Billy Masters

Guitarist,Producer, Engineer

Billy Masters on SoundBetter

Guitarist / Producer /Engineer. Specialty - Slide Guitar Over 30 years of session work under my belt working with well established artists and producer I work with some of the finest musicians in NY, LA, Austin, and Nashville. I have a good set of ears.

I have my own voice on the instrument.
I play slide guitar and lap steel as well, ala Ry Cooder, Lowell George, with a touch of David Lindley.
My strengths are arranging parts on the guitar. I have a very good rhythmic feel, and a good melodic sense.
I send finished, fully edited and carefully arranged tracks that can be plugged right into a mix, if need be.
My standard rates can be negotiated if you want more than one part. I have nice gear, cool guitars / amps and I am meticulous when it comes to tone and feel.

Would love to hear from you. Click the contact button above to get in touch.


Discogs verified credits for Billy Masters
  • George Post
  • George Post
  • Open Book
  • Open Book
  • George Post
  • Open Book
  • Members Only (2)
  • Alex Rozum
  • Cry Cry Cry
  • Open Book
  • Eric Andersen (2)
  • Eric Andersen (2)
  • Suzanne Vega
  • Toph-E & The Pussycats
  • Suzanne Vega
  • Open Book
  • Anne Murray
  • Various
  • Matthew Morrison
  • Jess Klein
  • Ryan E. Morris
  • Wendy Colonna
  • Jess Klein
  • Mandy Barnett
  • John Fumasoli And The Jones Factor
  • Suzanne Vega


  • English

Interview with Billy Masters

  1. Q: What are you working on at the moment?

  2. A: I just finished guitars for a wonderful artist named Jess Klein, produced by Marc Addison, a great producer here in Austin. They just finished mixing a few days ago and the CD should be out soon. Jess will be out on the road promoting it for sure and there is talk of me joining her for some of that. I'm now smack dab in the middle of producing an amazing duo from NY, remotely. They’re called Open Book. They are two of my favorite people to work with. Beautiful people, great songs and we share musical tastes. They give me pretty much complete creative freedom, and are very generous creatively, allowing me time to experiment. The have also put their trust in me selecting musicians, and where to spend and not spend their budget, which can be tricky. I'm playing all sorts of guitars, and mixing the project. All the drums and bass tracks where done remotely as well as their vocals and guitars. I'm in Austin, TX and they are in Cold Spring, NY. We'll most likely add a few specialists along the way with cats here in Austin or remotely. So far i'm really digging it. My goal is to get it done by the end of the summer.

  3. Q: What do you like most about your job?

  4. A: I love creating. I always have. Starting with a blank page, finger painting with sound, until something that makes sense forms right in front of my eyes (ears), excites me. I love that I get to work on a variety of different projects all the time. It's always a challenge. I enjoy meeting new people all the time who are of a like mind. It keeps me from having to get a real job.

  5. Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?

  6. A: I promise that I won't bang out some piece of crap to make a buck. I'll do what I say I will do, when I say I will do it. I'll do my best to have this be a fun and interesting experience.

  7. Q: Can you share one music production tip?

  8. A: Ask the artist questions. Lots of them. Listen to the lyrics. Listen to what is already on the track very carefully. Don't ever distract from the vocals. Go back and get rid of every cool lick, even your favorite ones if they pull the ear away from the vocal. I use this rule in tracking, production and mixing. Try to resist the tendency to be noticed too much. Of course we all want to be heard, and have folks dig our part of the project. We all do. I do. But in the end the more you keep your ego in check the better the work. I find in almost every case when I listen back to things I've done, years later, I never think to myself, man I should have played something there. It's always, I could have left some space there. Place cringe emoji here.

  9. Q: What type of music do you usually work on?

  10. A: Singer songwriters. Mostly country, folk, blues, pop, rock projects. Even though I can't play jazz for shit, I do mix a decent amount of it and love it. My favorite to work on are well written tunes that lean a bit to the rock pop end of the spectrum. Crowded House, Beatles, Suzanne Vega, Paula Cole, that sort of thing.

  11. Q: What's your strongest skill?

  12. A: Arranging and playing rhythm and slide guitar. Producing singer songwriters and mixing those recordings.

  13. Q: What do you bring to a song?

  14. A: I bring a sonic interpretation of the lyric. I find a way to support the existing musical elements of a song. I'll also take into account the vibe of the existing track. Sometimes I'll highlight elements that exist by underlining them with a different timbre, or contrast them to create some tension. I'll listen for places in the arrangement that seem to stall and create some kind of rhythmic pattern where it needs a push. Sometimes my role is to add dynamics to an arrangement that is already pretty complete. And then, sometimes they just want a solo…whatever the track needs.

