Engineer Focus: Simon Cohen

Simon Cohen is widely known as one of Australia’s best vocal producers and mix engineers. Having vocal produced the vocals on Justin Bieber’s worldwide number 1 hit single “Love Yourself”, his credits contain an admirable list of amazing artists including Troye Sivan, Jessica Mauboy,, Guy Sebastian, Justice Crew, Set Mo, Paces, Jess Kent, JOY, Asta & Indian Summer.

Continuing the hard work, this year Simon’s work has been nominated for numerous ARIA Awards including Illy’s album “Two Degrees” and the Thundamentals album “Everyone we know”. With yet another ARIA nomination for Starley’s breakthrough single “Call on me”, for Apple Music Song Of The Year, Simon solidifies himself as one of the countries most in demand mix engineers, a niche he has been carved out for himself in the last few years.

To celebrate Simon’s ARIA nominated works and the launch of our Studios 301 Online Mixing Service, we caught up Simon to take a look back at some of his impressive past projects and mix highlights.

STARLEY – Call on me “Ryan Riback remix” (Mixing)

Nominated for Apple Music Song Of The Year at this year’s ARIA awards, “Call on Me” is the debut single from Starley. The song was a smash across Europe, and Oceania topping the Spotify Global Viral top 5 chart and reaching top 10 around the world.

Words from Simon:

“This song and I have gone on a real journey!! I’ve mixed several versions of this track as her star has continued to rise and rise. Starley was very particular about the tone of her vocals when we mixed the original production version and so a lot of time went into getting them just how she liked to hear them. I remember driving around Iceland for a few weeks last year with only patchy Spotify reception but every hour this new remix would creep into the playlist. Ryan’s awesome remix blew up and eclipsed the original in plays quite quickly. At the time it hadn’t been mixed and so when I got back the job was to see if we could make the mix as detailed as the original, particularly in the vocal treatment. All summer it was playing on the radio every time I got in the car so well worth the effort!”

Starley - Call On Me (Ryan Riback Remix) [Official Video]

JUDAH KELLY – Count on me (Mixing)

With Count on me, The Voice 2017 Winner Judah Kelly scored the biggest Voice winner’s single in four years and landing #1 on the iTunes charts.

Words from Simon:

“I love the personality that comes out when Judah sings. It was important to make sure the message of the song didn’t get lost behind layers of production, especially considering the other, more traditional songs this would need to sit beside on the record. His tone and pitching were perfect, so it was a case of subtle balancing to give the track a top 40 feel without it sticking out too much from the other songs.”

Judah Kelly - Count On Me (Official Video)

JUSTIN BIEBER – Love Yourself (Vocal Production)

The third single off Justin Bieber’s album Purpose, “Love Yourself” rocketed to #1 on official charts globally including the USA, UK, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand. The song was the first ARIA #1 Single of 2016.

Words from Simon:

“They had told me that Ed Sheeran had co-written it, so I had high expectations of the songwriting. I got the files before I flew down to Melbourne so I had heard it a couple of times and I was singing it to myself as I was flying down thinking, “this is a great song!”. You always hope that people can hear what you hear in a song. In this case, it’s the skeleton of a song in it’s purest form, and it’s the one that’s connected with everyone. Justin works pretty fast, so as an engineer you have to get your settings as quickly as you can, and it’s all about capturing that amazing performance. He has one of those very finished voices to start with, so I imagine he would sound phenomenal on just about any mic you put in front of him. In this case, it was an LA type set up, a Telefunken ELA M 251 going into a NEVE Pre and a Tube-Tech CL1B Compressor. One of my favourite mics into one of my favourite pres, into one of my favourite compressors. You can’t go wrong with that chain.”

Justin Bieber - Love Yourself (Official Music Video)

ILLY – Two Degrees (Vocal Produced)

Illy, who shifted his hip-hop into the pop arena with the chart-topping singles Papercuts (featuring Vera Blue) and Catch 22 (feat Anne-Marie), has been nominated in six categories at this year’s ARIA awards including Best Male Artist, Album of the year, Song Of The Year. The album Two Degrees was Vocal produced by Simon Cohen.

A word from Simon:

“I think the original brief was to record the last few songs to finish up the album. After we submitted them the decision was made to re-track all the other songs, which was a huge compliment. The aim was to make the performances ear-catching, and radio-friendly as Illy’s style of rapping is very melodic. I had a blast coaxing some awesome singing parts from him, and he has a great ear for melody. I think it’s a huge credit to his delivery and technique that the verses feature relatively few, and often no backups, which is unusual for rap, but the takes we so strong that they just didn’t need them!”

