Behind every career are the intangibles that keep us going. We have peers that influence us, internal desires that motivate us, and private goals that drive us forward. For the people behind the glass at studios, there is a completely different set of dreams that the artists have on the other side.
It’s not about going platinum, being on the cover of Rolling Stone, performing at the Super Bowl, or even a huge international tour. For Brandon Buttner, there are more grounded goals and steady reasons that keep him going.
Brandon shares that although he has a ton of respect for those guys, it’s the character of having a high work level that influences him most. Credits and big names don’t matter in the grand scheme of it all. Brandon adds that people that are great to be around in the studio also influence him. Being productive, friendly, open-minded, and driven speak volumes.
His role has become very specialized into vocal production. It’s a bit of a blend between engineering and producing, which a lot of people aren’t doing. He’s constantly listening to other artists and identifies interesting techniques and sounds. When he hears something done well, it’s easier to get influenced and want to imitate or mimic the element. Then he can build off of that, adding his own signature to the part.
What Drives Brandon?
Life in the music industry is filled with ups and downs. Nothing is guaranteed, especially during a pandemic. As Brandon has earned more and more opportunities, he shares there are a plethora of reasons that keep him going. There are times when he stops and just thinks about how someone wants to pay him to go into a studio and make music. That excitement to be chosen, to be qualified, fuels the excitement that motivates him.
“It’s still really exciting for me. I still geek out about the fact that I get to to do this for a living,” he smiles.
He confesses that he’s always chasing the next accomplishment as well. When he moved to LA the simple goal was having a job as an engineer. Then it became having the ability to chose whom he worked with. Then it developed into wanting a gold record. Accomplishment after accomplishment, the bar keeps getting set a bit higher for him.
The premise of chasing your own tail and collecting accolades is an internal motor. It gives him reassurance to know he’s on the right path and doing good work. Brandon also admits there’s a huge fear. He’s been doing it for so long that he don’t know if he could do anything else. The necessity to be successful keeps him going.
Some people in their careers have one session that unlocked all the doors for them. It was a random thing that turned into a Grammy. Brandon’s career has been slowly and consistently rising. This healthy path keeps him grounded and motivated. There’s always the next level and trying to be a bit more financially secure. Brandon identifies that right now in his career, there’s a little breath of fresh air and finally being on a path to doing what he’s supposed to be doing.
This path has taken him to New York to work with Alicia Keys. He’s recorded mister “Sexyback,” Justin Timberlake. He’s been working with Leona Lewis for years. Currently it’s his work with an electronic DJ named Marshmello that has propelled him into an environment that feels right.
“Getting in the room with a lot of people and not feeling like I’m working for someone else has huge. I’m a collaborator and part of the process with these artists, which is a big thing for me.”
That shift in feeling and role is gigantic in the music industry. As an engineer at a studio, you’re treated as a hired person, a commodity that comes with the location. When you’re freelancing and working for other people that are paying you for your contribution, it’s empowering.
Brandon just wrapped up working on a new Halsey track. It’s a collaboration with none other than Marshmello, called “Be Kind.” At over 27 million streams on Spotify alone, the song has connected with people during the pandemic. It has to feel good knowing you’re part of something that has helped people in these unprecedented times.
The final part of the series will explore a long-term goal of Brandon’s, moving back to Minnesota. We talk about the desire come back and what he identifies as opportunities to bring back to our music community.
For part one, click here.
For part two, click here.