We had the good fortune of connecting with Mike Willson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mike, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I was initially motivated to open my own studio because I had such a terrible first recording experience as a young drummer. My high school band at the time decided to hire a producer that we knew personally and trusted with our music. He charged us an arm and a leg for a minimal amount of studio time and I was completely disappointed with the final product. When it came time to record with my next band, I decided to figure out how to engineer everything on my own and fell in love with the process. I produced my first record with that band at my parents house in Huntington Beach and ended up finding a commercial space to open our first studio later that year. Our first priority was to never let anybody have the same terrible recording experience that I first had and provide a comfortable space for artists to create.
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 make records with bands, songwriters, or anybody else that wants to record something special. I pride myself on taking the best care of my clients from the very first phone call all the way to touring in support of their record. My role shifts for every project I work on. Sometimes I’m more or less just an engineer that captures a band’s sound as accurately as possible. Other times I am producing songs from the ground up with a songwriter and hiring local session musicians to fill in the missing pieces. The biggest challenge with this is feeling like you’ve given the artist the best possible experience and product that you could. I wouldn’t say that I’ve overcome that because I would then feel like I was no longer challenging myself to grow as a producer and engineer. At MAPS, we have recently switched up our business model to allow freelance producers and engineers to work out of our studio as if it’s their own. A large part of our services as a studio is providing support for our clients’ careers through the years of experience that my partner and I have making records and running our own business. We have a great team and love seeing all types of art being created out of our space.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well! We are avid brewery nerds at MAPS so we would definitely start at Bootlegger’s Brewery in downtown Fullerton. Our favorite pizza spot is right next door and is called Two Saucy Broads. I’d probably take them to The Bruery for a quick pitstop before wandering around downtown to see if there are any good bands playing. If this was a week long trip, I’d definitely have to take our visitor to my hometown of Costa Mesa to visit a few more breweries, my favorite local venue The Wayfarer, and try to convince them to surf with me. We have some great local hikes in the area as well. We could visit the various state and county parks or even hop on a quick boat trip over to Catalina Island. All in all, I probably would try to explore the majority of the county rather than stick to one spot in town.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I can definitely attribute the majority of opportunities to my mentor/teacher Jamie Knight. He started an incredible rock/pop music program at Huntington Beach High School that changed my life forever. I’m still working closely with countless people that I met through Jamie. I can’t thank enough for all the love and support over the years.
Heather Shane and Caitlin Hill