Hey y’all. A few weeks ago, I sent Mr. Donnie Alan an interview and he has finally had the time to respond. *Yay* I completely understand why it took him so long though, he travels quite a bit for business and doesn’t have a lot of time for things like this, so I feel especially grateful that he made time to do this with me. 🙂
I’ve been following Mr. Alan on my personal Twitter account for quite some time now and I have to say, he’s a great guy. Always has the right things to say and always appears to be in great spirits. Anyone who works with him, is VERY lucky! Enjoy the interview below!
Q: Mr. Alan, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A: I grew up in South Florida but attended college in Indiana, where I majored in Theater. Music has always been a big part of my life, though. I learned to play the accordion as a little kid, and then later, when I was 14, I got my first acoustic guitar, and taught myself to play that. I also remember my grandmother giving me piano lessons when I was a wee lad. All of that led to me making up songs, even when I was just 11 years old. I actually have a little piano piece I wrote back then with the notes written out in pencil on a score sheet.
TCB: I bet that piano piece is pretty amazing. Have you thought about framing it?
Q: What was your previous career before taking the path of a “Producer“?
A: Well, I’m not full-time as a producer…yet. I’ve done many things in my professional life, mostly in business and financial planning. I still do that full-time, but work on the music on the side…for now.
Q: How long have you been a Producer?
A: Oh golly…I think my first paid producer role came about 1994 or so. I produced a CD for a solo piano artist. That led to 3 more projects with the same artist over the next few years, one of which was included a full orchestra back up. That was a fun project to mix and produce.
TCB: What a good way to start out though!
Q: What influenced you to become involved in this type of career?
A: I’ve always loved music. When I put my home studio together, I found I really enjoyed creating all kinds of tracks and experimenting with different sounds and such. Eventually, I found some other like-minded musicians online, and we did some fun collaborations. I’ve done projects involving 8-10 different players, all from around the world and we’ve never met. That was a blast. Eventually, some of them would ask me to mix one of their personal projects and that got me thinking about doing more of my own stuff and perhaps producing others. Initially, I helped some young artists improve their cover songs by doing the back tracks and mixes for them. Later, I began working with some local young people who wanted a chance to record. All of that work helped hone my mixing and producing skills, as well as force me to learn all the new digital audio techniques…a never-ending process, as it is always changing!
TCB: I love that you too, like helping others! It makes me happy to see that there are others out there willing and ready to help others in need. Whether it be for free, a low-cost fee, etc. At least you are helping someone!
Q: What exactly led you to name your Studio, Dragon Rock Productions?
A: I wanted to find an interesting name, and one not being used anywhere. I saw a picture of a dragon on a rock, and the name Dragon Rock stuck in my head. So, I Incorporated under that name. I’m hoping to get a fun logo designed soon.
TCB: Personally, I love the name and I’m sure you’ll find the perfect design when you least expect it.
Q: How do you communicate with clients outside of the U.S.?
A: It’s all done by Email and/or Twitter DM’s. Though, Email is usually better as Twitter is too limited. Sometimes we Skype, which helps us get to know one another better, and also allows us to talk through a lot production details.
TCB: Skype seems to be a pretty big deal these days. Especially when it comes to your situation, co-writing songs, and just being able to enjoy getting to know someone you’ve met online without it feeling too weird.
Q: At the present time, approximately how many musicians do you produce?
A: I’m currently working directly with about 5, and indirectly with a few more. By indirectly, I mean that some have asked for some help with specific things, but we don’t have a formal relationship.
TCB: Well Mr. Alan, anyone that has the opportunity to work with you, is very lucky and should feel privileged.
Q: When searching for new talent, where would you say you have found most of them?
A: Some right here at home, people I already knew. And others, like Lexy Gilman and Rebecca Roberts I just stumbled across on YouTube. Others have found me. I still get a couple of DM’s or emails a week from people asking if I might produce them. That’s kinda how things started with Paloma and Mireya from Spain (2 Strong Girls), who have been interviewed here. We’ve got some things in the works.
TCB: That’s pretty cool. I must say, Lexy is a sweetheart. I, personally have a special bond with Lexy. And I couldn’t ask for a better “Twitter Daughter” lol. And Paloma and Mireya were a pleasure to speak with as well.
Q: About how many hours a day would you say you spend in the studio preparing music for your clients?
