They say it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, but for Brendan Morawski, it took a few years and hours of studio time to get to that right place.
A music lover and son of a professional musician, Brendan enrolled in Full Sail’s Recording Arts bachelor’s degree program in 2008 with a strategy: If he wanted to achieve his goal of working at a major New York City studio, he was going to develop his skills in smaller markets first. He set his plan into motion while still in school, by interning with mastering engineer Bob Katz in Longwood, Florida, and volunteering to record live jazz performances at other local events.
“While you’re in school is the best time to work for free,” says Brendan. “I was at [Bob Katz’s] studio for about 40 hours a week, and at school during the other times. You can make it happen. I had perfect attendance. It’s possible.”
Brendan graduated in 2010 and moved back to his home state of Connecticut, where he landed any audio gig he could get – he worked at local hip hop shops, tracking studios, city council meetings, a NASCAR racetrack, and as a studio manager at audio company Telefunken. A couple of years later, that experience landed him an internship at New York’s Jungle City Studios, one of the top recording facilities in Manhattan. (Longtime Alicia Keys engineer Ann Mincieli owns Jungle City, and its clients include Beyonce, Kanye West, Justin Bieber, and more.) After logging hours (and hours) at Jungle City – and sleeping on busses and at friends houses in between shifts – Brendan landed an Assistant Engineer job with the studio in 2013.
“[Interning/working at Jungle City] has been one of the hardest experiences, but I’d definitely say it’s worth it,” says Brendan. “It’s what I love to do, and I get to work at a really top level. It’s awesome to be around people who are really driven. Nothing worth having is easy.”
And that previously mentioned right place and right time: For Brendan, it was a random day in the studio when fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff was in producing the album for his new band, Bleachers. The assistant working with Jack had to go on vacation, so Brendan filled in for the weekend. Things went well, and he ended up on the project for eight months. Today, the two continue to work together on projects, and Brendan is helping Jack install a recording studio in his house.
“[Jack] is a really great guy,” says Brendan. “When I engineer for him, it’s just about getting his setup right and making sure his ProTools doesn’t get too crazy. He knows how to use ProTools and mix, so it’s really just about giving him his space to get what he needs to get done.”
Brendan’s ongoing relationship with Jack found them in the studio one afternoon last year, working on some new music for one of Jack’s friends, Taylor Swift. The two recorded a pair of tracks – “Out of the Woods” and “I Wish You Would” – which both ended up on Swift’s latest album, 1989. Brendan has Assistant Engineer credits on both.
“Jack wrote a couple of songs, we worked on them, and the next thing I know, she’s in the studio with Max Martin putting vocals on them,” Brendan remembers.
To date, 1989 has sold more than 1.2 million copies – it was 2014’s best-selling record – and sales will only continue to rise as Swift embarks on a World Tour in support of the album this summer. “Out of the Woods,” one of the tracks Brendan worked on, was a Top 20 single. For Brendan, it’s definitely an impressive to credit to have on his resume at this point in his career.
“It’s a really big deal for me to know that I had a part in an album that people around the world enjoy,” says Brendan. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is to be able to work on music that the whole world hears. It doesn’t matter if I’m doing heavy metal, hip hop, jazz, or pop. If I can be a part of music that the world can be inspired by, that’s the biggest thing for me.”