Canadian writer, engineer and producer Hill Kourkoutis began to play Toronto clubs with various bands when she was only 13. By the time she’d turned 18, she was already a seasoned performer and it wasn’t long until other musicians recruited her to write for them. Because she was young and lacked cash, she taught herself how to record and quickly became an in-demand producer and engineer. She’s now worked with a number of artists such as Leela Gilday, Cassie Dasilva and Digging Roots. Early in 2022 she was the first woman to win a Juno Award for Recording Engineer of the Year.
When Kourkoutis writes, she likes to give both herself and the artist space to allow things to unfold and be realized organically. “It’s the same with production,” she explains. “You try to stay open to the process, be fluid and not scrutinize things at first. When I work with other artists, I like to get to know them so that when we start to write, there’s already a chemistry established and we have an idea of what we want to say. My process is to get all of the ideas out before I judge them. Then there’s a period where I can refine them afterwards. Once I feel that we’ve hit all of the marks emotionally, it feels like it flows, technically. There is a technical side to songwriting especially if you’re writing for a specific genre. Once we begin to feel good about all of those things, that’s when we know that a song is done.”
In addition to her usual productions, Kourkoutis has been tapped to write music for various children’s shows. “Like everything in my life, I feel like I came into that by accident,” she observes. “Something popped up as a random proposal and I saw it as an opportunity to experience something new. There are so many amazing things that you can gain out of such experiences and they help me connect to people better. When the children’s thing came along, I’d been missing the side of myself that I express through film and visuals—I have a degree in film studies and I used to direct music videos. My late friend Tim Thorney, who was a producer and songwriter, hooked me up with a few agencies that were looking for freelance writers. I found it incredibly freeing because as you grow older, you lose that naiveté; that sense of imagination. This brought me back to a place of being curious about everything and not overthinking.”
In any creative endeavor, it’s not unknown for artists to make things difficult for themselves unnecessarily; to self-handicap. For Kourkoutis, that’s been one of her biggest challenges. “I take everything very seriously and I get in my head about a lot of things,” she admits. “When you try to rationalize every facet of your life and wonder if you’re doing the right things, that can hinder the journey. When I allowed myself to be clear on what I wanted to focus upon, that’s when everything started to flow. I'm proud of the work I've done especially over the last few years. It's been a weird time in the industry.”
Currently Kourkoutis is working with several artists including Cassie Dasilva and Leela Gilday on their forthcoming releases. Recently she produced The Fool for SATE, which earned them a Juno Award nomination for the song “Howler.”
Contact – Instagram and Twitter @hillkourkoutis; hillkourkoutis.com
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