The modern music producer needs to be able to wear multiple hats at once, often taking on the role of an engineer and songwriter while leading an artist’s recording session. Full Sail Recording Arts graduate Steve Tippeconnic has never had a problem juggling those roles. Growing up a drummer whose love of both punk rock and hip hop inspired him to pursue a career in the music industry, Steve is a Los Angeles-based producer whose credits include Demi Lovato, Big Time Rush, Hollywood Undead, Handsome Ghost, and more.
After graduating from Full Sail and briefly returning to his hometown in Pennsylvania, Steve made the decision to move west to kick off his career in the recording industry. A colleague’s referral landed him an internship at Larry Goetz’s The Lair recording studio. Within a few months, he was promoted to Head Engineer and soon found himself working on sessions with multi-platinum producer/writer Matt Squire (One Direction, Ariana Grande, Bea Miller).
“Matt and I really hit it off in the studio, and I eventually started working with him exclusively. I spent about a year just learning the ropes with him. I guess you could call it an apprenticeship,” Steve says. “Our friendship continued to blossom and grow, and he signed me to a production deal under him. We were already working on every session that came our way together, and that’s still how we tend to operate today.”
Part of what makes the duo work so well together is their tendency to play to one another’s strengths. Matt tends to excel in the melodic aspect of songwriting, while Steve’s background as a drummer lends itself to a more rhythm-driven approach to constructing tracks. A big part of Steve’s musical development has also come from embracing one of the more recent instruments to become a staple in the world of popular music – the laptop.
“I do drum on projects that we work on, but there’s something really powerful about being able to play any instrument using a laptop. Knowing what soft synth or plug-in or sample pack to cue up in a session is definitely a big thing in modern music,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll spend ten minutes just going through trap snares, trying to find what the song is calling for. The wrong kick or snare can destroy a whole song. It’s definitely an art form. Plus working on a laptop means we can go anywhere and work, which is nice.”
With that in mind, Steve is quick to point out that the habits that he picked up during his time in the Recording Arts program have definitely helped him increase his proficiency operating in the digital workspace.
“The biggest things I got out of Full Sail all centered around the computer-based stuff, and really anything geared towards working with DAWs [digital audio workstations],” he says. “The faster you are with key commands and just flying around one of those programs, the more comfortable you are in getting what’s in your mind out with the least amount of resistance. Being taught Pro Tools was very important.”
Matt and Steve recently produced half of Vine sensations-turned-recording artists Jack & Jack’s debut EP, Calibraska. The project – combining elements of pop and rap – went straight to #1 on iTunes in 15 countries upon its digital release.
“As a producer, your only job is to make sure that the song doesn’t suck and that the artist is happy with what they wrote. There are two lines of thinking when it comes to producers these days: those who write songs and pitch them to artists, and those who get together with the artist and help them write,” Steve says. “I think that the song should definitely come from the artist.”
With six years of living in Los Angeles and working in the industry under his belt, Steve has already been able to do what most musicians dream about doing for a living. But no matter how much of his craft requires sitting at a computer, he hasn’t lost sight of what the most important part of the business actually boils down to.
“This whole game is 80 percent about people skills. Of course you’ve got to have the talent and put in the work, but a lot of it just boils down to whether or not you can get in a room with someone like Katy Perry and be able to create something together,” says Steve. “I just want to keep going. I’m always working. I think about it every day – I get to go in and do a song every day. It’s so crazy to think that this has become my job.”