Alumni Interview – Joel Robinson (Staygo)

Joel Robinson is an Abbey Road Institute Alumni. He graduated with the Advanced Diploma of Music Industry in Melbourne in 2017. We caught up with him to find out what he’s been up to since graduating.

Hi Joel, can you start by introducing yourself?

Hello, I am Joel Robinson, I go by Staygo (my artist name). Before joining Abbey Road Institute Melbourne in 2016 I was a bedroom producer, recording beats, and now I am a freelance artist. I graduated in 2017 – at the actual Abbey Road Institute Global Graduation where we went to London and graduated in (Abbey Road Studios’ world famous) Studio Two.

what are you currently working on?

Currently I’m working on a solo project. I’m still deciding if it’s going to be 4-6 tracks in EP form or released as singles. I’m writing four songs a week and deleting the ones I don’t want. Fleshing them out to 3 minutes to make sure I have enough to work with. I’m also working as a recording engineer and mix/master on the side because everyone likes to make some money. I am trying to work with other producers not only to create tracks but to exchange knowledge. Having a new lens on production is good. I have so many defaults that I have not even thought of anymore. It’s important to me to work with as many people as I can.

Songwriter, artist, mix and master engineer, and recording engineer. How did you get into doing all those things?

I got into mixing and mastering because I had been writing songs myself for such a long time that I wanted to do everything myself. It started as a hobby. I was just mixing songs for 4-5 years and all my friends were making music in LA, so whoever had been mixing stuff longer had an upper hand in mixing. When you hear a song you can register the frequency. My friends would ask “How did XYZ big artist get their snare sounding like that?” and I’d say “that’s not a snare, that’s a clap” because they just couldn’t identify it.

How old were you when you started writing music?

Probably about 13. Mostly [composing using] just guitar. I switched from guitar after 2 years, and I picked up a computer at 15, and that is when I found GarageBand. When I didn’t have a PC I didn’t have GarageBand and then I found FL Studio. Then I switched to Ableton at 17-18. I’ve been in Ableton and Pro Tools pretty evenly since them. Pro Tools was taught to me, but music was never my intended field, I was supposed to be a mechanical engineer. I did two years of that but minored in music because I wanted to learn about the recording process. I’d write all instrumental music for a number of years. I didn’t understand {how to get from} where I was at, to the step where I was on the radio. There’s WAY more detail and finesse in selecting the right mic that you just have to go to school. I studied in California for a year, and then came to Abbey Road Institute Melbourne.

do you write the top-lines?

I write some of the top-lines, but not most of them. I focus on the technical side of the artist. I‘ll give my feedback for what I think is going to work better. If I’m recording a section, I want stacks and layers, not one take, or I help a singer find harmonies. They’ve been singing their top line for weeks and they go back to that. I try and give them some options. I usually do it digitally with Melodyne, it depends on the singers range.

What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learnt since you graduated?

I think I’ve learnt a lot about communicating with people. Before I was at Abbey Road Institute, it was easy to write a song, and get a singer. But the songwriting process doesn’t work like that. It was important to understand vocal production, writing, and music. It should all happen simultaneously. It’s really easy as a beatmaker to be isolated or fake connected. I have lots of people online, but have no relationship with them. It’s a 50/50 you get anything back, or any response. When you can see someone in real life, and work on the same console, it’s a different communication skillset. That is one of the biggest things for me. Being able to communicate better. I’m not a great communicator, but I’ve gotten much better. It’s so important, otherwise you’re in your own bubble.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Finding singers that I like. I’m really picky with singers. I have found some amazing songwriters. It’s hard to find both. I’ve done it both ways, where you work with a songwriter, they write the song, and you get someone else to sing it. 90% of LA and Nashville songs are written like that. That and getting in front of an audience, or growing an audience organically.

Which skills were and are the most important in the phase you’re in?

I think the most important skill would probably be a combination of communication and your hearing. Technical hearing. It’s really easy to just start with an “anything sound”. Start with a synth, you smack it with effects until something weird pops out. You can do that to any sound. You could work on four hours for a snare and its so f***ng bad.

What did you learn at Abbey Road institute that helped to get you started on the journey?

Learning the terminology. Knowing what a compressors threshold does. Knowing the professional terminology to talk to other professional producers. Whereas if I were to say that to my friends online, it’s gibberish. Knowing the professional terminology is priceless. It’s nice when you’re around others that get it too.

what advice would you give to existing students?

Hit the ground running. It’s really easy to finish the course and then have a party, thinking opportunities are going to come to you. You have to go 120% to make an inch. When I was finishing up here I finished a song, and it was months of preparation. There were 2 months of us pushing it to other magazines and labels and putting it through SubmitHub hundreds of time. I hit the ground running, then went to America and had a holiday, shot myself in the foot. Go to as many free meetings {as you can}, go to APRA for industry stuff. Come back to everything Abbey Road Institute Melbourne does.

What are your next plans and steps?

My next plans are to keep doing what I’m doing. If that’s a plan. Keep growing my little collection of songs, and people that I’ve worked on their projects or songs. As far as the freelance mixing and mastering has gone, it’s still in the very early days. I don’t expect to have hundreds of clients a month, I’m satisfied working with my 3-4 as closely as I can, and keep going from there. I can’t jump into having 20 a week. My next step is trying to build the base for supporting myself in the future. Hopefully I have an EP by the end of September. This is me cementing it. It’s coming.

Find out more about Joel Robinson on our alumni page.