Simone Sello is an Italian born music producer, who currently resides in Los Angeles. In addition to producing, he is also a guitarist, songwriter, and music journalist. He is best known for his work with the Sanremo Festival Orchestra, Chicanery, Billy Sheehan, Aaron Carter, Disney, Hannah Montana, Vasco Rossi, Amber Lilly, and Warren Cuccurullo. He owns RedRum Productions, Session Recording and Music DemoProducer.com, which are all music production companies. Simone recently took time out of his busy schedule to speak with The Talent Notes…
TTN: Hi Simone. Thank you for suggesting this topic! What would you like to accomplish in discussing how artists are viewed versus how they view themselves?
Simone: I would mainly like to give some insight to aspiring artists. Many young artists seem unaware of what it takes to cultivate a certain view of themselves in the public eye. I have mainly worked in the music industry, and I have seen a lot of potentially great artists fail due to this. For instance, a singer might record a great performance for YouTube alone in their bedroom, but that is different from being asked to create a sound on command, whether that is in the sterile environment of the studio or in front of a crowd of people you’ve never met. It is important that young artists, especially, are aware of mitigating factors like this while they are creating their image.
TTN: I agree – a lot of what makes or breaks a performer is how they are seen! I think people forget that. In your bio, I read your (quite impressive) credentials, and it seems like you have seen almost every angle of the music industry. Can you tell me a little about the different perspectives an artist receives from different areas of production/collaboration?
Simone: I can’t say I know the artist’s perspective in full, because the implications of being a solo artist are not part of my current reality. I see and know some of this through the artists’ eyes when I collaborate with them, but in these days I am more of a producer.
When you are performing, you are trying to please whomever you are working or performing for. As a guitarist, I might get called into a studio or on stage to deliver a service: the artist is basically asking for a piece of what I have to offer… In that respect, the session player has to be able to discern what it is that the other party wants, but also remember that they are not driving. They do not get to make the final call.
Working as a producer, I am co-driving: the artist makes the executive decisions, but I am right there with them, seeing things they cannot, and trying to offer input to broaden their scope and awareness.
As a composer, I try to put a little more of myself in the final product. I like to compose for movies, T.V., etc. Usually I have fewer limitations there; there is more room to leave my personal signature in the work.
Simone with Aaron Carter and keyboardist Stanley Jones
TTN: I also read that you are a native Italian and have worked with some international artists and collaborators. Have you experienced a difference in the way different cultures perceive their talent?
Simone: Definitely! Living and working in L.A. is a great stroke of luck for me. I believe that the level of artistry and connection with the business side of the entertainment world here is superior to anywhere else. As far as music goes, other places are similar: NYC, Nashville, London, Paris, Berlin. Still, I have to say that L.A. takes the lead over them. And in general, here in the U.S.A. we are exposed to a culture that is a little bit ahead of the rest of the world. This is not always a conscious process, but working in the entertainment industry here means to be ahead. That doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is better or worse: just different.
Though I still believe the U.S.A. is the place to be in this respect, European artists and collaborators definitely have their unique strengths: they tend to be a little more capable of digging deeper and finding alternate solutions, and understand certain trends better than Americans. The U.S.A is better known for doing things first; Europe is known more for being introspective and unique.
TTN: What do you think the two could learn from each other?
Simone: They’re like the right and left sides of the brain – you need both to balance! Europe tends to start with the “Old World” foundations at an early age. I think that’s a great example of something the U.S. could integrate. In America, I understand they have done away with a lot of early music education. Often, you can tell who has been taught the fundamentals from early on and who has not. Sometimes those who have turn out to be better performers, and I think that’s important.
The U.S., on the other hand, is a great example of bravery and pioneering thought. Americans really know how to take risks and push on to newer and bigger things right away. I think this is also important, and something Europeans could take note of.
TTN: With all of that in mind, what’s the big picture as far as an artists’ image and perception go? How do these all factor in?
Simone: Today, in 2013, we have tools that are very powerful, and were inconceivable years ago. Perhaps we have too many. With a little focus, though, artists can use these tools to learn about the types of things we’ve discussed and to research their craft. There are plenty of opportunities for this in music with Spotify, YouTube and others.
Nowadays, unless you’re doing an orchestral work or something else that is very specific, you can essentially make a record in a room by yourself if you want. If you’re a singer/songwriter and you want to achieve even a marginal level of success (a handful of followers), you basically need to go on YouTube, compare yourself with others who have a similar story, appeal or age range, and try to relate to them directly. See how they are working their skills, and how you can use that to improve your own and create a respectable image.
It is important not to forget, however, to consult with the professionals; they have been around a while and generally know what they’re talking about. As a producer, I have seen what this can give to an artist: effectiveness and humility.
TTN: What about individuality? What if someone is trying to create a unique or original idea or image?
Simone: Being original is always a plus, but anything original is always relative to something that has already been done. Jimi Hendrix, for instance, created a lot of things, but he did not invent the electric guitar! He heard someone play and expounded on that.
When studying any art form, the technical aspect is very important, and sometimes people undervalue that. It doesn’t hurt to know music theory if you are a musician, or to know the classics if you are an actor. To be original, you should own the foundations even better so you can know the rules, then break them.
TTN: Knowing what you know now about how vital an artist’s image is, what would you do differently if you could go back to your performing days?
Simone: I say this with a smile: I have no regrets! But if I were to change something, I would really do my research and try to see myself from different perspectives. I would try to understand what people are thinking. An artist has to be a psychologist, whether they are aware of it or not, for many people. They have to understand what goes on outside of their “box”. People are there to connect and to find something about you, as an artist, that they love. Some artists simply have a gift; they can wake up and write or perform or whatever without a lot of effort, then connect with a large number of people right away. Most, however, do not, and that’s where the psychological research comes in. Understanding your audience is crucial. If I were to change anything, this would be it; I would do the research and put it into action much earlier. That’s the best advice I can give to any artist/performer.
Contact Simone: firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
Interview by Melissa Baden, for The Talent Notes