I’m a Record Producer Now
This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #154. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.
A tongue-in-cheek but also painfully earnest look at pop culture and anything else that deserves to be ridiculed while at the same time regarded with the utmost respect. It is written by Matt Marrone and emailed to Stu Horvath and David Shimomura, who add any typos or factual errors that might appear within.
To my faithful reader, I am a man of many hats. Columnist. Husband. Father. Distinguished cemetery board member.
Until now, though, my musical credits have amounted to little more than a one-night-only metal taco performance at Mercury Lounge.
But no more. It’s time to add another hat to my ever-swelling head: record producer.
To be precise – ahem – I’m an executive producer. At least that is how I am listed in the liner notes of “The Great Awakening,” the new album by the rock band Shearwater.
Shearwater has long been among my favorite bands. They’ve never quite hit it big like I once thought they would, but they have a damn fine catalogue. So, when I had the chance to hop on board, to help shape the music that has meant so much to me over the years, I didn’t let it slip by. I forked over my executive producer-tier Indiegogo payment and awaited my call to the recording studio.
After all, I had some thoughts. After the band’s subtler, quieter “Island Arc” series, they’d taken a more aggressive approach with their two most recent albums, with a few mixtape-ready tracks that I again mistakenly thought might grab a more casual audience. Band leader Jonathan Meiburg then took some time away to do a couple records with his excellent side project, Loma, featuring lead singer Emily Cross. How about melding some of the stellar late-night groove of Loma with the brighter, hookier elements of recent Shearwater works? Maybe a duet with Cross? Or maybe throw away everything but the guitars and drums and make Shearwater’s rockiest record yet – a full album’s worth of songs like “Century Eyes”?
In other words, I was ready to give Meiburg my notes with an open mind.
The call to the studio, naturally, never came. It was not part of the deal. And, it turns out, the record is somehow even subtler and quieter than the Island Arc, not at all the progression the band had been taking of late, but not a radical departure from their oeuvre, either. As an executive producer, I got an early copy, but I still need time to let it all sink in.
At least it’s not a hot pile of steaming garbage, because, as I said, MY NAME IS IN THE LINER NOTES. This record reflects on me. When Pitchfork recently gave it a 6.8, I felt as if Pitchfork was giving me a 6.8.
I can’t say I don’t deserve it. There are many days when I feel like a 6.8, and there are still others when I wish I felt like a 6.8.
So would it be all that weird, really, if I were to substitute my own name for Meiburg’s in Ian Cohen’s review?
Let’s try it.
“In his authorial and musical pursuits, Marrone is unafraid to practice patience to document a beauty that can’t be forced.”
Gorgeous. Maybe a little too long for my headstone? Then again, remember: Besides being an executive producer, I do help run that cemetery.
I can see it now:
Columnist. Husband. Father. Distinguished cemetery board member.
“Unafraid to practice patience to document a beauty that can’t be forced.”
Matt Marrone is a senior MLB editor at ESPN.com. He has been Unwinnable’s reigning Rookie of the Year since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @thebigm.