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Bobbi Giel

Head Mastering Engineer, Welcome to 1979

Someone we've wanted to introduce you to for awhile now, who is really making waves in the industry is Head Mastering Engineer at Welcome to 1979, Bobbi Giel in Nashville, TN. Welcome to 1979 is a multi-faceted, analog-centric studio that provides both digital and vinyl mastering services with the latter being what Bobbi is most known for.  As you'll read later you've heard her work on Paramore's new vinyl record "This is Why" as well as a slew of other releases like the reissue of Weezer's self titled album, to K. Flay's "Inside Voices", and the recent fantastic vinyl release by Project Traction which provides mentorship to women and nonbinary musicians to gain traction in the audio production field.

When she isn't working on perfect cuts for our vinyl listening pleasure, she enjoys going to as many live performances as she can. "Doesn't matter if it's music, dance, or theater - I love them all". She also enjoys boxing classes as a way to stay active. "...But my ideal day would have to be curling up with a good book or binge watching a new television series I haven't seen before."

How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?

I’ve always been passionate about music. I started taking piano and voice lessons when I was six years old and eventually picked up violin, guitar, bass, and mallet percussion. When it came time to decide what I wanted to do after high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music, but the most obvious options (i.e. music education, composition, and performance) didn’t seem like the right fit for me. It wasn’t until I took a couple of sound recording electives that I realized music production was also a viable option and a facet of the music industry I could potentially thrive in.

In 2015, I earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Production and Technology with a concentration in Classical Piano and a minor in Business Administration from The Hartt School at the University of Hartford. Following graduation, I spent two years working at various recording and post-production studios in New York City including MSR Studios (now Sound on Sound Studios in Montclair, New Jersey), the new Atlantic Studios at Atlantic Records, and LVLY Studios.

I then made the move to Nashville in October 2017 and spent four years at Georgetown Masters under the direction of Chief Mastering Engineer Andrew Mendelson. Eventually I felt the need to explore new opportunities and found myself immersed in the vinyl industry when I joined the team at Welcome to 1979 in 2021.

What is a day in the life like?

I have always been drawn to the fast turnover in mastering. I work on multiple projects a day as opposed to a recording or mix engineer who might work on one project over the course of several days or weeks.

Sometimes my day will include a mix of digital and vinyl mastering projects - other days it'll be only one or the other. I could be mastering a pop country single and an indie rock album for digital release in the morning then cutting the master lacquers for a horror movie soundtrack later in the afternoon. The variety of projects I get to work on is what I enjoy the most.

In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you've worked on?

I had the opportunity to do the vinyl mastering and lacquer cutting for Paramore's newest album "This Is Why". Their earlier albums, especially "Riot!" and "Brand New Eyes", basically made up the soundtrack of my teenage years - all of my friends and I wanted to be Hayley Williams. Being able to say I worked on their newest record fifteen years later was a dream.

What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?

The resurgence of vinyl over the last few years has been incredible to witness, and it's exciting to see many major label and independent artists alike release their music on vinyl. However, in turn I spend a fair amount of time explaining how vinyl works and the differences between digital and vinyl mastering in general.

Vinyl records used to be the only way people could consume music, but with the evolution of CDs and eventually digital distribution and streaming, there's a universal lack of understanding as to why and how vinyl is vastly different compared to digital formats. I wouldn't say it's the hardest part of the job, but the scarcity of resources available to those who want to gain a basic understanding of the vinyl manufacturing process adds a layer of difficulty to the day to day.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?

I always encourage those starting out to take advantage of any and all opportunities available to them. As a young professional beginning to navigate my career, I was intrigued by many aspects of the music industry and wanted to learn as much as possible before focusing my attention on a singular profession.

By saying "yes" to a bunch of different opportunities over the years, I eventually found my way to mastering.

I would also encourage those starting out to build genuine connections with others in the industry. Us mastering and lacquer cutting engineers - we all know each other and help one another since there are so few of us. There are some who take an individualistic approach to working in the music industry, but I've found that it's so much more enjoyable and fulfilling to have a community of other professionals you can turn to for support.

Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?

I started collecting vinyl records around my sophomore year of college, but it wasn't much until recently - my collection has grown substantially since I started mastering for vinyl a couple of years ago.

What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.

I think the resurgence of vinyl and the push for immersive audio is a fascinating juxtaposition. Vinyl is considered an antique format while immersive audio is the best of new technology, so observing how these two immensely different listening experiences coexist in our industry right now has been fascinating to me.

Who has been influential to you and your growth as a professional in this industry?

Margaret Luthar has had the biggest impact on my growth as a professional in this industry. She was the Head Mastering Engineer at Welcome to 1979 before I took over and therefore taught me everything I know about lacquer cutting and vinyl mastering. As a woman, being a mastering engineer isn't as common as one would hope - add in the lacquer cutting component and our presence is almost nonexistent - so I'm very grateful to have Maggie as a mentor.

Anything else you’d like to add; if not tell us what you're listening to: 

I'm really into a few different artists at the moment. The songs "World on Fire" and "What an Angel Ain't" by Nate Smith have been on constant repeat in my car over the last few weeks. Noah Kahan's "Stick Season" and Zach Bryan's self titled album are two full length releases I've really enjoyed over the last year or so. Chelsea Cutler's "Stellaria" is another release I can't stop listening to as well. She's a fellow Connecticut native like myself, so hearing some of the references she makes in her songwriting gives me a warm sense of home.

Find Bobbi

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