Is using a producer even necessary? The 412 with producer Lauren DeMichiei | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Is using a producer even necessary? The 412 with producer Lauren DeMichiei

click to enlarge Lauren DeMichiei - PHOTO: HEATHER MULL
Photo: Heather Mull
Lauren DeMichiei

Motown legend Berry Gordy shaped the careers of acts like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight. Sam Phillips played a fundamental role in Elvis Presley becoming the King of Rock and Roll. Linda Perry is the woman behind Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” and Pink’s “Get the Party Started.” Producers are the unsung heroes of music, but recently, bands and musicians have started to move away from using them in the studio. Musician-turned-producer Lauren DeMichiei hopes her project, Cite Your Sources, will show local acts the benefits of collaborating with a producer. 

“When people hear producer, they think of [a] beat maker,” says DeMichiei. “Like someone who’s working with [Logic Pro] or Reason, different [audio] programs, synthesizers, but really if you look at a rock and roll producer from the ’70s, ’80s, or even ’90s, they don’t do that. They are in the studio with artists getting the best possible performances, working with the engineers to get the best possible sound.” 

DeMichiei began working on Cite Your Sources, a collection of mini EPs, about two years ago when she decided to stop performing as an artist. Working with 26 collaborators from Pittsburgh, New York, and L.A., DeMichiei stripped down, cut up, and produced songs she’s performed over the years. The goal was to have a solid example of what she can do for artists across different genres as a producer.

“It’s really hard to get artists to trust you and work on their stuff,” says DeMichiei. “They don’t see the benefit of having a producer on their tracks. A lot of times, bands go into the studio and just want to get something out so they can get gigs. They’re not really thinking about the songcraft.”

Unlike an engineer, producers typically manage the project and take on tasks like catering the space to the artist and making creative decisions about instrumentation. They even manage budgets.

“You set aside $5,000 for your recording. If you have a producer, they [are] going to make sure that $5,000 gets you what you’re looking for,” says DeMichiei. “Engineers can wear many hats, but the work often suffers if they are wearing too many.”

The final track for DeMichiei’s Cite Your Sources project is set to drop this year after she makes a music video for the song with a local puppeteer. After that, her goal is to write and produce tracks not released under her name, becoming an unsung hero in the Pittsburgh music scene. 

The 412 is CP’s music feature where you can get local band/musician updates and fun, random tidbits of information all in one.

 Qs about work-life

Are you a messy or clean desk type of person?

Totally [a] clean-desk person here. If I didn’t stay super organized, I wouldn’t be able to do all that I do. 

What makes your workspace feel the most comforting?

Artwork. I have pieces from Danielle Robinson, Lex Covato, Gabe Felice, Teenie Harris Harris, and Karl Mullen

Would you rather work in a cubicle or an open-plan office?

I’d rather not be restricted to work in any one place. Technology and planning allow us to be productive almost anywhere. 

What’s your favorite lunchtime meal?

I have cut out most sugar and carbs from my diet lately, so I am digging on the cauliflower crust pizza and power greens for lunch. 

Q about relationships

What’s the worst date you’ve ever been on?

Dating? What’s that? I was lucky to avoid the current dating climate, as I’ve been with my partner since 2002. 

But I suppose the worse date I was ever on was the date I didn’t know I was on. I was hanging with a lady from L.A. who was in town working on Batman, and she put the moves on me. I was like, “Whoa! That was unexpected."

Qs about music

If you could go anywhere to be alone and work on music, where would it be?

Hm … I would love to work on music solo deep in the desert of maybe Arizona or New Mexico. 

Any deep nature spot would be a good retreat for me, though. Even here in Appalachia, as I have yet to venture out somewhere remote, solo with a demo rig. 

Best movie or television soundtrack?

This is a tough one, there are so many great soundtracks & composers! Currently, I am vibing on Hildur Guðnadóttir’s work. She composed the music from Chernobyl (the HBO series) and Joker, and I am really interested in her non-conventional approach to composing. Also shout out to my favorite movie soundtrack composer, Jon Brion, who did Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, among others, and he even produced some tracks on Mac Miller’s final album, Swimming.

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