Up Close & Personal with Producer/Songwriter Curtis Douglas

Song River: There is so much that goes into producing quality, yet we live in a world of quantity. How do you sort through all of this and is there undue pressure more so nowadays to “hurry up” and finish? 

Curtis Douglas: With all the tools that we have at our disposal today for making music, it's easy to make music "sound" good but as we all know, a song sounding good and a song being good are two completely different things.  I try my best to not rush any aspect of the songwriting process, but I do find myself working as efficiently as possible on the production side of things.  I try not to let the pressure of finishing affect the quality of the song.  

Song River: Are you a musician/singer-songwriter as well as a producer? If so, do you find both sides help you attain more of what you are looking for not only for yourself but for others?  

Curtis Douglas: I'm equal parts both.  At a young age - about 15 years ago - I started playing music and writing songs.  The next step in the natural progression of things was to start recording my own music.  That started an ongoing snowball effect that helped develop both my musician and producer sides.  Knowing what is possible on the production side of things has really catapulted my songwriting to a whole other level. I use this experience to help my clients with their own songs/arrangements.

Song River: Where did you receive your official “training” to become a producer? Being that there are a variety of schools to attend, what were you looking for when you wanted to delve into this profession further?

Curtis Douglas: I haven't received any "formal" education, however, I started doing this during the infancy of computer-based recording.  I felt like I was learning along with everyone else who was first being exposed to the new way of digital recording.  I have spent thousands of hours honing my craft: learning, researching, songwriting, working with bands, and so on.  I have since gone on to teach Pro Tools/songwriting courses and have spoken to many community college and alike classes about what I do and how to start the journey into production and songwriting. 

Song River: Looking at the first question, do you feel anyone can hang up their "I am a recording engineer/producer/mastering guru” shingle nowadays?

Curtis Douglas: The more work you do, the more you realize where your core competencies lie.  This makes it easier to delegate jobs to the people who have different areas of expertise than you.  I try to work on things that I know I can do well and that I specialize in - that being songwriting and vocal production.  Sometimes, yes, I am responsible for every part of the production process and it is an advantage to have the skillset to do all these things well, however I don't always feel that it's in the best interest of the project.  

Song River: What advice do you give to bands looking for that right fit, as many of them work on such tight budgets?

Curtis Douglas: The first piece of advice I give is that not every band is right for every producer and vice versa.  As far as budget is concerned, I like to think that money comes and goes but songs are immortalized forever.  In my opinion, it's always worth spending more money and getting a better product than spending less and wondering what could have been.  When it comes to finding the right fit, artists need to find a producer whose opinion they trust, and whose track record is indicative of the result they're looking for.

Song River: Can a person develop an “ear” to create that infinitesimally small sound difference that either makes a stellar production or a so-so track?

Curtis Douglas: Just like anything else, the proper training can yield high quality results and, in turn, give people the ability to hear minute differences in production.  I think the more you do something, the easier it is to break it down into smaller parts and get more in depth.  So much of this is countless hours of working and subconscious learning.  To me the difference between a so-so track and a stellar one is not cutting any corners during every phase of the songwriting, recording, mixing process. 

Song River: Calling Arizona home, you travel extensively. And recently didn't you join forces with Rolling Artists? Talk to me about this.

Curtis Douglas: I do travel occasionally to work with artists, but more and more artists are coming to Phoenix to take advantage of the incredible facility that I'm lucky enough to work in (the amazing Red Mountain Studios, owned by Rick Erickson).  I did recently join forces with Rolling Artists Management, and couldn't be happier to have such a hard-working duo on my side.  Their level of professionalism is unparalleled and I look forward to the fruitful journey ahead of us.  

Song River: What other projects are you involved with, seems we heard you work with Disney in some aspect as well?

Curtis Douglas: As far as other projects are concerned, I like to work on as many different types of projects I can.  I find that working with a diverse clientele leads to being a well-rounded producer/engineer with a lot to add to any musical situation.  In the past, that has included working with a few artists that have gone on to have their songs played on Radio Disney and other similar media outlets.  Early on in my career, I realized that I had a love for pop music that held no boundaries.  I find great joy in working on Disney/Disney inspired arrangements and productions.  Even though I am not working with many younger, Disney style artists anymore, I will always hold those times close to my heart. 

Song River: State of the art equipment and a sixth sense that is keen in knowing each note within in a song is only a part of the overall equation. There is the songwriting and the vocal abilities along with everything other part. What is one piece of sound advice you offer those bands who desire to create the best single, EP, or album? 

Curtis Douglas: The best advice I can give is to not settle on subpar arrangements, melodies, or lyrics. If you aren't happy with, or you and your bandmates aren't in agreement on a specific part, song, or melody, work towards making it feel good for everyone.   Always push yourself to make things as good as they can possibly be, while still being able to look at the song from an outsider’s perspective.  

Song River: Who are some of the musicians you have worked with?

Curtis Douglas: I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing artists throughout the years. Here is a very small list of some of the more notable ones: The Maine, Katastro, Sundressed, WYVES, Steff Koeppen and the Articles, This Century, Naked Walrus, A Step Ahead, and so many more. 

Song River: Is there a particular band or musician you have always wanted to work with?

Curtis Douglas: I love pop music in general.  A dream of mine has always been to become a vocal producer for today's Top 40 artists.  I feel a strength of mine is getting the absolute best vocal performances possible out of my clients, and would love for that to be a majority of my work.  I would love to work on anything from Bruno Mars to Rihanna to New Found Glory. 

Song River: Finally, Curtis what other hobbies or ventures do you delve into?

Curtis Douglas: I love anything outdoors; spending time with family; my dog, Luna; and making the most of what little time off I have. I pride myself on knowing as many dad jokes as humanly possible and am always looking for new ones to add to my repertoire. I also love Mexican food -  taco, burrito, you name it! I have a handful of great, go-to restaurants I like to take clients to.