Producer Crosstalk: Ken Lewis

Producer, mixer and artist development dude Ken Lewis grew up in Ohio and studied production and engineering at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. He moved to New York City in 1993, sharpened his skills at Soundtrack and soon rocketed up the engineering ladder. Less than three years later he went solo and has remained so ever since. Artists he’s worked with include Kanye West, BTS and Taylor Swift. In March, he launched his live YouTube show “Mixing Night with Ken Lewis.”

He describes his career as one with “the weirdest resume in the business.” That’s due in large measure to the breadth and range of genres in which he’s worked. “I have all of these different experiences working with a lot of the best artists in the world,” he observes. “One of the things I get called to do often is to bring one genre of music into another for a specific artist. For instance, J. Cole had me produce all of the live string sections and choirs on Born Sinner. I got that call because I understand how to bring live strings into the hip hop world, make it sound authentic and have it make sense.”

Throughout the pandemic, Lewis has stayed not only active but, indeed, prolific. “I closed down initially for about two weeks,” he recollects. “But after that, it was an onslaught. No clients came into my studio for a year but I produced vocals via Audiomovers and Skype from Tokyo to Texas. My mixing work hasn’t changed much either. The biggest thing the pandemic taught me was that if you’re already established, it doesn’t matter anymore where you are, unless you need to meet with your clients in person. That was quite the revelation.”

It’s not unknown for artists to step into the studio and suffer pangs of anxiety. To quell such feelings, Lewis employs a spectrum of tactics. “I try to immerse them in their own world as much as possible,” he explains. “An artist won’t put on their headphones until they sound like a record and the mic is ready to get the first take amazingly well. This allows them to escape into the world of the record they’re making. And I usually put something up on the screen. With Skrizzly Adams, it’s often Lana Del Rey on mute. She makes these deeply Americana, visual videos and he makes real Americana music. All of the imagery speaks to the songs that we’re trying to capture and it distracts him from obsessing over every word he’s singing. This lets you capture something the artist didn’t even know he or she had in them.”

Currently Lewis is working with Skrizzly Adams and has some productions on the upcoming Des Rocs’ record. Ken is half of the production team Katalyst, along with Brent Kolatalo, and they are currently developing new artist, Harlor. Popular components of “Mixing Night with Ken Lewis” are Q&A sessions, ear-training exercises and instruction on how some of his bigger mixes were crafted. Lastly, he aims to release GreenHAAS, his pitch-spreader plug-in for all of the major DAWs, in the summer.

Contact kenlewis.com