  15. Q: What's your typical work process?

  16. A: It really depends on the gig. If the priority is speed, I'll learn the material, spend an hour or so messing around, get some good takes and do any editing that needs to be done. If time is not an issue, and I’m free to be creative,…whatever it takes. (Within reason). I'll hit record and play until something of value comes out. If it's not happening, I usually go for a walk or a drive. I find that helps sync my left/right brain. I'll listen to some music that is relevant to get inspired. I'll send versions back and forth with the artist to make sure I'm on the right track, once I have a complete idea down. Then, I'll get notes from them. Next, I will discuss other ideas that came to me in the process and dive back in. I've landed on a pretty good mixing process that seems to work well for me. I usually do three mixes. I'll do a pretty quick, intuitive mix, get notes from the artist, take some of my own, and do another pass addressing all the notes and other things I hear along the way. Rinse, repeat. After that, if there are a few minor adjustments that will put a sheen on the mix.

  17. Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.

  18. A: I specialize in guitar overdubs, arrangements, and full productions. I add compositional elements to the song when crafting parts and hiring musicians.

  19. Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?

  20. A: Three things come to mind. The project I just described, Open Book. This will be the third project we have worked on together. The first one we recorded and mixed soup to nuts, in my studio apartment with four or five microphones. There are a few tracks on that one I still love to listen to. The second one we had a little more doe and went into the studio for the rhythm tracks. I think it holds up and I would be proud to play it for anyone. Guitar wise, the Rob Mathes CD Wheelbarrow and a few tracks on Evening Train. Rob is another artist that knows what I do, and lets me go full tilt. He'll nudge me one way or the other but he hires me because he wants me, not because I fit his schedule or budget. There are some slide guitar tracks on those recording and a few subtle do dads I'm very proud of. He wanted me to play slide in some very non traditional applications. Brave dude. Also one of the most talented musicians I think I'll ever know. It would be an honor to sneeze on one of his recordings.

  21. Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?

  22. A: Haven't looked yet but I'm sure there is and will, for sure, soon.

  23. Q: Analog or digital and why?

  24. A: Both. I grew up, and learned in the analog age. Early responsibilities where, making track sheets, being a tape op, biasing the tape machines, etc. I had to learn how to cut tape, spot edit, syc tape decks with time code, and a ton of other things. All that stuff. It's really nice to be rid of most of that. Comping and editing is so much faster and easier with a DAW. It opens up many more possibilities, creatively, when you are makeing decisions. There are things I would have never tried, due to the technical limitations in the past. Some of this can cause problems as well. I can be expected to be a magician sometimes. There are times when people get lazy in the moment, or don't have the skill to execute something, and want me to spend too much time fixing things. I do what I can to discourage this, myself included. Tracking to tape is still a fun challenge. It still feels special to me. It forces everyone in the room to bring their A game. Sonically, I do dig that warm compression that tape gives when you slam it a bit. With so little noise I can play it safe and record at lower levels in a DAW yet, I dig that edge of pushing levels to tape. The paradox of having my hands on the wheel to get it just right, while, at the same time, a little bit of the sound is out of my hands. A bit more skill and magic. I dig that. The depth of digital recording has gotten so good that sonically it's less and less of an issue for me. Everything has its place.

  25. Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?

  26. A: Sadly, how much do you charge, or can you do it for such and such an amount? Pretty much all my clients have come as referrals. This is actually my first venture in working on a platform like Soundbetter. I find most don't ask enough questions. I'm usually the one digging to see if it's a good fit.

  27. Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?

  28. A: I think it's the disconnect between fame and competence. There is a good chance that you'll never hear some of the most talented artists in the world. I've heard some the most moving shit from people who could barely play an instrument. I've heard shredders that put me to sleep, or gave me a headache. Just because someone had a cool gig does not make them the right for your project.

  29. Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?

  30. A: I try and get a feel for what the project is about and what is its purpose. What's the goal. . Than I try and get an idea of their taste in music. What they dig. What makes their skin crawl. I ask what their expectations are from me. I ask what questions they have.

  31. Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?

  32. A: Listen to their work. Read their interviews. Find someone appropriate who is within your budget. If you've heard their work on a recordings and you know, I want that, go for it. Otherwise, ask yourself, would you want to hang with this person? Is this a good fit personality wise. Go with your gut on this point. Don't be seduced by credits. Yes, it can show experience, and maybe some cred, but go I'd deeper. Lastly, don't make too big a commitment. Do one song. Do even less that a song. Hire them to do a task or two and see how it goes.

