Highlights and insights from producer Chris Walla’s keynote

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What a day it was at The Melbourne Sessions! And it started with an insightful keynote with American producer, songwriter and engineer Chris Walla in conversation with Australian producer and composer Jan Skubiszewski. Here’s a recap of what we learned from the former Death Cab for Cutie member.

For posterity, the conversation will remain on the APRA AMCOS Facebook page, and you can watch right now below, in full.

Process of developing a song into something release-ready

“The process of making a record collaboratively has at least as much to do with personal chemistry and the group dynamic as it does with the songs. The songs and the chemistry actually really inform one another.”

Home studio set-up

“A microphone, a computer, an interface, headphones and a program.” When asked what program(s), he said, “I love Pro Tools, but it’s a monster. It’s conducive to editing everything one it’s written and arranged.” The room was equally split between Logic and Ableton Live users, which makes sense as each “suits different approaches and writing styles,” Walla said.

Which of your albums has been life-defining for you?

“I think the second Death Cab for Cutie record, We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes. That was the first time that I had worked on a record where I felt like we had done everything that we could possibly do, and that it couldn’t possibly have been better. That feeling has never left me and that’s the thing that I want to bring to everything that I do.”

Fostering a hit

“All the moments that have really worked, that have been transcendent, have been moments where money is the furthest from the conversation. It’s the moments where people feel safe, supported and engaged with what’s happening emotionally in the song.”

Building a business team

“My rule is never get into business with somebody who you wouldn’t actually want to be in a band with.”

When you’re making a record, do you find yourself listening to other music?

“I find that keeping in touch with other music that people are listening to is very important. Now that we have Spotify, everything is a level playing field.”

Relationship with mental health

“It’s a constant challenge. Part of how I find my way through it is being in a room with other people that I can openly express that with.”

Is contemporary pop music a young person’s game?

This was a question from the audience, and Walla responded thoughtfully. “I’d like to say yes, but I just don’t know, though…I think that the door feels open in a way for anything to happen. Anything is possible.”