Grammy® Nominated Anthony Newett on Producing Records

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Anthony Newett

Anthony Newett is a successful record producer, songwriter, recording engineer, and instrumentalist. His musical talents were discovered at the tender age of two when he demonstrated the ability known as “perfect pitch” to his father, James, who was an accomplished guitarist.

He has teamed up with industry veterans, such as Los Angeles based songwriter, Allan Rich (“Run To You” by Whitney Houston), the late Kenny Nolan (“My Eyes Adored You – Frankie Valley), Radio/TV Personality Glenn Beck (The Glenn Beck Program). He’s produced for songwriting team Ashford and Simpson and has worked side-by-side with industry veterans Dale KawashimaAhmet Ertegun, and many more.

Newett’s first national release was for late jazz vocalist Clyde Terrell. Shortly thereafter, Newett was commissioned by movie producer Max L. Raab to record and produce the entire soundtrack for the motion picture “Strut!”, directed by Robert Downey.

Newett currently owns and operates Newett Studios. In addition to working with many talented artists, he regularly composes and produces music for national television and radio programs.

Do you play any musical instruments?

Guitar, Keys, Bass, Drums, 5-String/Tenor Banjo, Mandolin, and Trumpet.

How did you get into music and for how long have you been producing for?

I’ve been playing music from a toddler. My father was a professional musician and music instructor. I knew I wanted to be like him from my earliest memories. By the time I was 6, I played my first professional gig. When I was about 8, my dad and I played tracks for the original Klondike Ice Cream Bar commercial, recorded at Queen Village Recording Studios in Philadelphia. My dad played banjo and I played country fiddle (I didn’t identify this as one of my instruments, as I don’t consider myself very good, although what I played sufficed for the commercial). I knew I wanted to get involved with recording after this experience. I started with a couple of cassette recorders doing sound-on-sound. By the time I was 17, I purchased my first four-track. I learned to make the most of what I had. People didn’t believe I was recording to 1/8″ tape at 3 3/4 IPS on four tracks. I became very good at bouncing. The progression from there was what you’d expect: linear-digital formats like ADAT and DA-88’s, until I ventured into the magic of DAWs! By the late 90s, I worked with some very talented songwriters in Philadelphia. I had the pleasure of working side-by-side with industry veteran Dale Kawashima to produce an artist he was shopping. We took her into New York with the finished product and played for Ahmet ErtegunArif Marden, and many others. I began to develop a reputation among several entertainment attorneys looking for the best possible product for their clients. By 2002, I was commissioned by filmmaker Max L. Raab to perform and produce the entire soundtrack for the motion picture “Strut“, about the beloved Philadelphia Mummers. Shortly thereafter, my attention turned to radio. I was hired by Mercury Radio Arts to produce the music for The Glenn Beck Program and several other national radio networks. I still do this, and I love it!

What, in your opinion, are the skills needed to be a music producer?

The best producers are musicians… I mean real musicians. You have to understand chordal structure and harmonies… not just rhythm. Of course, this is genre-dependent. In my world, there must be an innate understanding of how notes are supposed to work together. You must have a keen sense of pitch accuracy as well. All of these things are about the music itself. There is an entire world of production that has to do with having your finger on the pulse of what people like to hear. I will be the first to admit that I would not be a good producer in today’s pop world. I am a traditionalist. My goal is to paint a picture of beauty. I’m always thinking about the general audience. I want everyone and anyone to listen to my work and enjoy it, even if it’s not inline with their personal taste. You may say, if I were a tailor, I’d make men’s suits… something that has an indefinite shelf-life with a classic style that everyone appreciates.

How do you become a music producer? Do you study with courses, learn online, or just experiment?

