Pro User Interviews

Steve Bertrand

Steve Bertrand is a Los Angeles based songwriter and musician. Bertrand is the singer/guitar player for the bands Avion and the Tories. He has written two top 30 hits including "Seven Days Without You" and "Beautiful." Bertrand has made a name for himself as a session vocalist and guitarist as well as being in the house band for both "The Voice" and Michael Jackson's Forever tribute tv concert.

We sat down with him recently and here's what he had to say.

Q: Being one of the members of the house band for "The Voice" what is it like working with all these up and coming singers?

It's been an honor working on "The Voice". The mix of new talent and celebrity musical guests keeps it fresh. Things change so quickly day to day with new songs, arrangements and keys but the musical director Paul Mirkovich and the rest of the band are ridiculously talented so it all comes together quickly.

Q: As one of the most in demand session musician do you find it challenging adjusting your playing style to various artists?

I enjoy the challenge of playing different roles when it comes to giving the client what they're looking for. I worked on an i-phone app project last year that required me to re-record and sing over one hundred hit songs. I had to go from being Thom Yorke of Radiohead one day to Rivers Cuomo of Weezer the next and then onto a Rascal Flatts tune. That project raised my game incredibly as each track was held up to a microscope and needed to sound exactly like the original.

Q: What is the biggest difference between writing for tv/film vs your own solo music?

The biggest difference is pleasing the producers vs. pleasing ones self :) Obviously when you're hired to write for film/tv, you're typically given a very specific assignment. It's important that the music serves its purpose in the scene without being disruptive. It's also usually underscore or without lyrics, which removes an element of communication that I rely on in my solo music.

Q: You've had numerous accomplishments as a musician, what do you view as your biggest one or most important to you?

The People's Choice Award was nice, the ASCAP Film/TV Awards are cool, but I think my biggest accomplishment so far has been co-producing/scoring an ultra low budget documentary called "Mzungu"(which means "white wanderer" in Swahili). It's a story that fell into my lap and touched my heart while I was in Uganda. Seeing the impact it has had on people's lives as it's made it's way through the festival circuit has been humbling. It's changed the focus of my life from simply having success to doing things and living a life that has significance.

Q: You've had the honor of being in the house band for Michael Jackson's Forever tribute tv concert, was Michael Jackson one of your influences?

Though I didn't grow up buying Michael Jackson albums, he's such a part of the fabric of our musical culture that he definitely influenced me. I didn't truly discover his genius until I had to learn 54 of his songs for the show. His voice was so percussive and his timing impeccable. I was fortunate to meet and spend time with him 5 or 6 times throughout my career. I feel blessed to have had those experiences.

Q: What Slate Products do you use and can you briefly discuss how you use them?

I have SSD Platinum and Trigger. I love and use them almost every day. Typically I program the drums on my Axiom keyboard but when schedules permit I prefer to have someone play the parts on an electronic kit. Once in a while I'll mix my programming with fills or parts from your Jerry Lyons midi for a killer hybrid part. I hired Glenn Sobel immediately after seeing your tutorial videos a couple of years ago. He's fantastic! I love the fact that I have complete control and separate outputs for everything(although I usually don't need to do much as the kits seem to fit perfectly into my mixes). Steven nailed the sounds, and mixing in the right amount of Room or SSD makes the kits come alive in the track. The Zep kit with no overhead mics makes a super cool 70's sounding set when you bus the entire kit through a Fairchild compressor with no SSD or Room. I used to spend hours with sound replacer adding kick and snare samples to my live drums, as inevitably there would be flaming. Now it's a simple task with Trigger and I'm blown away with how locked in the samples are. This has dramatically reduced my work load and freed me up to spend more time on being creative. In my humble opinion the SSD plugins have been the most important addition to my arsenal in the past few years.

Steve Bertrand