It has been over a year since I have spoken with Grammy Award Winning, New York-based Producer Mario McNulty. Shortly after our telephone discussion, I decided to hold off on publishing the interview about his long tenure work with Music Industry notables David Bowie and Prince (to name a few). This comes with good reason: only weeks after our interview, Prince passed away and while the world was still reeling with the loss of Bowie in January 2016, the music industry was shook up yet again with the loss of one of Pop Musics’ greatest icons.
Flash forward to present day: McNulty and I revisit our previous discussion on Bowie and Prince and also caught up on his latest projects with notables Laurie Anderson, The Last Internationale, and Earl Slick (to name a few). Other Artists he can attribute his work to presently are New Mayans, Kayleigh O’Connor, Lucy Woodward, Carol C, Anna Paddock, Nelly Petkova, and Sean Wood. McNulty has worked alongside Grammy Award Winning Producer Mark Plati (also, Bowie), has laid roots at the notable Magic Shop Studios in New York(closed now), and his Artist roster continues to grow. It is right for me to say that if any Artist chooses to have their work produced by Mario McNulty, it’s as good as Grammy Award Winning-caliber gold.
Here is our exclusive interview:
SMC SPOTLIGHT Interview | Grammy award winning Producer Mario McNulty
SMC – Hello Mario! This is a genuine pleasure to have you featured on our SMC SPOTLIGHT! We spoke over a year ago and shortly after, Prince passed away. What a tough year 2016 was for the industry. More importantly, for you being that you personally worked with Bowie and Prince on their projects. Can you share with us your thoughts and reflections on your relationships with these brilliant Artists?
Mario – Losing David and Prince was very difficult, and more so in such close proximity. However, with David it was different because I had known him so well, and had worked with him since 2001. Both David and Prince stood alone in their fields, no one came close. Such brilliant visionary artists and musicians they both were.
SMC – You have also worked with so many stellar Artists whose careers are still going strong today. Can you tell us which of them are your most favorite and why?
Mario – One artist I have so much love and respect for is Laurie Anderson, who continues to create. I have always been in awe of Laurie, so when I got a call to potentially mix something for her I was floored and excited. That was I believe in 2004 or 2005, I have been with her ever since. Laurie is the kind of artist who makes you feel inspired at the end of every session.
SMC – Can you tell us of a moment or memory in working with the Artists you have which was the pivotal (life-changing) point in your career?
Mario – It is quite hard to answer but I feel that my working and personal relationship with Bowie is the obvious answer for me. Everything was different after I started working with David.
SMC – You won a Grammy for in the Best Contemporary World Music category for the album Djin Djin (2007) by the Artist Angélique Kidjo. Can you tell us what it was like working on that project? Also, what was it like being up there and accepting the Grammy?
Mario – That album was pretty much a constant joy to make. Incredible musicians and the positive spirit of Angelique on a daily basis was so much fun. We recorded at Electric Lady studios in downtown Manhattan, in the big legendary studio A. A fairly big ensemble of players from all corners of the world in a big room with no isolation… I only had a bass cabinet in the closet. Guest singers for nearly every song, it was exciting. I actually didn’t attend the Grammys that year, I was on a project and in studio in Lexington, Kentucky!
SMC – I would like to know who your favorite Artists are in the following categories and why:
Mario – I’ll have to give you a few… it’s not really an easy question as I have so many favorites over the years and the eras of modern recording.
Pop – Prince, I can’t think of another artist who I like for commercial music more. For modern pop, so I’ll say Marina and The Diamonds. I think her first record is the most underrated pop album I’ve ever heard.
Rock – Classic stuff… Bowie, Gabriel, Zeppelin, Stones, Beatles, Pink Floyd, too many to name. For more modern, Tool. They are the best performing band in the world. I love The Cult, Alice In Chains, Faith No More.
R&B – Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Chaka Khan, Janet Jackson.
Jazz – Miles, Coltrane.