I have no formal training. I listened to guys like Les Paul. I wanted to understand how he was able to make his guitar sound this way. I wouldn’t quit until I figured it out and replicated it. I became a huge fan of The Beatles after John Lennon died. I was 13 years old, and I had never really listened to them. But, the news was inundated with the music of Lennon and his counterparts. Then, I learned of George Martin. I was fascinated and read books about him and watched as many documentaries as I could get my hands on. I also studied the production of Barry Manilow. There was something lush and beautiful about the way he’d weave french horns, and screaming violins around a solid rock beat drenched in reverb. I wanted to understand this. The more questions I had, the more I dug-in. Then I heard my production superhero… David Foster. The first time I heard “Hard Habit to Break” by Chicago, I fell in love. I know I’m all over the place, but… I am also heavily inspired by Queen’s guitarist Brian May. In many ways, his self-harmonized style is not unlike Les Paul, even though the styles are very different. Those guys made a gigantic sound from one instrument. All of this magic shaped me into who I am today. While It sounds like I’m entrenched in sappy soft rock, this is not really the case. Those guys helped shape me. I believe my heart lies in a more homegrown, Americana sound. I am currently working with a Philadelphia Singer-Songwriter by the name of Dan May. His stuff is beautiful, and I’m proud to be part of his process. If you had to pigeon-hole his genre, I suppose it would be Americana. I love working with him.
Check him out here: https://www.danmaycd.com/

Who are the producers who have most influenced your approach to music production and why did they have that influence?

I suppose I jumped the gun with that last question. David Foster/George Martin.

What DAW are you currently working with? Why do you prefer to work with this DAW?

My first venture into non-linear recording was with a software called Cakewalk. At that time, they were owned by a company called Twelve Tone Systems. It was among the very first generation of DAWs, in which there was a user interface that seamlessly combined MIDI with audio, without having to use the dreaded SMPTE track. It was fabulous.
At this point, identifying one DAW over the other as being “better” is foolish. They all work very similarly. It’s like having a fight over whether or not Google Docs or MS Word is going to influence the quality of your document. It’s about the environment you’re comfortable with. All these many years later, I have circled back to Cakewalk. They’re now owned by a company called BandLab. Amazingly, it’s free. I almost choked when I saw this. I believe BandLab has built a sort of social media platform for people to share their work. I suppose they make their money in sponsorship. Having said that, I’ve invested quite a lot in extensive soft synth libraries. I highly recommend Native Instruments. If you can do it, go for the full package. You won’t be sorry.

And what about your room? How big is it? Is there treatment?

My original studio in Philly was pretty big. I used to bring in bands in my early days of recording. Now that I am doing all of this radio work, my studios have gotten progressively smaller. The clients that I see are generally solo artists. The room is semi-live with wood surfaces, tamed with strategic placement of foam and some bass traps. It’s a good room!

Newett Studios

When you set up your sessions, what’s your general layout and what would you start mixing first?

What would I start mixing first? I’d say these days, I’m mixing as I go. I usually lay down keys or acoustic guitar first, if I’m recording the instruments. If there’s a client with me for the initial tracking, I will have them lay down a scratch vocal while they strum a guitar or play keys. We build on top of this. By the time I’m 3 or 4 instruments deep, I’m already EQ’ing and evaluating the relationship between them. By the time I reach final mix, it’s already about 80% there.

In your opinion, what classifies as a good mix and a good master?

When you can hear each individual instrument and voice. You can tell that there’s a good sonic landscape when things don’t step on the other.

What are your five most favorite plugins?

  • The NI library, for sure. I don’t think this is what you mean. Well, speaking of NI, they actually do bundle plugins with their libraries. They have this tool called Guitar Rig. I have NEVER been a fan of the sounds you get when trying to go directly into a board with a guitar. I’m equally frustrated with mic’ing my guitar amp. I settled on using a Fender Cyber-Twin with fantastic cabinet simulation, then I’d tweak in my DAW. Well, when I first started messing with NI’s Guitar Rig, I realized that with patience, I can craft my exact sound in the DAW, as long as I have a solid input from my guitar through my audio interface. I usually run through my Universal Audio mic pre and throw some optical compression on the guitar before it makes its way into the DAW. My computer is very fast, so I get almost undetectable latency, allowing me to hear Guitar Rig in real-time.
  • I’d say iZotope Ozone for mastering. 
  • There’s a multi-band compressor bundled with Cakewalk that I am finding absolutely indispensable called the LP-64. It’s a much better approach when shaping an instrument tonally, rather than just scooping out frequencies.  
  • Lastly, I like the “BREVERB” plugin, also bundled with Cakewalk for my reverb.

What’s the one plug-in that you simply couldn’t do without?

Probably Ozone. I’ve messed with other mastering packages. They have it down!

Which plug-ins do you like to use on vocals?

