
Since Greg and the love of his life Lisa moved to Nashville in 2005, he has discovered bands Safety Suit and The Veer Union, and helped secure record deals for them with Universal/Motown Records. He’s also very excited about other new acts that span the country and rock spectrum including Jason Sturgeon, Rotation, Colour Of London, Hip Kitty, and Corey Golden. Greg says he wants everyone to know that his door is open to listen to all kinds of music.
Producer’s Chair: Is there an evolving rock scene in Nashville?
Greg Archilla: There’s a growing underground rock community. It isn’t a Seattle scene yet, but there’s a significant enough base of scouts, producers, writers and contacts, to be noticed. That said, rock music these days is the least selling of all formats. Over the last year some labels were not interested in even listening to rock bands. Today you can get in the Top 40 at Rock radio by getting around 100-140 spins a week, and there are only a little over 100 Rock stations left. So if you’re No. 1 at Rock, you would only be getting the same number of spins as a Top 20-30 at Hot AC, and a Top 30-40 at Pop. The top AC record gets 4000-5000 spins a week, that’s double what a No. 1 at Active Rock gets, with double the listening audience as well. Coupled with rock records not selling very well right now, it is difficult to get an active rock act signed these days.
Do rock artists search for songs to record?
Yes, but less than in Country or pop music. Most of the rock bands get signed on a single they wrote. Most young rock bands were never nurtured into being great songwriters, but they also have a hard time letting in an outside song. They have less of a hard time if they’re co-writing with a great writer. I do believe a reason why nobody’s buying rock albums is the lack of great songs on the records these days.
If more artists subscribed to “the best song wins” mentality, do you think the public would buy more music?
I don’t have a crystal ball, but yes it is possible. The general public only gets to hear what the industry puts out. I believe most people have to search for great music these days. The mainstream market only allows the public to hear what they want them to hear. So maybe the lack of sales means the general public doesn’t quite agree with what they are being offered.
The band’s team members should try to convince the artist that it is to their advantage to record the best songs they can find. The challenge should always be to find great songs for a record. It shouldn’t matter where the songs come from.
What is the first thing you look for in an artist?
A star with a song. It’s a personality thing—there’s confidence. And you recognize the special ones. My vision is not to always find something that relates to today’s music. My vision leads me to try and find something that may be happening next year. Years ago I was at a meeting with some executives and suggested that a country/rap artist would be cool. I got laughed under the table…two years later, along comes Cowboy Troy.
Do labels tell producers what they’re looking for?
Labels want to know about the band’s story; they want an act that’s working. They want to know how many friends they have on Facebook, and about investors and sponsors. These days my job is to be the middleman A&R guy. I have to find an act, nurture it, do the demos, make a quality record, and present them to labels. We used to be able to send in an acoustic-vocal. Nowadays, we have to literally hand the labels the complete record. We have to tell them how to market it, what videos we’ve made, and what shows we’re doing.
What’s your biggest challenge today?
Making money. Back in the 90s, a point or two on the record was great. That was when selling less than two or three million units was a failure. Nowadays, if an artist can sell a million records he or she is a superstar. Today producers are starting to cut deals involving publishing and with less concentration on points. I like to find acts that I can write a couple of songs with for the record, because at the end of the day, that’s where the money is. So producers have to figure out creative ways of making money, which is why a lot more acts are getting signed to 360 deals, so that the people backing them are more involved in management, publishing, merchandising and touring income.