We had the good fortune of connecting with Dana Nielsen and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Dana, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Like every freelance music person in Los Angeles (or anywhere), I think the most important factor behind my success has been my unique blend of personality, musicality, and technical ability. I like to be a kind person who is fun to be around, yet who doesn’t take up all the space in a room. Personality is absolutely critical in the studio business. No one wants to spend 16 hours a day locked in a soundproofed room with a butthead, no matter how talented he or she may be. My background as a professional musician has also played an an important factor. When I’m producing or engineering, that background makes it much easier to communicate with other musicians in the studio. And as for the technical stuff, I work very hard to maintain my skills, I’m constantly studying, taking classes, learning new software, upgrading my systems and my processes. That said, we live in Los Angeles where there are tons of technically qualified engineers, mixers, songwriters and producers. The only thing that gives any of us an edge over the competition is how we handle ourselves as a person, as a friend, as a host, as a guest; knowing when to be a confident leader, and when to be a silent unseen fly on the wall, allowing the artist to dig deep and not feel watched or overanalyzed. You need to be very in tune with people, and you need to be perfectly ok with falling into any or all of these roles at the drop of a hat. I like to always remember that engineering, mixing, producing, performing, songwriting, etc. are part of the “service industry.”

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve been a freelance music person in L.A. for over 20 years, as has my wife, Charissa. It’s like the Wild West out here as we’re constantly jumping from one gig to the next, spinning plates, networking like crazy, keeping busy and keeping the dream alive! Our company, Little People Inc., posts the following sentiment on all invoices: “Whether you’re a global icon or an indie startup, we all start our journey as “little people” in a big creative world. Thank you so much for your trust and your business!”

I’m told that when I was a toddler I would point at my parents’ stereo speakers and demand more “NIKU!,” which was my baby word for music. Music captured my soul from a very early age and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. I’ve enjoyed an incredible career working in the studio with so many legendary artists that my arms are sore from pinching myself! Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Metallica, Slayer, Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, Rihanna, Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Anderson Paak., and many more. I get to work with movie stars, too, like Will Farrell, Paul Rudd, Glenn Close, Kristen Wiig, Drew Barrymore, and Steve Carell. One of the coolest things though is when my wife, Charissa, and I get to work on projects together, like the new Post Malone album, “Twelve Carat Tooth Ache.” We were hired to put together a choir for the song “Wasting Angels,” so Charissa (who is a singer and vocal contractor) hired the most amazing talent (shoutout to India Carney and Jonathan Mouton!), I arranged parts for the 4 of us singers to record from home, and then I sub-mixed the finished choir stems to send back to Post’s producer-extraordinaire, Louis Bell. We all worked quickly and it came out amazing!

I love broadening my interests and experiences all the time. I’m co-owner of an amazing software instrument company, Skybox Audio (www.skyboxaudio.com) and our debut product bundle called “Hammers and Waves” has been doing really well. I started a record company last year called Neon Tusk (www.neontusk.com), where I’m able to showcase my work as a writer and/or producer, while offering artists a trustworthy and equitable home for their art. I’ve been learning a ton about rights, licenses, distribution, marketing, and royalty accounting – super dry at times, but super fun too, haha. And I’ve also been focused on growing our publishing company, called … you guessed it …. “Niku Publishing.”

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Bay Cities Deli for a Godmother (spicy, the works) Ride Carver skateboards along Venice boardwalk
Surf Venice Breakwater or Pier
Dream-house tours through Rustic Canyon, maybe try climbing the famous stairs there
Post-surf breakfast and fresh squeezed OJ at Patrick’s Road House on Entrada or Cora’s Coffee on Main
Concert at the Hollywood Bowl
Drive up PCH, hiking in northern Malibu, fish tacos at Lily’s
watch the sunset at Zuma or Point Dume or Paradise Cove
Drive through Las Virgines Canyon
Gjelina or Tasting Kitchen in Venice for dinner
Sugarfish and lots of other sushi!
Concert at Disney Hall
Ride the Expo line to California Science Center and Nat History Museum
Griffith Observatory
Strolling the Venice canals
Window shopping on Abbot Kinney
There are so many wonderful parts of L.A.! These are just a few that come to mind.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have so many shoutouts, I don’t even know where to begin! (What a great idea for a series, btw, thanks VoyageLA!) My family is my support system, for sure, starting with my amazing, talented, musical, loving wife, Charissa Nielsen (www.sessionsingerLA.com) who has seen me through thick and thin (literally and figuratively, haha). I was also blessed with the best, most creative and supportive parents ever, Nancy Nichols and Rich Nielsen. As a musician, I have to shoutout my junior high and high school saxophone teacher and mentor, Larry Panella. He and his family really took me under their wing, professionally, personally, and spiritually, and I adore them. As an engineer/mixer/producer, I am eternally grateful to so many legendary mentors who freely gave to me so much of their knowledge, experience, love and support. Among them are, John Hanlon, Andrew Scheps, Greg Fidelman, Ryan Hewitt, Dave Schiffman, and Scott Litt, each of whom continue to inspire me and countless others. And last but not least, where would I be without the incomparable Rick Rubin, from whom I have learned innumerable truths about life, work, creativity, sound, focus, mood, balance, emotion, music, art, aesthetic, rehearsing, tempo, meaning, sequencing, mixing, producing, listening, and, profoundly, when not to listen. A massive shoutout and thank you to Rick!! And of course, big shoutouts to all the incredible artists I get to work with. I absolutely LOVE my job, and I learn from them every single day.

Website: www.danaproducer.com

Other: All of my social media links, as well as some interviews and freebies, can be found at www.danaproducer.com

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.