  33. Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?

  34. A: A nice old Gibson j45, A Weissenborn, A National Triolian, an espresso machine and a ton of good coffee.

  35. Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?

  36. A: I had my first gig when I was around 12 and I just turned 60. I spent my teens playing clubs, in cover bands, until I was in my 20's. Next stop, Bleeker street. The Bitter End, CBGB's gallery , The Living room, Mercury Lounge, etc, where like a second homes to me for many years. That whole downtown scene was where I learned how to be an ensemble player. I also learned where to park in the village without getting a ticket, or worse, towed; a very important skill in NYC. I got my first National tour when I was around 30.( I was on the runway for a long time). I spent 20 years or so on the road with a bunch of folks, Suzanne Vega, Paula Cole, Duncan Sheik, Dar Williams, Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky, Alejandro Escovedo recently, Garland Jeffreys, Jess Klein, and a ton of talented artists you might have never heard of. Since Covid hit, I've been off the road and pulled way back on pursuing that kind of work. Thus I am here, online, exploring the future. As far as the recording/production side of things goes.... My very first real gig in a studio was in the 80's, at a Jingle house, Radio Band Of America, wrapping cables, making coffee, and running errands at first. I got my first gig as an engineer in a small local studio, Acme Recording, where I also got my first chance to produce. Studios stopped hiring full time staff around that time so I started freelancing, and built a small 8 track studio at home. I now have a network of studios that I like to track in and do as much as I can at home . Over that past few years, even that has shifted. Most working session guys, have a rig at home. At present, I even have a nice group of drummer friends, who have set up quality rigs at home, or built a studio so they can record drums remotely. These are first call session guys to boot. The tracks I get from them sound great. Until recently that has been the missing link to working remotely for me. Now I feel confident that I can work with top shelf rhythm tracks and never leave my home. I've also noticed a trend of artist themselves, getting up to speed with quality vocals etc on their own at home. In some cases I help them put a rig together and show them the basics. I even doing less and less of that these days. Platforms like Soundbetter are opening that door wider.

  37. Q: How would you describe your style?

  38. A: Original. I hate this question but if I have to..........Americana meets Delta Swamp, wIth some ambient flare. How's that?

  39. Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?

  40. A: I've always wanted to play with the Counting Crows. I'd love to be in Steve Earle's Band. Maybe John Hiatt. Musically that's where I feel at home.

  41. Q: Tell us about your studio setup.

  42. A: I've paired things down quite a bit over the years. It's not very sexy. Besides my guitar and amp collection, I have a couple of Vintech X73i's and this D.A.V. pre that I really like. It has no particular sound. It's just super transparent and clean. I have a bunch of mics, but wind up using a 421 or 57 on my guitars most of the time. My DAW is an older Protools HD 3 TDM system, with a Lynx Aurora converter in a suped up Mac Pro. It's done me well and I aint going to fuck with it for now. I have a current native system on my imac as well to deal with sessions done on more current versions of software. That's pretty much it. I mix everything in the box. There is a great, cheap, rental place down the street from me if I need something I don't have.

  43. Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?

  44. A: I've always been attracted to production and arranging. I love all the session guys from the 60's on…too many to list here. I'm attracted to producer/guitarists like John Leventhal, Buddy Miller, Daniel Lanois, and T Bone Burnett. I'm a fan of musicians who are a little left of center and have their own voice on their instruments. Some of my favorites are Cornell Dupre, Amos Garrett, Jessie Edwin Davis, Larry Carlton, and everyone who ever played guitar on a Steely Dan Recording. I've also copped much of my playing style from singers and horn players. I got hooked, like mosts guys my age, by the Beatles. George Martin's productions blew my mind. Quincy Jones big band arrangements of Frank Sinatra's recordings drew me in to the whole world of horns, and introduced me to Jazz. I also love all those Atlantic, Jerry Wexler / Arif Mardin recordings, especially the Aretha Franklin ones. I love the whole craft of making records. I’m always thoughtful, respectful, and emotionally connected to the process, whatever my role is.

Various Artists

I was the Producer, Mix Engineer, and Guitarist in this production

Terms Of Service

Guitar: One fully crafted and edited guitar track or solo. Reasonable negotiation for multiple parts. I'm cool with one round of notes.
Mixing: 3 rounds with notes usually does the trick.

GenresSounds Like
  • John Leventhal
  • Ry Cooder
  • Buddy Miller
Gear Highlights
  • Lots of cool old shit.
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