San Francisco - Greetings From The San Francisco Chapter Board: Nick Phillips

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Nick Phillips – Producer/Songwriter/Instrumentalist

San Francisco Governor

How/When did you get your start?

My interest in music in general was ignited as a 5th grader trying to learn to play trumpet in our public school system, and my interest in jazz began in junior high school from playing in the school's jazz ensemble.   I got my official start in the music business in September of 1987 when I landed a job at Concord Jazz (now Concord Music Group) right out of college.  It's hard to believe it's been almost a quarter century already!

Who is the most interesting person you’ve worked with and why?

That's a tough question because I've been fortunate to have worked with a variety of amazingly talented and interesting artists over the years.   Perhaps the most personally thrilling was the first time I worked as a producer with one of my jazz trumpet heroes and living legend, Randy Brecker, on a recording project.

Who is someone you would like to work with and why?

If I could turn back the hands of time, at the top of my list would be Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans.  They're some of the most original artists in the history of jazz and influenced pretty much everybody that followed them.  Regarding living artists that I haven't worked with, Stevie Wonder, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock would be at the top of my list.

What is your favorite piece of equipment and why?

My ear.  All the studio equipment in the world doesn’t mean a thing if you're not using your ear.  They still haven't invented a piece of equipment that can replace that!

Where/how do you hear about new music?

It's a combination of a variety of sources:  Pandora, Spotify, Facebook, iTunes, emusic.com, magazines such as JazzTimes and Down Beat, various Bay Area radio stations during my commute, hearing it live in Bay Area venues, etc.  Myfavorite way to discover new music always has been and is still word of mouth:  Friends turning friends on to new music they like.

What’s the best part about the San Francisco music scene?

The sense of community we have here in the SF Bay Area is pretty special, and SF chapter of The Recording Academy has been very instrumental in connecting me with so many wonderful people in this community.   The feeling I get is one that is much more mutually supportive than it is competitive.

What book would you recommend as a must read for someone?

There are many, but I suppose at the top of my list of books for musicians/artists would have to be Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner and The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. 

What advice would you give to a young artist just starting out in the music business?

You need to love music so much that you can't imagine doing anything else.  That no matter what, music is not only an important part of your life, it is your life and it's who you are.  There are easier ways to make money.   And fame is fleeting.   So if those are your primary motivations you'd be better off finding something else to do for a living.  If you decide that music truly is your life, be patient and persistent.  Never stop growing as a creative artist while also learning all you can about the business. 

What Social Networking sites do you use the most?

Facebook mostly and Grammy365. 

What are your favorite performance venues in San Francisco?

I'll extend that to the Bay Area in general:  my two favorite venues are Yoshi's in Oakland and Yoshi's in San Francisco.

What are your “secrets to success?”

Listen more than you speak. 

Do all you can to prepare but don't cling rigidly to your plans.  Once in a recording session (or any situation) let go of all of that and be present in the moment.   Take some time to step back and reflect and appreciate just how fortunate you are to be doing what you're doing. 

Do you believe mentorship is important?  Who were your mentors early on in your career and what impact did they have on your experience in the business?

There have been so many different people who have helped to shape the different aspects of who I am musically, professionally, and personally.   I've learned so much about music from the many artists I've had the great fortune of working with over the years, including Karrin Allyson, Bob Berg, Randy Brecker, Gary Burton, Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham, Chick Corea, Marian McPartland, Nnenna Freelon, Kenny Werner, and so many others.  It's been an honor and a privilege working with legendary jazz record producer Orrin Keepnews on a variety of reissues over the past handful of years.  Hearing this living, breathing, encyclopedia of jazz history tell his stories about working with Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Cannonball Adderley, and so many others has been a priceless education. Of course, Carl Jefferson, the founder of Concord Jazz (Concord Music Group) and the man who hired me back in 1987, was a vitally important mentor.  He demonstrated time and time again that it's not only possible but important to earn a living by doing something that you love.   And I am forever grateful that he'd let the kid-in-his-early-twenties that was me get the valuable experience of producing records, by throwing me in the deep end letting me learn, on the job, how to swim.