Multi-platinum engineer Jay Kurzweil is cultivating a sound of his own one recording session at a time. The Texas-native is known for working with Bas, VanJess, and Mani Coolin’. Additionally, Kurzweil served as the engineer behind 2017’s hit records “Crew” by GoldLink and “Love Galore” by SZA. The producer-engineer details the experience as “a blessing,” being able to input his effort on the TDE signee’s first platinum record.
Recently, Kurzweil attended the attention-grabbing Revenge of the Dreamers III recording sessions. The sessions included appearances from not only staple Dreamville lyricists such as J. Cole, Cozz, Omen, and Ari Lennox but artists outside the camp including Meek Mill, Buddy, Guapdad 400, Vince Staples, and many more. Kurzweil also talked about watching Tay Keith produce and seeing J. Cole and T-Minus curate music as well. Check out our interview with him below.
How did you begin your journey in the music industry?
I mean it’s kind of a long winding road to how I got here. Actually, I went to school for electrical engineering and I got a degree in that from the University of Texas in Austin. My job moved me to Orange County after I graduated and when I was there, I was already doing music at school and around Austin working with some local acts out there. This is like around the time Scoremore just got started in so I was like seeing a lot of stuff in Austin and trying to get my feet wet but never really thinking that it could turn into a career.
So I got to Orange County for my job and I just started driving to L.A. to start meeting people. I started meeting people who knew others. For example, I met Michael McNeal who’s connected at Universal and connected so some people at Dreamville. I started sending him music and that open some doors for me. He started playing music for different people and what turned into my first placement was him playing some beats for J. Cole. Cole eventually passed that beat onto Bas which became “Golden Goals” on the first Revenge of the Dreamers project.
Tell me, how did your relationship with Bas develop and how did it open the door for more opportunities?
It was through Michael McNeal initially. When Matt first played my beats for them, I wasn’t around. I believe he was in New York then he called me saying “yeah they’re interested.” So I first heard of my song “Golden Goals” when everybody else heard it the day Revenge dropped. When I first heard it I was geeked everything and then Bas came out to L.A. like a month later to finish up his album. The first session we had like within twenty to thirty minutes, we recorded “Building Blocks.”
From there, we’ve been vibing ever since. That’s a person I can call up anytime I make a new beat or he has something he wants for me hear. Anytime he wants to record something like he could pull up on me I’ll pull up on him, so we work a lot now.
The next year, you produced for Los Angeles rapper Mani Coolin’ and you guys eventually put out a single called “Jam.” How did that collaboration come about and what pushed you to release music of your own?
Mani Coolin’ and I go way back. When I first started coming to L.A. that was another artist I started working with. We did two albums together and that’s someone I worked really close with. So “Jam” was a record we did, and it was going to be his record, but it didn’t fit any of the projects he had at the time. As I started to see how the game works, I kinda wanted to put some music under my own name and build my brand.
That was for a record that we had that I really believed in. It really didn’t fit on any of his projects but so I decided to release it. It was really early and when I released it, we didn’t have any plans for a project or anything. But next year I think that’s what I’m gonna do is put the other another project. I’m focused on building my name up this year, that’s the whole goal is to get my notoriety up and just build connections so that when it’s time for my project, I can have people willing to give me verses and have people that want to listen to the project as well.
When it comes to producing and engineering, which one do you prefer and why?
Producing for sure, I mean that’s how I got into music. I grew up playing music, playing drums at school and being in the choir. I love creating music and having my hands on instruments and playing them so that’s always been, my first love. Engineering came about just some need being a producer who had a studio and just wanted to record artists I was working with. So I just kind of learned how to engineer and eventually started to get really good at it. Artists would say “Hey can you record me? Can you mix some of my stuff?” even if I didn’t produce it, that’s still a joy for me. I still enjoy being in the creative process and help people realize the project’s full potential.
Many people are unaware of this, but you contributed to two of the biggest songs of 2017, SZA’s “Love Galore” and GoldLink’s “Crew.” Tell me, what was it like working with those two artists?
That was really a blessing and while I was working on those songs, I didn’t really understand or predict the magnitude how big those songs would me. On both of those songs, I got to put my sound whether through engineering. I was recording engineer for “Crew” with GoldLink and I did one of the recording sessions with SZA after “Love Galore” was recorded. I sat in with her and made some edits.
With GoldLink, we’ve worked several times. I did a lot of recording sessions with him for that album. Being in those sessions with him was cool, we had a real report going on at that time. It was all love. Then Brent Faiyaz came in and he’s impressive, I didn’t really know what to expect because I haven’t heard him sing before. He came in, you see his look and then you start hearing him sing, it isn’t what you expect. And then he started singing the hook and everyone in the room was blown away. Then GoldLink laid down his first and then he went back and touched it up.
Did you know “Crew” would eventually turn into a multi-platinum record?
I had no idea. No one expected it to go from being on the radio to the stage and eventually to the Grammys. I don’t think anybody could have predicted that one. I think anyone who said they expected it would be lying.
Earlier this year, you attended the Revenge of the Dreamers III recording sessions. What was it like?
I think it’s cliche to say life changing but that’s exactly what it was. Coming into 2019, I wasn’t really expecting that to happen in the first month. But when it did come about, I was like “yes, I’m absolutely all about this.” This opportunity I couldn’t pass out so I made it important for me to get out there once I got that invite. Being out there and just working with everybody is amazing.
How Bas works and how we’ve worked together on his last album has been on that same vibe. There were a lot of producers and artists in the room cooking up bouncing ideas back and forth off one another. To do that with a whole label was an even greater experience. I was able to work with producers that I hadn’t worked with before or only work with a couple of times. We were able to really sit down and build some songs together.
I was able to see Tay Keith cook up some hits, watch Pyrex whip up some hits. I was able to sit in the room with Cole and work on a record with him and T-Minus. As far as learning, collaborating is the make of what you could want as a producer, as an engineer, as an artist. it was just an experience where everyone had their guard down and there were no egos in the room. Everyone was there to just trade songs and the track was always the biggest ego in every studio. I thought it was a great creating environment.
I’ve always been a more collaborative spirit and mood all year. You know I’ve been able to network with a lot of the same people, connect with a lot of the same people that I’ve worked with. I believe I have a song that we did during the sessions that should be coming out on the project later this month.
Who did you get to collaborate with while you were there?
I got to work with Cole obviously, Lute, Mez, Bas, and all the other Dreamville guys. I was able to work with Cardiak and BJ the Chicago Kid which was super cool for me. Deputy, I mean all the Dreamville producers I’ve worked with previously. Guapdad, Smino, and Cozz were the main people I worked with.
And lastly, what advice would you give to any aspiring engineers or producers?
Just be open and be ready to work. Always be in a learning attitude and learning mood. Never come into a room where you feel like you know more than everybody. If so, then find another room to be in. As far as the technical aspects, just do what the song tells you. Don’t follow any formulas or any rules. Use your ears first and let them be your guide to everything that you do.
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