Behind the curtain of most events, is a dedicated crew of people keeping everything on track.
Thousands have come from all over the country to California to pursue a dream. This is the story of one of them. Sean Gilmer is part of our local LPAC crew and shared a crazy music story with me. I caught up with him over lunch to hear it.
Jesse Davidson: How did you get your start?
Sean Gilmer: I started with piano lessons when I was about 6 years old. I took lessons from a lady named Joyce Garrett, who was really instrumental in my music career. By the time I was in high school, I just played in bands from the D.C area. It was the Go-Go scene, so I played in Go-Go bands through most of my teenage to young adult life. That was my heart.
Then I decided to get into engineering because I wanted to stick with the music industry. If I could be an engineer, I would always hear music. So I ended up flying from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles to follow the big dream in ’97.
I went to school and worked with engineers Doug Kern and Steve Miller. I also worked with John Barnes who was the musical director for Michael Jackson. I got to work in his studio as an intern and learned how to use a lot of equipment. My partner and I built a studio in North Hollywood. We worked with artists that are fairly well known. There were a lot of facilities around us and artists would record in them for their label. But they wanted to record stuff that wasn’t on their label. It was just a cool spot. This was the place I told you about that got robbed. It was a real sketchy thing. Whoever robbed us didn’t want us to be in North Hollywood, let’s put it that way (laughs).
JD: Wow. Did you attend college for music?
SG: I went to Tuskegee University as an Electrical Engineering major and then changed to business administration. I also went to the Los Angeles Recording Workshop. It’s now called the Los Angeles Recording School.
JD: Did that help you navigate the music industry?
SG: There are basic techniques like marketing and how to manage money, that help. But overall, the music business is so different. People can get opportunities handed to them because they know people in certain places. If I could have rethought what I would have done, I would have take music entertainment or law. But that wasn’t really what I wanted to do, I just wanted to play (laughs).
When I was working at West LA Music as well (a music store in Hollywood), because I had helped build my friend’s studio, I could refer them there. It was called Platinum Sound and I was working there, as well. People would come in and ask, “Do you know where there is a facility we can use an SSL (console) with 2-inch (tape)?” And I’d give them my card and get them over there. We had people like Missy Elliot, Mya and B2K. We also had a bunch of different engineers that came through. You learn many techniques because everyone does things differently.
JD: That’s awesome. What advice do you have?
SG: The music industry is changing continuously. You always have to be thinking ahead. A lot of people my age didn’t think of the digital world and they totally got stuck. So I would say stay on top of technology. Learn how to manage your money and understand contracts. If you’re going to be an artist, you need a lawyer. There were so many things I was supposed to be paid for, but I never was because someone got the one-up on me. If you’re going to be in charge of your own stuff, make sure you’re actually in charge of it. Someone could end up getting 50% of something you did who had nothing to do with the song. Or 100% in my case (laughs).
One of my friends was in “LA Confidential.” I made a song with him and it got placed in the Laurence Fishburne movie “Biker Boyz,” and credited as “LA Confidential” had produced the song. But I produced it and I never got paid for it. That happens. After that, there was another opportunity for a Paris Hilton movie called “The Hillz.” My partner and I knew what to do that time to negotiate the proper deal. You have to know what you are getting into and how to get your dues (laughs).