Illy - Catch 22 feat. Anne-Marie (Official Video)

EMMA PASK – Cosita Divina (Mixing)

Nominated for Best Jazz Album at the 2016 ARIA Awards, ‘Cosita Divina’ is Emma Pask’s fifth solo album. The album see’s Emma indulge in a Latin fiesta breathing new life into her outstanding and signature jazz vocal stylings. Recorded and mixed by Simon Cohen.

A word from Simon:

“This was such a fun session to record. Everyone played live in the large live room at 301, and probably 90% of the vocals were recorded singing along with the band. There are very few singers around that could carry that off, but Emma is phenomenal. I love when I get the chance to work with a room of truly first-rate musicians, and the result is that most of the songs are continuous performances start to finish with no splicing between takes! When it came time to mix, the big focus was on maintaining that energy and vibe from the tracking room so the listener could feel like they were there!”

Emma Pask Cosita Divina EPK New Album

THUNDAMENTALS – Everyone We Know (Vocal Production)

Nominated for Best Urban Album at this year’s ARIA’s, Thundamentals ascend to a new level with their fourth album Everyone We Know which was the first record released on their own label.

A word from Simon:

“I’ve known the guys for years, but somehow this was the first time we had ended up in the studio together working on more than just the occasional feature spot. I think that sort of relationship helps when it comes to trust in the studio. They had a strongly defined sound already, and so I didn’t want to come in and radically change their vibe. That trust allowed me to focus on helping them get their best takes and connect to each song in a meaningful way as they can be quite different stylistically song to song. They are very thorough when it comes to demoing their material which meant that we could focus on the performances.

Thundamentals - Think About It (Official Video) ft. Peta & The Wolves

”WILL SPARKS – Ah Yeah so what! (Mixing)

“Ah Yeah so what!” is Will Sparks’ viral break-out hit championed by the likes of David Guetta and peaking at #4 on the ARIA singles charts. Mixed by Simon Cohen.

A word from Simon:

“This track had already been a huge instrumental, so the aim was to sculpt the vocals to match the feel and attitude of the original. I remember there being a fair bit of rearranging of the structure right up until the final version as we worked towards the perfect radio feel. For months I would hear this track every time I was in a 7-11 at night….cashiers seemed to love pumping it!”

Will Sparks - Ah Yeah So What (feat. Wiley & Elen Levon) [FULL VERSION]

KLITER – They Say ft. Tkay Maidza (Mixing)

Ahead of his appearance at Listen Out 2014, Kilter put a spin on his work, releasing a new version of They Say featuring the talented Tkay Maidza on vocals.

A word from Simon:

“This track had already been a huge instrumental, so the aim was to sculpt the vocals to add a new dimension to the song. There are a lot of pretty mid-range synths going on, so a lot of attention paid to balancing the vocal against these. I remember using several stages of light distortion on the vocals to add weight and give them a chance to compete against the synths. After that, a lot of little notching EQ’s to remove harshness after all that distortion!”

GLADES – “This Is What It’s Like” EP (Mixing)

Sydney based alternative-pop trio GLADES debut EP ft. two singles ‘Speechless’ and ‘Drive’, and ‘Skylines’.

A word from Simon:

“I love the mood of all of these songs. The boys are great with their sound selection and layering, so the music mixing was a case of delicately balancing the elements rather than drastically reshaping it. When it came to Karina’s vocals, I wanted to make sure she had a strong presence on top of all the synths and guitars. Listening closely you will hear most of the songs have a bit of vocals from the boys to add weight at certain moments, but a lot of the time it’s just her, no harmonies or anything fancy. She has such a great voice, so it’s a case of shaping the reverbs and delays, so they create the mood but don’t swallow up her tone.”

Glades - Drive (Official Music Video)

JOY. – ODE EP (Mixing)

Brisbane musical prodigy JOY.’s debut EP Ode. was entirely self-produced. Led by the ethereal debut single ‘About Us’ which Triple J immediately added to their rotation, ‘Ode’ spent a week at #1 on the iTunes Electronic chart. Mixed by Simon Cohen

A word from Simon:

“I mixed all but one song. Originally I recorded the vocals for these songs; they had demo vocals from the writing sessions, and so it was a case of seeing if we could beat the vibe of those takes (always tricky!!). They must have liked my rough mixes because they asked if I’d be interested in mixing the tracks too. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity! I remember her being pretty cool about letting me try out my vision with the mix and vocal processing; then she would come in and just tweak a couple of things here and there. I love that in ‘About Us’ the second line has this weird stutter edit in it that sets you up to feel this isn’t just some run of the mill track. That was the original demo vocal that she had edited and committed, everyone loved the take, and they didn’t have the unedited version, so that’s the way it stayed!!! In hindsight, I think it was a great decision.”

JOY. - About Us (Official Video)

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Mixed by Simon Cohen: playlist