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JRich Ent’s Guide to Being a Useful Engineer

By Donna-Claire Chesman on

Atlanta’s JRich Ent has worked with the greats. From Lil Baby, City Girls, and 6LACK, to Lil Yachty, Offset, Gucci Mane, and more, the engineer knows how to take a song from good to exceptional. His work on Lil Boat helped turn Yachty into the household name we know and love—and was also a moment where JRich showcased his humility and the importance of letting your ear guide your decisions as an engineer. For him, the key to lasting in the music industry comes by way of not letting your placements go to your head. You’re never too popping to support the artists in your neighborhood.

Liable to bring a pack of gummy bears to the session if he notices you enjoy them, JRich stresses the most important thing you can do is feel out an artist and meet them halfway in the studio. When giving critiques, lead with kindness and compliments, and remember to not let anyone cross your boundaries. As an engineer, JRich explains, your skill will earn you the respect you so deserve. He also reminds upcoming engineers—and creatives in general—to not blow their money on looking fresh, when appearances won’t actually impact the quality of the music.

With plenty of hits under his belt, JRich shares his 11 keys to being a useful engineer.

Be humble. “The best attitude to have is to be humble. Me being humble and not getting caught up when I started getting placements, and still wanting to work with people… A lot of this comes with believing in artists as they’re coming up. [Nothing] stopped me from working with younger artists, and those artists ended up blowing up.”

Trust your ear and sacrifice accordingly. “When I met Lil Yachty, he only had a couple hundred thousand plays on a couple records. The potential I saw… There would be times where I interned at the studio and I’d give him my free studio time; I’d pay for his studio time. Just to be able to work and be able to get my name out there. I recognized his potential early on and we were able to lock in. That was five years ago I recorded the majority of Lil Boat with him. He’s a household name now.”

Be real. “A lot of people get caught up being too professional or too cool. You gotta have a middle ground. You can’t be too cool or so quiet people feel like you’re a robot and don’t even know you’re in the room. I noticed people liked me for me. I’m not a robot when it comes to listening to music. A lot of people book me because they like the energy I bring to the room. But when you gotta be serious, you gotta be serious.”

Put the time in. “When it comes down to mastering your craft, you have to be ready to put in 10,000 hours. Just because you start doing good, doesn’t mean you put in the time to be there. You gotta learn and make mistakes, and you gotta know the business of the music as well. That’s a learning process.”

Be prepared to grind. “It’s a grind when working with an artist. Music is so personal and that’s why artists like engineers to be with them 24/7. They might come up with a dope idea as soon as they wake up, or it might be 3 a.m. and something just happened in their life, and they need to go talk about it in the booth. Or, there will be situations where you spent four hours recording and you didn’t make a hit. You gotta keep going. That’s just part of it.”

Get your paperwork squared away. “Closed mouths don’t get fed, and also knowing the right way to say things or when to say it. If you’re getting a percentage, make sure you get that in paperwork before the song’s out. Register your stuff on time. Don’t let hours accumulate without tracking your hours. Track your days, what songs were recorded, so when it’s time to get paid, you have all your stuff together. Always be on your business and never get to the point where you’re too lax. At the end of the day, this is business. Make sure you got your ducks in order.”

Be nice… “I feel each artist out. I’m the type of person that likes to go above and beyond. If you like gummy bears, I might make sure you got those in the studio session. Not only do I try to convert to each artist, but I also like to let them know the person I am. My personality can fit any artist in any situation.”

…But not too nice. “You wanna be nice, but you don’t wanna look like a push-over. They will respect you when you stand your ground, but you also don’t wanna explode. Set your boundaries early, be polite and respectful, and also show them why you should be respected through your personality and your skill.”

Critique with care. “There’s ways to tell people the truth. If you’re listening to a person’s song and you want them to try new things, make sure you’re not bashing the song. Don’t give advice without listening to the music. Make sure you’re giving people a shot. Listen to the good things in it you like, even if there’s things in it you don’t like. Whenever I lean in with criticism, I always give them a compliment first. At the end of the day, music is very personal.”

Never stop learning. “What I learned from Offset is you never stop learning. No matter how good you think you are, there’s people out there better than you. At the point I started working with Offset, a lot of people were talking about me. [But Offset] had never met me before, never heard of me. There were a lot of things he wanted me to change and get better. You can never learn too much.”

Secure your bag, and be mindful with your money. “My favorite mistake is just blowing through money at a younger age. You try to keep up with artists because they’re so fresh, but I learned none of that stuff means anything. One of the most important things for an engineer is learning how to be financially literate. A lot of times, we’ll be on net-60s or net-30s. There’s no health insurance for an engineer. It takes 60 days for your stuff to be processed! There’s no guaranteed work. With that in mind, you have to be smart with your money.”

Photos by halfpast (main) and 500John.

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