Hi! I'm Jay Carlin. I'm a Songwriter, Mix Engineer, and Multi-Instrumentalist. I've been writing, recording, and mixing music professionally for the past 15 years. After 10 years in Bangkok, I am now based in Lisbon, Portugal.
I am first and foremost a mix engineer. I can mix your multitrack recordings and ensure they sound great on any system while maintaining and enhancing the essence and vibe of your song. I view mixing as equal parts Art and Science, and I will take great care in mixing your song as if it were my own.
In addition to mixing, I can provide valuable editing services. I can edit and tune vocals, time drum tracks, or remove noise and other wanted artifacts from homemade recordings.
As a Multi-Instrumentalist, I can produce a full backing track for your guitar or piano + vocal demo. I am able to track or program guitars, bass, drums, percussion, mallets, strings, winds, or piano. Whatever instrument you need to make your song come to life, I can do it, or I will hire someone else who can.
Finally, I am a songwriter in my own right. I am available to collaborate on songs, providing either lyrics or melody as needed.
Tell me about your project and how I can help, through the 'Contact' button above.
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Interview with Jay Carlin
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: In November 2020, I helped produce, record, and mix 8 songs for the students at Berkeley International School in Bangkok, Thailand. They wrote songs for their "World Outdoor Classroom Day" celebration, which was part of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals movement. These student musicians, some of whom had only been playing their instruments for a few months, wrote, recorded, and performed a concert of these original songs in support of this great movement. You can listen to those songs here: https://youtu.be/vJLhmhknbpM It's really rewarding to help young student musicians find a love for songwriting and recording at an early age.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Unpopular opinion, but Digital all the way. For about 10 - 15 years in the late 90's and early 2000's, Digital Recordings were very brittle and harsh, due to the limits of computing technology. I feel this is no longer the case. Digital plugins and interfaces can give as warm and vibe-y a sound as any Analog hardware, without the huge hassle and cost. If anyone tells you they're gonna charge you extra to run your mix through a physical mixing desk and tape machine, be wary. It might make a 5% difference to the sound, but someone who knows how to use the digital tools they have properly will be able to get you 95% of the way there, for a lot less money and in a much faster time frame. There are many fantastic audio engineers who can do everything in the box nowadays. I am one of them.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I want you to be happy enough with your mix that you'll come back and work with me again. I hope you will be excited enough about your mix that you will tell your friends about me. I promise that I will treat your song as well as I would treat my own song. I will deliver to you the best mix I can, in the time agreed upon, for the fairest price I can. I will make revisions as necessary based on your feedback.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: "What makes you different than other musicians?" Many musicians and mix engineers have a lot of "Depth" of knowledge -- a strong specialty in one or two areas. I am not that. I am the "Jack of all trades" of music. I have a very "Broad" musical knowledge without a strong specialization, though I consider my DAW my main instrument. I play drums, guitar, and bass almost daily. I can pick up and play any wind, string, or percussion instrument due to my formal training as a music teacher. I studied Sitar and Tabla for a number of years, played Saxophone in a marching band, drum set in a jazz band, guitar in a rock band. I'm as comfortable at jazz improv night as I am creating hip hop beats or writing rock riffs. I can float between live performer, studio musician, teacher, and mix engineer mid-sentence. I understand music on many different levels, and I have experience communicating that understanding in different ways to different people. I am diverse, and I take pride in that. I've also spent some time in big recording studios in Nashville, but most of my work has been in home studios. So, I understand the advantages and challenges of recordings made in bedrooms, closets, and garages. I know what to do look for make sure that those recordings sound their best, despite not being tracked in ideal circumstances.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: That being a mix engineer is a very "science-y" thing. It is, but it's not just that. Being a great mix engineer requires musicianship, sensitivity, and communication skills. We need to understand the artists' vision, and support that vision through our tracking and mixing. I feel like I'm a servant to the artist, someone to come along side them and assist them achieve their goals and dreams. I have suggestions of my own, but I want you to be happy because ultimately, it's your song and your artistic vision.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: Who is your audience? What were your influences? Let me hear you play this live, stripped down, with only a single instrument. Does the song still work? What can we do to reinforce the emotion and the vibe of the song? Another exercise I like to have clients do: "Imagine you're going to play this song in a short set with 3 other cover songs. What 3 other songs would you choose to compliment this song nicely?" Their answer often provides big clues about the direction of the mix and the intent of the song.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: There are as many ways to mix as a song as there are chords and melodies and lyrics you could use. Work with people you feel a connection to, someone you'd feel comfortable sitting around having a beer with. There is your artistry, your song's vibe and sound, and the emotion you're trying to convey to the listener. Make sure those things are reinforced with the mix.