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

Hi Steven, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
At twenty-one I entered the music business straight out of college and like most twenty year olds, I had no chill. I was ready to jump into the Los Angeles studio scene without hesitation or limitations. I landed a job at Larrabee Sound Studios where I was a runner (music slang for gopher/janitor) and made myself readily available for every shift possible. Between my eagerness and education I was quickly promoted to Assistant Engineer. This job required me to be at the studio before the artist/producer/engineer arrived and close up after they left. Somedays I would be in the studio for 12 hours, other days would literally last over 72 hours. It was safe to say that my life was consumed by my job at this point.

This was probably not the best news for my new (at the time) wife. We got married just before we both graduated from the music department at California State University, Chico and before we moved to LA. Fortunately when we dated say wife knew me only as a night owl. In college I worked at a local bar and did sound for all the bands that came through. So I was never home before 2 am.

My wife has always been my rock on multiple levels. She’s my constant champion, who would often bring me a clean change of clothes for my marathon studio sessions. She is my consoler when my anxieties and insecurities get the best of me (which happens often in this “what have you done lately” business). And she is the financial stabilizer in our marriage. Without her I would’ve never had health insurance.

For the past 25 plus years I’ve been making my living producing, mixing and mastering music projects for some of the biggest names in the business. During that time I’ve learned and earned the ability to work more on my own terms. This doesn’t mean I don’t have the occasional long day or work week. But I have been able to prioritize my time where work does not consume 100% of my life. As an independent contractor this is not the easiest of goals to reach. But as I said before without my wife I would’ve never been able to get to this point.

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.
As music producers/composers my partner Alex Elena and myself take a more organic yet familiar approach to music creation. Where some might be programming drums we are playing them live. Where some are simplifying melodic and chordal structures we are taking chances and challenging the listener. Currently we are excited to be working with a Cuban rap artist, Mucharima. His album has notes of afro/cuban jazz, old school rap, 80s synth-pop and trap. Layered on top of this there are catchy hooks and verses with meaningful and insightful lyrics provided by Mucharima.

After college I worked my way through the LA studio scene. I was able to connect with producers and artists ranging from Eminem, Dr Dre, 50 Cent to Michael Jackson, Aloe Blacc and Machine Head. Nothing worth doing is easy, but I don’t regret the time I put into learning my craft. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in this business is to treat everyone with respect and dignity. Something you would think should come innately. But many times I’ve seen people treat new aspiring producers/engineers/artists like trash only later to see that person become a person of power within the business.

My focus is about sharing the music and stories of others. The more I collaborate with artists from around the world the more my knowledge and love for music grows. I will never, more than likely, become a household name. But people will know and remember my work.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When my friends come to town we usually start where everybody expects to start in LA, the beach. A trip up to Malibu with a stop at Malibu Seafood is usually a priority. During the week I would probably scour the local Jazz clubs and see who is playing at Catalina, The Baked Potato and Vibrato. My wife and I enjoy easy hikes with friends at Griffith Park, Malibu and The Tree People Park. If we want a special experience booking a tour at The Lost Spirits Distillery is always a Charlie in the Chocolate Factory type adventure.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Outside of my wife the two most influential figures in my life are my two current business partners. Mauricio Iragorri and I started a Mastering company together, Next Level Mastering. His engineering talent, eye for detail and overall friendship has sustained me for many years. I would not be where I am without him. My production partner Alex Elena has pushed me creatively farther than anyone I’ve ever known. Everyday I’m in the studio with him creating I learn something new and dare to push my music into new creative spaces. I love both of these guys like brothers.

Website: www.twobeardsproductions.com and www.nextlevelmastering.com

Instagram: @in2mixin @nxtlvlmastering @twobeardsmusic

Twitter: @in2mixin

Image Credits
Alex Elena, Steven Baughman

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