I usually get the sound very close on the input, using my mic pre and optical compressor. Once I’m in, some gentle scooping of some unwanted frequencies will do the trick. I also use my multi-band compressor in lieu of EQ many times. Vocal plugins with factory presets are never right. I guess it’s a good starting point for a beginner, but it’s never right. You really have to work with the individual voice, and you have to know how to place your mic effectively in a sufficiently dry room. Get it right on the in… if you’re struggling with plug-ins on the voice, you did something wrong. I do like a certain amount of reverb on my vocals, but I wouldn’t count that as a voice plug-in, per se.

Do different reverb types have certain roles in your productions?

Just when it comes to fine-tuning things like decay and tonal roll-offs, etc. It’s always situational based on what I’m doing.

What plugins do you typically have on your master bus?

On the master bus? I may throw on a shelf to roll off unwanted lows. Other than that, I won’t put anything on the bus until I am absolutely sure the mix is perfect. Then, I will (maybe) have some light compression and, of course, Ozone for the sonic maximizer!

As far as EQing goes, are you doing more subtractive, additive or is it an equal amount of both?

90% subtractive! Most pros will tell you this. First sign of a newbie is the additive approach. Sure… I’ll throw a little gloss on the top. Gotta be careful with that!

In regard to cutting frequencies, are there areas that you find yourself gravitating more towards?

There’s no way to answer this question in generality. It depends on the instrument. If you pushed me for an answer, I find myself scooping out the dreaded boxy sound that sits in the lower mids.

What type of compression plugins do you usually use?

LP-64 Multiband, and I like Cakewalk’s PC4K S-Type!

Do you have a lot of compression going on?

Nope!

How do you make your mix louder?

Ozone’s Sonic Maximizer! I usually like to preserve as much as the dynamics as possible. In the 90s when I was working with all of the Britney Spears wannabes, I was doing the Max Martin slam. Ozone is great with this, and the pumping is minimal (if you know what you’re doing).

Is it possible to master 100% in the box?

I’ve learned to master in the box. I have a clear recollection of the days I would master using outboard gear. It’s important for me to have full and instant recall. I get a little nuts when I master… I’m giving my ears a break… I’m running to the car…. I’m listening on my bluetooth speaker… I’ve even gotten to the point at which I am listening through the crappy phone speaker. I started doing this when Stu Burguire from “Stu Does America” asked me to record music for his show. He called and said, “I love it… but I can’t hear the bass”. I said, “what?… what are you listening on?”  He said, “my phone.” I said, “why on earth would you do that”, and he said, “because 90% of my audience will”. That was disheartening, of course.  But, I did learn there was not a whole lot you can do in the mix. If you hype the bass to try and get some sense of it through the phone, it will destroy the tonality for everything else.  Though, there are some things you can do to help.

What is your biggest challenge as a music producer?

People! When someone comes to me and is inconsistent with their melodies, or their timing is bad, it can be difficult. If I’m writing a chord progression to someone’s melody, they have to be accurate.

What׳s your advice to producers who are starting out and making tracks in their bedroom?

I’d quote them the old adage “garbage-in, garbage-out”. Get it right when doing the initial tracking. Think sensibly. Don’t place a mic where you wouldn’t want to hear something with your own ear. A lot of it is common sense. Please don’t rely on factory pre-sets and plugins that supposedly give you the perfect vocal sound, etc. I suppose this advice is more for new engineers. These days, there are typically two hats worn… so, that would be my advice with respect to the technical, sonic end of things. As for the production of music… do what your heart tells you to do. You have to love it! All of those little details that you sweat over… that’s where the magic lies! Don’t get bummed if you’re not earning a living from it. If it’s something that you are truly meant to do, then you’ll keep doing it… even if it’s just an expensive hobby!

Would you like to work with Newett Studios?

Newett Studios offer the following services:

  • In Studio Recording & Production
  • Remote production
  • Live recording at your location
  • Instrumental & Vocal lessons
  • Mastering
  • Songwriting

Here’s where you can contact Newett Studios:

Official Website:
https://www.newettstudios.com

Email:
arnewett@gmail.com

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/newettstudios/

2 thoughts on “Grammy® Nominated Anthony Newett on Producing Records”

  1. Hey Anthony, great interview!

    I wish you luck with the Grammy selection.

    Of course with a name like Newett, how could you loose?

    Reply

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