A: Well, it’s not a per day kinda thing, because of my full-time work. I’d say it’s more over the course of a month, I’d spend maybe 20 hours, scattered around some evenings and weekends.
TCB: It sounds like you are Superman! With all the work you do and all. I think I found my new hero 🙂
Q: Do you have other clients like Lexy Gilman that live close enough for you to travel to?
A: Yes, there are a couple that live nearby that I have known a long time. Some were here, then moved away to college. While I prefer working with someone directly…always the best course…with modern technology, you can do a lot of great stuff over the net.
Q: If you were approached by someone interested in becoming a Producer and they asked you for the best possible advice you could give them to be successful, what advice would you give them?
A: Study the music business. There’s a creative side to the music business, but there is also a business side. In the producer’s chair, you need to understand both. Also, you need to become very proficient at understanding music technology and the modern digital audio workstations, like Pro Tools (which I use) or other pro level DAWs. There’s a ton of great info out there on the net to help someone learn how things are done, as well as books and other resources. Also, any aspiring producer needs to buy and read “All You Need to Know About the Music Business” by Donald S. Passman. Many in the industry consider this the gold standard book of knowledge. There a couple of others as well, but this is usually everyone’s first choice.
Q: If an artist reads this Interview/Article and is interested in having you as a Producer, how could they get in touch with you?
A: They can just Email me: DonnieAlan@comcast.net
Q: Do you have a limited number of clients you will produce at one time?
A: It’s probably better to say I need to limit the number of projects I can handle at one time. I try to keep it to around 5 at any one time. Any more than that, and I’m too overwhelmed to get anything done.
TCB: That’s very understandable. I’m glad you limit yourself to what you can do at a time. It’s obvious that you don’t want to hurt one by not giving them the attention and time that another may get because you are overwhelmed. Great thinking!
Q: Where is Dragon Rock Productions actually located?
A: I’m in the South Bend, IN area, just south of Michigan.
Q: What do you feel is the best “technology” out today to produce absolutely great music?
A: There really is no one best. What’s best for anyone is what will help them create and produce the kind of music they wish to do. And some of it depends on what your budget may be. There are any number of great synths and workstations on the market. Mine is the Yamaha Motif XS8, which is great…but there are many others. They all come with great sounds and features, and a lot depends on what you need to do. On the software side…which is really where the producing and mixing get done, there are also several great choices. I’m a Pro Tools guy all the way. It’s wonderful for both music creation as well as editing and mixing. It is still the industry standard for most pro studios around the world. But there is also Sonar, Logic Pro, Cubase, Reaper and others that many use and create great music with. Another one I like a whole lot is Reason 6. I can set that up inside my Pro Tools program and have a huge arsenal of sounds and processing at my finger tips. At this level, no matter which direction you go, there is going to be a steep learning curve. But like I said earlier, there’s a ton of great ‘how to’ videos out there on YouTube or that you can purchase from places like “Groove3.com“. Another great resource is “Protoolsexpert.com“, which is a blog run by Russ Hughes from Great Britain, who provides a large number of very helpful videos with tips and tricks.
Q: Is there anything that you’d like to tell our viewers that we didn’t cover in this interview?
A: No matter how old or young you are, the music business is hard work. While it’s true the internet has made it easier for musicians to connect with and find fans, in the end, it really is all about creating great music. Aspiring songwriters need to learn music theory and study the craft of songwriting. The more they know, the better they can be. Aspiring producers, need to understand the music business as well as the technical side of things. All of that takes time and hard work…and lots of study and experimenting! It’s fun, but it does take work!
Thank You Mr. Donnie Alan! You just gave some very deep and helpful information. I’m sure all aspiring artists, producers, etc. will be very thankful for the information. And I thank you again for this opportunity. It wouldn’t have mattered to me if you had taken 3 months to respond, I was just anxious to get your interview back so other aspiring producers could learn from you and your experiences. And if someone doesn’t learn anything from this interview, they probably don’t need to be in the Music Industry until they read the book recommended above and re-read this interview over and over until they understand what you said. I don’t mean that in a rude manner, but it’s true. You really have to understand the business you are going into or you won’t get far until you’ve done your “homework” so to speak.
I wish everyone good luck if this industry is something you are looking into to. And remember you can find Mr. Alan on Twitter by clicking here: Donnie Alan