Interview with Steve Balbi

Each month we’re going to interview a short list of producers that we believe have changed the face of Sydney music in their own particular and singular way. Each month we’ll be asking these producers a series of questions that will delve into their music, influences and trials and tribulations. So join us on this singular journey into the Sydney Music Producers scene.

1. How did you first get started in the music industry, and what inspired you to become a music producer.

SB: I guess there was no real start, music was always in me and escaped at the age of eight with a shitty acoustic. I just played, no lessons, and I wrote my first song at 10. I played in bands throughout school and then was asked to join Kevin Borich at the age of 16. At around the same time, I purchased a Tascam 4 track Porta Studio and my production skills started on the road in hotel rooms. One mic and a tone of bouncing. Hehe, great fun.

2. What is your typical creative process when working on a new track or project.

SB: It is always different, I used to only record a song when it was totally complete but these days I can mess with sounds and programming and write the song after the initial idea. I still do both, I guess I prefer to have a complete song but the main thing I’ve learned is to trust my instincts and not create boxes for myself. The music will make itself if you facilitate it, in any way it wants.

3. Can you share any memorable or unique experiences you’ve had while working in the studio or collaborating with other artists.

SB: WOW! That’s a tricky question so many incredible memories. I just returned from LA where we finished the 2nd Electric Hippies record, working with my music soul mate Justin Stanley. It was a sublime experience, just the two of us, both musically like-minded in a studio with everything you could wish for… It was dreamlike.

I guess working on a bunch of David Bowie tracks was pretty good as well.

4. Are there any specific genres of music that you specialise in or particularly enjoy producing.

SB: I really don’t care, I’m not naturally great at hip hop and I don’t care for pop, however I love trying new things and will always take up a new challenge. I’ve been producing tracks with Dylan Frost from Sticky Fingers and found that to be totally challenging, new, and soulful. I always make the artist’s record and not mine, which is paramount.

5. What are some essential skills or qualities that you believe that every successful music producer should have.

SB: To be able to listen and not feel that you know everything. Production is a collaboration between you and the artist and the music Gods. And if you listen and are brave enough to fly, it’s amazing what can happen. I have listened back to some records that I’ve produced and can’t even remember how I created the sounds, and I love that… It’s like an outer body experience.

6. How do you stay inspired and motivated as a music producer, especially during challenging periods.

SB: I am always so keen to get back to the studio. Inspiration, I don’t find difficult. One thing I do is I am constantly buying new toys, whether it’s source instruments, audio gear, microphones etc… I like to have new toys and even bits that I don’t understand. There is always a new song in the discovery of new gear. I also try to use as many different plugins as possible, of course we all have our go-tos but I like to search around for something that I haven’t used before, prior to settling into my comfort zone.

7. Can you share any advice for those aspiring to be a music producer or are just starting their careers.

SB: Be brave, be authentic and experiment, turn knobs, move mic’s, see what it sounds like in a different position just go for it. You can always put it back to where you were thought at college 😉 There are no rules. Just be focused, respect the artist, the music. and it will all just happen. Oh! And don’t forget to back up.

Steve Balbi
Tripple Speak Pty Ltd
+61 416 931 661
285A Crown St,
Surrey Hills,
2010 NSW