Alternative – Japan, Talk Talk, Eno, Kate Bush, Simple Minds, PJ Harvey, Zappa… too many!!
SMC – What are your thoughts on the production quality of most music today?
Mario – It depends on what perspective, but generally the production quality of music people are hearing on Spotify or Apple music is good but standardized.
SMC – What are your thoughts on the kinds of Artists Starlight Music Chronicles supports?
Mario – It looks very eclectic and glad to see these groups getting a shot!
SMC – We spoke last about your work with New Mayans and we have yet to publish your commentary on the work you did with them on their album ‘Crimes’…. can you tell us what your thoughts are on their art?
Mario – I haven’t seen the art work, but the music was a very specific vision from Joe Swigunski. I’m looking forward to seeing the artwork!
SMC – Okay, let’s go into your Discography career highlights – what was it like to work with our beloved Bowie? Can you tell us of a memory that stands out to you most?
Mario – Too many with David but recent memory was an email correspondence we were having about my son Julian, that was nice.
SMC – With Prince, what are your thoughts on his name change, work ethics, and art?
Mario – I ever gave the name change much thought, he was still Prince to me and everyone else I knew, it was just a legal effort to annoy the record label. His work ethics were at the highest standard, not many could work like he could. His art was a very high period of creative output that we might not ever see again.
SMC – Can you name five Artists today that you have not worked with that you would like to?
Mario – Tool, Simple Minds, Marina and The Diamonds, Brian Eno, Lorde.
SMC – In terms of independent Artists, which ones have impressed you over the last few years or even recently and why?
Mario – There is a Canadian artist whose record I am mixing at the moment, named Kayleigh O’Conner. I have been really impressed with this record and her songs… I can see her going far.
SMC – What do you think is the most important thing an Artist can do to better themselves in this competitive industry?
Mario – Make it your life, and don’t stop working. The people and groups that are successful are for many reasons, but one common thread is the drive and work ethic.
SMC – In terms of media, what do you find is lacking in media support today? What would you like to see improved?
Mario – Credit being given to the creators of the product, which used to happen de-facto on album liner notes. This needs to be resolved for proper credit due.
SMC – Can you name some of the top Producers in the industry whose work you admire and why?
Mario – I love what John Congleton has done with St. Vincent. I think her albums are forward thinking and unique, I think Congleton helped in that process.
SMC – I am going to say this: Peter Gabriel is one of my absolute favorite Artists of all time. Can you tell us a story about how you became connected to him?
Mario – I have never met Peter Gabriel, my only working connection is that he sang on a song called ‘Salala’ for the Angelique Kidjo album I recorded. However, Peter sang his vocals in England, we were in NYC. I was in communication with Peter’s engineer, but never spoke to him.
SMC – When in your career did you realize you had a real gift and something special to offer Artists in the industry? What was that pivotal ‘Ah Ha’ moment for you?
Mario – I think there was a time shortly after graduating high school where I was searching for my career calling. I had always been an artist, and had started playing music only several years earlier. I had taken a course in digital recording at a collage and while behind the desk I had a moment of clarity.
SMC – You have grown alongside the careers of many of the people you have worked with, and even some who were world renowned way before your time. How does that feel?
Mario – It is a humbling feeling, but it is important to be thankful and gracious about who you meet and work with. In my case since I came up in the industry at a fairly early age, I have been very lucky to be close to people who have accomplished so much.
SMC – I ask this in every interview – tell us five facts about yourself that no one knows about. (our readers love this one!)
Mario – My interests outside of music, since that is more public, are hanging out with my son Julian. Other facts I suppose are… I am essentially both handed, I dig David Lynch, I dig museums, I dig sushi.
SMC – You work with Laurie Anderson has also been extensive and impressive! What are some fond memories or moments for you have working with her?
Mario – I have many. One of my favorites was mixing her album in 2009. We had spent what turned into months mixing the record at her studio. Lou Reed, her husband, was always there with me since he had taken on more of a producer role at the end of the album. We were working quite a bit, long days. One day Laurie or Lou, not sure who said it first, told me to setup a keyboard and mic station for the dog, Lolabelle. Shortly after, Lolabelle was playing keys and barking into the mic… which made the record. True story.
