Fellow MTSU alum Dacota has been working! In the year of 2018, he is a Grammy-nominated engineer for Record of the Year of Childish Gambino track “This is America.” I remembered how we all reacted to such a timeless record of when it was released, and we can tell that it will be such an inspirational song to mankind. We have caught up with the young engineer and discussed how it was making the hit single by going behind the scenes, his reaction when he heard the track and more below.
RESPECT.: Tell us how was it like making the hit single “This is America.” What went on behind the scenes?
It was a great opportunity on how I got involved to be just a small piece of such an important puzzle. I had gotten a call to record Donald at Silent Sound Studios, the one I interned when I first came to Atlanta, from an RCA rep, and she asked me do I want to be involved on the project. Next day, I met him and he pulled up the single. After the first session, I had gotten to know him as a person and how he works.
It was some time in October of 2017 when I met Donald. My first impression of him was that he was super down to earth. He showed up to the session with his family which gave me a real indication of who I would be working with. We talked for a little bit and got through that whole breaking the ice stage and before I knew it we were pulling what would become “This Is America.”
When I first heard the song, I was intrigued by the original idea. It was nothing like I had ever heard before. At this time he had the skeleton of the production and the main idea for the chorus, but it was a shell of the final version. Donald went into the booth and he just started to freestyle several different ideas. His process was a bit different than I was used to. He would just have me run the beat from beginning to end, doing just a few adlibs through out the song and we’d get another take and those adlibs or just the energy of the adlibs might inspire the next line.
I knew the record was special. I had previously worked with several major artists before and most of the songs didn’t make the album, so I didn’t get my hopes up. I had no idea that the record would become what it is today. Donald and his team did an incredible job with the roll out. Shout out to everyone who were involved. There were a lot of engineers on this record that helped capture the performance and bring the idea full circle. (Riley Mackin, Kesha Lee, Alex Tumay, Dru Castro, Shaan Singh, Zak Menebhi and of course Ali and Mike Bozzi)
RESPECT.: What was your reaction when the world was vibing to the Grammy-nominated song?
It was crazy! The first time I actually heard it was in a session. Someone was scrolling on Instagram and scrolled over the video and it started playing. It was a surreal feeling and am happy to hear that he finished the record and put it out the way he did. It was a defining moment in my career. The record catapult his career as a whole new level for an artist. Everyone was talking about it and the video made it more incredible by breaking the internet.
RESPECT.: Define RESPECT.
When you walk in a room and everyone listens to what you have to say.
RESPECT.: As a fellow MT grad with you, what can you say to the college grads who are following in your footsteps to be an engineer? Any advice?
The most important thing is to believe in yourself. You have to take the necessary steps to get to where you are wanting to go. Study the industry! The barriers of entry for audio engineering is interning, assisting and staff engineering and or freelance. Do your research and intern at a studio in where you can learn and grow by building relationships with others. It is all about who you know and how well you know them. From the internship experience, it will become resources for you in the future and your friends by building and getting you into your career. The people you had came in with will become someone. You have got to work together to get to where you want to go.
RESPECT.: What is next for you?
When word got out that I contributed to “This Is America,” it created a lot of opportunities for me. I recorded a lot over the past three years, but I’ve aspired to be a mixing engineer and this record helped my transition. Right now, I’m finishing up a project with an artist name Ted Park. I’ve got a bunch of records coming soon with my brother, Kato on the Track, and Jarren Benton. I also mixed some records for Millie Go Lightly. She’s got an incredible voice and her song writing is no joke so look out for that. I’m also executive producing a project for one of Yo Gotti’s former artist Wave Chapelle. I think people are going to really appreciate what we’re creating.
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