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Originally from Los Angeles, producer, mixer, engineer, and songwriter David Greenbaum has joined the Artlist team. He’s worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Paul McCartney, Beck, U2, Gorillaz, and more. Not to mention he’s produced for powerhouse record labels like Capitol Records, Warner Bros. Records, and Sony Music.
David has also been recognized for his achievements by the Recording Academy of the United States with 6 prestigious Grammy Award wins, partnering with Beck: 3 for the album Morning Phase, 2 for Colors, and another 1 for Hyperspace.
We sat down with him at our Artlist recording studio to talk about his time in the industry, what brought David to Artlist, and to get some tips for creatives looking to break into the industry.
David, we’re thrilled to have you with us at Artlist. Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got into the music industry?
Sure, I’m originally from Los Angeles, and music has always been a big part of my life. I grew up playing in bands and enjoying live music. So after high school, I decided to take my love for music to the next level, and I enrolled in music school to study production and recording.
But like most industries, real learning happens on the job, not in the classroom. I got my first studio job with Linda Perry, which completely changed the trajectory of my career.
Linda Perry is a singer-songwriter, musician, and record producer. She was the lead singer and primary songwriter of 4 Non Blondes, founded two record labels, and composed and produced hit songs for a number of famous artists.
I got to watch Linda Perry sit down and write songs with people like Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Avril Lavigne. It was amazing to be a fly on the wall for those kinds of intimate sessions. Linda was a real mentor to me, so I decided to play her some music that I had produced and written with my longtime collaborator and wife, Sophie, and she encouraged us to stay on the path of songwriting and production.
What are some of the projects you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of?
I produced an album for a band called The Backseat Lovers. I’m so proud of the album that we made together because they have such raw talent as a band and as songwriters, but they had not yet been able to fully realize this from a production standpoint.
Most people listen to music in a very passive way, which is fine. But in making this album, we decided early on to make this for the person who was going to listen on headphones, from beginning to end, in a totally focused way. It’s a real journey, and there are so many sonic easter eggs that deepen the stories being told.
Also, as a kid, I always dreamed of writing a song for the end credits of a movie. I got to do this for one of the Lego movies. As a little bonus, the song is about how the end credits are the best part of the movie. It features Beck, The Lonely Island, and Robyn. I also wrote music for an iPad ad which was another dream of mine.
How does the collaboration process with the Artists work? Do you have a signature sound or work with them to come up with something new every time?
I actually make a concerted effort not to have a signature sound, but to a certain extent, I cannot get away from it. I want to be a pure conduit for whatever artist I’m working with. I always want to help them manifest what they are hearing in their head. But as is the nature of collaboration, the music ends up somewhat “David-y”.
You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry. Can you tell us about some of those experiences and any ‘pinch me’ moments?
Sure, there’s definitely been a few over the years. First off, I have to say that Pharrell Williams is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever worked with. He talks about the importance of making music for your body and not your head. I don’t think he means in the sense of danceability. I think he means tapping into your own feelings/intuition as opposed to overthinking things. His enthusiasm is so infectious. You feel like you are changing the entire course of music when you’re working together. It’s an amazing environment to create in.
I’ve worked with Beck for a decade, and he knows more about music than anyone I’ve ever met. Somehow, he still surprises me with his artistic fluidity and uncompromising dedication. I learn so much from him constantly. The first album we ever made together was Morning Phase, and it won 3 GRAMMYS. It was such a life-changing moment. Prince presented the award, Kanye almost ran on stage, and Beyonce and Jay-Z were in the front row. At least that’s what I could gather from London, in the freezing cold, as I was trying to connect to my neighbor’s WIFI to get updates from Twitter in the middle of the night. LOL
I’ve also had a couple of “pinch my moments” that just kind of stop you in your tracks, like the time when I was forwarded an email from Bono reacting to a mix we sent him. Very surreal. I was at a farmers market.
Another pinch-me moment was going over to Tom Morello’s house and making music with him. It was a dream come true. I grew up on Rage Against the Machine, so to be at his place, nodding our heads to the music we were making, was exhilarating.
What brought you to Artlist, and what excited you about it? Did you find anything surprising?
Following the pandemic, remote collaboration is a lot more commonplace for most industries, and the music business is no exception. So my family and I decided to take the opportunity to relocate and explore different opportunities.
That’s when I came across Artlist, and I was really impressed by its refreshing approach and unique model for musicians and creators. After my initial chats with the team, I could see that they’re very passionate about what they’re building, and there’s a palpable sense of ingenuity and creativity within the company.
I got the sense that Artlist really wants artists to be artists. They want them to be as creatively free as possible and fairly compensated (something very, very rare in the music business). And on the other side, they want content creators to have a wide range of great material to work with without any strings attached. It’s really a win-win for everyone, creatively and economically.
What’s your impression of the Artlist catalog?
I think the artlist catalog strikes a nice balance of “art-for-arts-sake” and music that’s going to be really functional and cinematic for content creators. As musicians, we would love to think that it’s all about our music —but the reality is that when a content (video) creator is trying to tell a story, the music has to enhance it rather than compete with it. The story has to be the priority. If the audience connects with the music as a standalone piece, that’s a bonus. That’s where Artlist comes in and provides that bonus with accessible and high-quality music.
Do you have any tips for producers or creatives in general who are just starting out?
It sounds obvious, but DO THE THING YOU WANT TO BE DOING. In other words, if you wish, you could be producing bands, just find one, and offer to do it for free. You will learn so many lessons just by putting yourself through the paces of an actual project. I think it’s the best way.
Before we wrap up, we’ve got some rapid-fire questions, ready?
What are you listening to these days?
Clean Cut Kid
What was the first concert you went to?
Green Day (with my mom), lol.
What are your top 3 Artists on Artlist right now?
I love Flint, Space Doves, and Joseph E-Shine.
What’s the one piece of equipment you couldn’t work without?
Roland Space Echo
If you weren’t working in music, what would you be doing?
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