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Nick Bullock

RSR030 – Nick Bullock – 52 in 52

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RSR007 - David Glenn - The Mix Academy

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RSR030 - Nick Bullock - 52 in 52

My guest today is Nick Bullock, a musician, teacher, producer, songwriter and music blogger. Nick has been an educator in music as well, founding a successful music school in Ithaca NY while playing and recording music with his band, The Sound Awake. And after years of running his business, playing in a band, and producing both his own records and others, he made a leap of faith and moved to Nashville TN to pursue his larger vision for songwriting and recording.

With his move to Nashville, Nick decided to focus on his own music. He built his home studio, and began to rehearse, write and record with a passion. In 2015 he launched an intense studio project with his band called 52 in 52 where he committed to writing and recording 52 songs in 52 weeks.

Nick’s intense journey has produced some stellar recordings, a blog, and also led to new productions with new artists. I am psyched to be here at Awake Studios to speak with Nick and learn more about the process of creating on such a high level.

What is 52 in 52?

52 songs written, recorded, and released in 52 weeks. Inevitably by the end I wasn’t able to release one song a week for a variety of reasons, but by the end of the 52nd week all of the songs were done and released on my SoundCloud page. Everything that I released, I’m not necessarily happy with it all, but there's at least one thing in each song that I really like. I view songwriting as a craft, so not everything that I write has to be great, not everything that I write has to be done, you just have to do it. Big thanks to Kevin Harper, Tom Elefante, Greg Herndon, Brain Cox, and Clark Singleton who supported and participated in the project. 

Check out Nick's 52 in 52 Blog!! 

“I guarantee you every single person no matter how brilliant they are has felt the fool before” 

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Nick Bullock - On Goal Setting - 

Holding yourself accountable is one of the hardest things, but also one of the most important things to do. If an idea comes to me more than once, then I have to do it. Setting and reaching goals builds confidence and self esteem. You learn from the trials and tribulations as much as the successes if not more. For me, it’s part of my everyday life. I’ve always been self-employed so goals are just part of who I am. Advice on completing goals is number one break it down to a bottom tear goal as you possibly can. If your goal is to write, record, and release a song, it’s really about breaking those goals down into a really easy digestible pattern of behavior that you know you can complete.

Jam Session 

Q - What was holding you back at the start?
A - I would say what was holding me back was confidence and lack of experience. [As far as starting 52 in 52] stress was holding me back. Just the overall overwhelmed feeling of trying to be a human being and make enough income for the family of now three and trying to finish all of this at once. I don’t know if it held me back, but I definitely have more grey hair on my head then needs to be.

Q- How did you get past that initial fear?
A - The courage part is the biggest factor. I’d be the guy that went first, just get it over with. I have no problem making myself look like a fool. Whether it was asking questions of engineers that were mixing my songs about equipment or tape hiss or whatever. I guarantee you every single person no matter how brilliant they are has felt the fool before. It’s just a universal thing that’s a part of life and the quicker you can get over that, the better you’ll be.

“Imagination is where the genius lies in all of us”

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Q- What was some of the best advice you got early on?

A- I think how to stay organized is probably the biggest ones, and my wife was really good at talking me down. Just having somebody in your corner, whether it's your mom or wife or whatever. Having a brotherhood and sisterhood out there to just give you support is a huge thing. In every creative process an idea that is born that’s new and different has the potential to be great. But if there's no support system for that idea, it's just going to wither on the vine and die. Surround yourself with people who support you and have your back. From Steve Jobs to Einstein to Mozart to John Lennon. Every kernel of new idea they had was new to the world at the time. I guarantee if they had been in a different position, there would have been somebody that said this is a terrible idea and a waste of time! Look what the world would have lost out on. Surround yourself with love, man.

Q- Share with us a recording tip, hack, or secret sauce.

A - One of the more fun ones for getting a good vocal sound is using clip gain (gaining down the actual wav file before it ever hits the plugins in your mix) instead of a D-esser of some kind. I’ll go through and highlight the section in protools and cut it out (apple + E) and use clip gain to really adjust the breaths or consonants. I’m pretty sure you can use that in logic too.

“I think there’s huge value to be learned from other people’s mistakes, experiences, and knowledge”

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Q - Share a favorite hardware tool for the studio
Probably my 335 or my 65 Twin. I do everything in the box, but all of my investments all kind of stem from instruments first. It goes from instruments to microphone to preamp.. All that sexy stuff comes after. But it's really those first three that are most important in capturing a great sound. So the bulk of my career has been investing the those. My Wurlitzer is a beautiful piece of vintage gear. My piano, I know exactly what it does, but my 335 is probably my favorite.

“I’m more of a melody and chord guy” 

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Q - Share a favorite software tool for the studio

A - The UAD stuff is amazing. The Apollo Quad is my interface and I use ProTools. Some of the Waves stuff is decent too!

“Holding yourself accountable is one of the hardest things, but also one of the most important things to do”

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Q - Share with us a tip for the business side of the recording studio

A - I just downloaded this app called invoice2go that's very handy. One important lesson I’ve learned is when you’re cutting a record talk to who’s cutting the check.

Q - If you had to start over what gear would you need? How would you find people to record? And how would you make ends meet while you got started?

A - If they want to make a full time living maybe that’s a different set of parameters. For me, since I did it directly. I was lucky with the selling of my previous business to give myself some buffer. As far as something practical, I like to spend my money on the front of the chain rather than the back of the chain. Don’t spend money you don’t have to. Settle for a laptop and interface of some kind. The Apollo is really great. Then you have this library of plugins that come with that and all you need is a guitar and a mic!

“I’m just not interested in playing it safe”

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Q - What is the single most important thing a listener can do to become a rockstar of the recording studio?

A - Always be open to learning from anybody and everybody. Always have a mind of curiosity. Be generous with your presence.