Many people in Denver may not know Nathan Reid by name. Just the same, over the course of his career, which spans three decades, he's had the chance to work with a host of prominent acts, from Ghostface to Damien and Stephen Marley.
Currently operating out of Mercury Sauce, his private production studio, which shares a name with his publishing and production company, Reid continues to maintain a high-profile client base, one that he's expanded to include an array of local artists such as Bianca Mikahn, Adam Duncan (O.N.E.), Juliana Zorrilla and Stero Lion, among many others.
We recently caught up with Reid and chopped it up about his latest projects, how he ended up in Denver and his love for Italian opera.
Westword (Rachel Romero): Mercury Sauce is quite the name for a music production company. Why Mercury Sauce, and what is it, exactly, that you do?
The name came from a conversation at the end of a very long day of recording. The Mercury part of our name came from both the planetary aspect as well as the element. The planet piece because it's closest to the sun -- the center of the universe and from which all life originates -- and because the planet is both crazy-hot and super-cool, the perfect blend for a music company.
The elemental part is because Mercury has both weight and substance but can still fit into any container or space it is required to. We add value to all of the projects we participate in, and have to be able to adapt to the needs of each artist or project we work on. The Sauce really simply states that we want to add that little something special to the music we create.
Mercury Sauce, as a company, writes, publishes songs and produces records -- that's it. It includes work for multi-platinum superstars as well as up and coming artists. Because I have been so fortunate over my career, we mostly work for and with artists who inspire us. To a lesser extent, we also work on select projects scoring music for film and television.
How did working with Ghostface come about? What about Damien and Stephen Marley?
All of the artists who wander through the studio or [artists] that we have relationships with come about primarily from word of mouth. I've been working in the industry for over thirty years and have been very blessed to work with phenomenal artists and on very successful projects during my career. I think in most of those cases, the artist understands that we're passionate about making music and making their project sound amazing.
We also keep a low profile, focus on the work, and a lot of artists like that environment. I'll also say that many artists probably love my sweetheart Carolyn's grilled cheese sandwiches better than anything I could ever do in the studio, but we have to go with what works, right?
When most folks think of professional production studios, Denver isn't the first place that comes to mind. It isn't exactly the epicenter of the recording industry. Has your location in Denver been a help or a hindrance in your business?
Over the course of my life and times, I've lived in Nashville, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Melbourne, Paris and London, and I've worked in a thousand different cities beyond those. So many of the relationships I have with artists originated in one of those cities rather than Denver. My move to Denver was a lifestyle choice for me rather than a career move. I love my life here, and the more relaxed pace better fits my elderly status.
But it's also true now that with the changes in the industry and the advances in technology, where I live has less of an impact than it used to. I can be anywhere in the world within a few hours, and a lot of the work I do is imported over the web and sent back out the same way.
Saying that, if you were just starting a career, I still believe that you have to migrate to one of those "epicenters," even for a short period of time, to experience the business of music, the competition that exists in the world outside of Colorado, and to give you some perspective to help define your own version of success in this business and as an artist.
What's your favorite studio memory?
I would say that rather than a specific artist memory, it goes back to the time when records were made in only a few locations and all of the artists working for the label would be in the same studio complex at the same time. The interaction between all of those artists, songwriters, engineers and producers is something I will always remember and something that I miss very much now in the new music industry.
I would also say that having the chance to meet my heroes are memories I will always cherish: Mutt Lange, Rick Rubin, Bob Rock, Clive Davis, Quincy Jones, David Foster, Diane Warren, James Taylor, Sting and Luther Vandross, just to name a few. I am humbled by their genuine dedication to their craft and to their talent. It keeps me working hard at what I do to this day.
You know what, I probably get the most satisfaction not in the studio, but either listening to an album we've created years after the fact and finding myself still moved by the music, or watching one of our young artists breathe life into one of the songs we've created and seeing the crowd respond to that performance. Those moments are very special to me.
I met you through the lovely Bianca Mikahn, who recently released her first solo album, Left Fist Evolution. Who else are you working with locally, and what can we expect to see from them in 2010?
First, I'm excited about the release of Left Fist Evolution from Bianca and believe it achieves our highest aspirations in music: Those are to both entertain and inspire in the context of real-life stories. It is not a simple pop record, and for that reason, as people listen over time, I think they will continue to find things in the record they relate to and enjoy. But for lack of a better term, it is advanced listening.
Currently, with local artists, we are working on the updated release of Ronin with Acezi that should be out before the end of the year; a project from Amanda Hawkins, This Is NOT a Mixtape, that includes some amazing features from Roadside Prophets, Julox, and FOE; and we just began working on a few tracks with Yonnas from the Pirate Signal. I don't expect the later two will release this year, but we'll see how much progress we make over the next few weeks. Next year will probably also see new releases from Julianna Zorrilla and Stero-Lion, God willing and the creek don't rise.
You're obviously a huge music aficionado. What are you currently listening to?
This may surprise you, but when I'm working on an album, I don't listen to that much music outside of the project itself. The projects I work on have a way of totally consuming my being, and it is hard for me to do much else when I'm in that mode.
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Saying that, I am a huge fan of music from Italian operas to bluegrass, pop, R&B and hip-hop. If you look at my iPod today, you'll find Acezi, Bianca Mikahn, Damian Marley, DJ Illnaughty, Jen Korte and the Loss, John Common and Blinding Flashes of Light, King FOE & Whygee, Mane Rok, Marc Broussard, Michelle Branch, Adam Duncan [O.N.E.], The Pirate Signal, Seal, Sade, Shawn Colvin, Tina Arena, Van Morrison and Yarah Bravo.
Is there anything in particular that differs from working with rappers in comparison to artists of other genres?
At their very core, artists/musicians are not very different. From classical musicians to bluegrass pickers to rock icons to rappers, they are all compelled to speak their mind and born to entertain. If they are genuine in their pursuit of excellence and to their artistic vision, we're in.