SMC – Four words and I want your thoughts and reflections on them: The Magic Shop Studio….
Mario – It was a great studio with a great casual relaxed vibe. I miss it very much, I have many fond memories that will last my entire life.
SMC – Can you tell us when your very first thought came to you to pursue a career as a Producer?
Mario – It was at some point when I was in high school. I was listening to the David Bowie album ‘1.Outside’. There is a song called ‘We Prick You’, which I obsessed over, listened on repeat and tried to figure out what the hell was going on. I knew somehow then I was on my way.
SMC – I saw that you just finished production work on a single for Nelly Petkova…. can you tell us what your predictions are for this Artist?
Mario – I actually just finished 3 songs with Nelly, which were just mastered this past week. Nelly has a huge following in Bulgaria already, I am hoping for good things to come!
SMC – I noted that at the end of last year, you worked with The Last Internationale – what was it like working with these exceptional Artists?
Mario – Incredible group of players and people. We clicked immediately, I was already a fan of their music. It always is a huge bonus when you get along in your world view.
SMC – How can an Artist get in touch with you for production work?
Mario – Easy, contact my manager Joe D’Ambrosio (here)
SMC – Are you currently taking on new clients?
Mario – Absolutely! I have new clients of all sorts every year, both indie and major label.
SMC – Okay, final question: If there was any advice you could give to indie Artists today who are producing a lot of their own music, what would that be?
Mario – It would be similar to your earlier question… make it your life. But, I would add to this, and say take things one step at a time and try to possibly be methodical about your learning process. Producing records is artistry of course, but it’s also half technical. There is a lot to know and learn. Don’t expect to produce ‘Rumors’ in 3 weeks… it takes time.
SMC – Thank you Mario!
Mario – You’re very welcome and thank you!
Mario McNulty | BIO
Producer/engineer/mixer/collaborator Mario J. McNulty began his career in NYC 16 years ago working for Philip Glass at his studio, Looking Glass. Within a year, Mario became a freelance engineer/mixer working for David Bowie and Tony Visconti.
In 2008, Mario won his first Grammy Award recording Angelique Kidjo’s star-studded release, Djin Djin. Little did he know when he left Phoenix to come to NewYork that it would take a little less than 7 years to reach such lofty heights. Mario has also worked with Prince, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Earl Slick, Nine Inch Nails, The Raveonettes, Imelda May, Manic Street Preachers, Kashmir, Anti-Flag, Julian Lennon, Alejandro Escovedo, Alexa Ray Joel, Antony and the Johnsons and many other artists.
Recently, for two-plus years, Mario recorded the David Bowie release entitled The Next Day. The Next Day debuted #1 in 40 countries across the world! Additionally, has done live sound and recorded tours for Nine Inch Nails, Prince, David Byrne, The B-52’s and MuchMusic’s Video Awards.
Currently, Mario recorded and mixed Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple) for the end title to a film, recorded The Last Internationale and recorded and mixed David Bowie music for the Brit Awards.
* Engineered David Bowie’s The Next Day and Reality.
* Remixed David Bowie’s single, “Time Will Crawl”
* Produced Semi-Precious Weapons debut, We Love You.
* Engineered and Mixed Laurie Anderson’s Homeland release.
* Co-Produced/Engineered/mixed Earl Slick’s upcoming 2015 release.
* Mixed The Raveonettes’ Beauty Dies EP.
* Mixed Anti-Flag’s The People Or The Gun.
* Engineered Anti-Flag’s The Bright Lights Of America, Neil and Tim Finn’s Everyone Is Here, Manic Street Preachers’ Lifeblood, Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips’ L’Avventura and Kashmir’s No Balance Palace feat. Lou Reed and David Bowie.
Mario Mcnulty’s Social Media Links (click to view)