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I've been recording audio in some capacity for almost 25 years, and I've been a full-time music-maker since 2009. I got my first multitrack tape recorder, a Tascam 414 Portastudio, at only 12 years old in the mid-90's. I used to make little "radio" recordings in my bedroom and share the cassette bounces with friends and family. I started playing guitar and writing my own songs by 14, and by high school I was recording local bands and helping them create demos. I studied Music Education in college for undergrad. I placed in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in 2006, which lead to a number of contacts in Nashville, where I lived for a few years and worked with various artists in the music industry there. I eventually pursued a Masters in Music and Human Learning (The Psychology of Music) from the University of Texas. I've continued learning and growing as an engineer through online courses through Berklee College of Music Online. I am currently based out of Bangkok, Thailand.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: MacBook Pro, Apollo Twin X, Acoustic Guitar, SM57, and an unlimited supply of Coffee.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I'm in the middle of writing my 3rd full-length album. I'm trying to create something with a late 70's / early 80's indie rock vibe. I've written over 100 demos for the song, but now I'm working on lyrics and tracking. I'm always working on my own stuff, even when I'm mixing things for other people. It keeps my skills sharp, and allows me to experiment with creative effects and processes without risking pissing off a client.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: No, I'm brand new here, and trying to network and connect with other musicians. I hope some other Soundbetter people will message me, though.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I get to work with passionate musicians every day. I spent too much of my childhood locked in a room making music by myself, for myself. The longer I do this, the more I love collaborating with others. The music just feels better that way.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: Computer: 3.8 GHz 8-Core 64 GB Ram Intel Core i7 iMac DAW: Logic Pro X, though I can work in Pro Tools when needed Interfaces: Apollo Twin X QUAD & Apogee Duet 2 Monitoring: Yamaha HS8's and KRK Rokit 4's in a full-treated dedicated home studio room Plugins: Universal Audio Ultimate 9 and a UAD-2 Satellite OCTO, Soundtoys, Black Rooster Audio, Waves, Waves Factory, FabFilter, Melodyne, many others Software instruments: Native Instruments Kontakt with various libraries Instruments: Gibson Les Paul, Maestro Raffles IR Custom Acoustic, Hofner Beatle Bass, Ludwig Drumset Microphones: AKG C414, sE Electronics X1S, MXL V63M, Audio Technica AT2020, Shure SM58's and 57's
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Mixing. I feel so at home behind a mixing console or a DAW. I love understanding the nitty-gritty behind classic studio hardware and plugins. I love trying to capture the vibe of classic records, and mixing them with more modern production quality.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: Experience. A wide range of influences. A mindset of both an engineer, a songwriter, an instrumentalist, a performer, and -- most importantly -- a music fan and listener.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Mixing: Andrew Scheps, Greg Wells, Jacquire King, Vance Powell Songwriting: Max Martin, Ian Kirkpatrick, Ed Sheeran Artists: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, 311, Capital Cities, Dua Lipa
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I like trying new things. I like to experiment. I go into every project not 100% sure how it will come out, and let the song itself drive the music, the lyrics, the production, the mixing, everything. Some people say they have a "sound" in their head before they even start, but I've never felt that way. I feel like I'm co-writing with the song, and we're exploring the possibilities together. I don't like to be in a box.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I would love to work with Dua Lipa. I just really dig her modern-but-classic vibe, and there's lots of other artists doing it. The Weeknd. Maroon 5. Ariana Grande. I think it would be fun to write with Ed Sheeran, just because of his ability to be a chameleon across a lot of musical styles, which is something I pride myself on, too. I would love to make a band with John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, and Jay Carlin, and just write some great vibe-y soulful hippie music. I would love to meet some of my Classic rock heroes, too. Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Randy Bachman & Burton Cummings (of The Guess Who).
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Get a great sound going into the DAW. Don't try to fix it in the mix, as I did for far too long. It's one of the reasons I finally invested $1,000's into a Universal Audio Ecosystem. Being able to process and shape audio with near-zero latency during the tracking phase makes mixing that much easier. Get it to sound great on the way in, and the rest will work itself out.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Singer-Songwriter Pop-Rock. That's the genre I'm usually in when I work on my own material. But I enjoy combining multiple genres into something new, which I feel strongly is the future. Music that bridges pop, rock, indie, hip hop, modern, classic, and everything in-between is what people want to hear. I think Capital Cities "In a Tidal Wave of Mystery" and Dua Lipa's "Future Nostalgia" or are my two favorite albums of the past decade, though there are plenty more.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I like to get a rough mix up and running within 30 minutes. I think it's important to capture the vibe of the song early on. After that, it's fine-tuning and making sure the technical aspects of the mix all work, so they translate to any system. There's a balance of the Art of mixing and the Science of mixing, but the vibe always has to come first. Music and the emotion its trying to convey cannot be lost in the technical process.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Mixing multitrack projects, recording backing tracks, drum programming, vocal tuning and editing.