HATi - Hattie Murdoch
Updated: Oct 16, 2020
HATi is a professional singer, songwriter, producer, topliner and collaboration artist. She specialises in working with artists in the pop, folk, electronica and dance genres and her work has amassed over half a million Spotify streams.
How did you get into music production and did you always want to be a music producer?
I'm not sure that there was a conscious moment that I got into production - I guess it was a natural progression. I have a grounding in classical music - I was at Newcastle University doing a BMus mostly as a flute and piano player but uni got me into exploring more electronic and experimental composition. Although I was using Cubase, I saw it as a writing tool rather than thinking of what I was doing as production and I always recorded myself and stuff I'd written so didn't think much of it. I worked with an amazing producer for my debut E.P and as an artist I was just fascinated watching his process so that definitely sparked something in me. I had already learnt Ableton as an artist when I used it for live performances but when I branched into commercial songwriting that's where I really started producing. I didn't want to pay for demo's to be produced so just did it myself! It made the process a lot faster - I could write and produce the demo's at a much faster pace than outsourcing. From there it's just been a case of levelling up, working with artists and increasing the amount that I produce - every song I'm learning something new.
Did you encounter any specific obstacles when you first started?
I think money is an ongoing obstacle. Building a production suite doesn't come cheap and as your projects and skills level up, you tend to get to a point where your equipment has to as well. I had a publishing advance when I first started taking production seriously - it gave me a chance to invest in a top end microphone and acoustically treat the room - this was a huge level up. I've never stopped investing in equipment but I don't go mad and try to make sure that each purchase is an essential and balanced with the paid work that it can help bring in. I see people go nuts on outboard gear and then never really use it (all the gear no idea?!). Don't get me wrong, you can do amazing work with stock plugins, cheap equipment, but in my humble opinion you can't really compete in a horse race if you're on a donkey (even if you're a mint jockey!) so constant re-investing in my tools is super important but the cash flow isn't always there.
Another huge obstacle I think is imposter syndrome. I'm pretty sure that I was a producer before I started calling myself a producer but even now I panic and think I don't know anything and these boys on forums all know so much more shit than I do! However I do try and remember that I'm not going to know everything (nor do I want to...) and that people are experts in areas that I'm not. I'm not a great mix engineer - I don't always enjoy it and don't really get off on eq-ing a snare drum (or maybe this will change when I get older!). I remember reading a bit of advice that said "major in your majors, minor in your minors". I think I am much more conscious of my specific strengths and weaknesses now and identifying what makes me unique with my style. I think I was determined to do everything myself at the beginning - and what i realise now is that time spent doing something i'm not great at (or something I hate) is not a great use of time and brings the quality of the project down and I would rather outsource it so I can concentrate on the bits I know I'm decent at!
I was shocked to discover that only 2% of professional music producers are women. What are your thoughts about that?
It doesn't really surprise me. I think that there are many more out there but due to a bit of the imposter syndrome they aren't calling themselves producers. Women within technical roles in the music just aren't visible. A lot more needs to be done in terms of visibility to kids from a young age so that they know these roles exist and they need aspiring role models. Not many people can name a well known female producer but so many female artists are producers as well and they aren't really shouting about it. I think Nina Nesbitt is doing a lush job on socials at the moment - she's been writing and producing in lockdown with found sounds which has been a laugh to watch. And you've got up & coming artist producers such as Rachel K Collier who's absolutely class. We are out there but we almost need one with celebrity status to bring it to the forefront for the next generation.
Do you have any tips for other women wanting to get into music production?
Have the confidence to call yourself a producer!! Also don't watch tutorials. Just get hands on and work it out - go with your gut. Ask studios if you can come in and shadow a producer. Collaborate. Don't copy what others do - you need to feel the music.......I think too often we get caught up inside our DAWs and end up hearing music with our eyes. It's super important to listen to the stuff you're creating with your screen off and properly listen.
Use samples, use loops, use whatever helps you use your creativity. Every song that you produce you will get better! And you'll work out your strengths and weaknesses - and yes you're allowed to have weaknesses!
What part of the music production process do you find the hardest, and how do you tackle that?
Probably mixing. I am mixing way more records than I used to and if we don't have the budget to outsource it I'll give it my best shot. I am an over-thinker and don't always trust my own ears! But I prefer to outsource to a pro with plenty of experience. I actually think I work more precisely if I know the stems are going to a mix engineer as well (it's a pride thing!).
What’s the most fun part for you?
Definitely the initial session on songs. I love just absolutely getting into a flow and just trying stuff out - I get such a buzz when the track is coming together. I try to be as open as I can creatively and it's such a lush part of the whole process. I probably get more of a buzz at this stage than when it's actually released.
Do you have a particular process for recording and mixing?
Every project is different. But usually I get a demo track from the client which I build a "scratch version" from - all the elements are in but for example I might have loops or samples in there as placeholders before I re-do them myself or get a session player in. This is to make sure we're all on the same page. Once i've got the nod from the client, I then maybe do one or two more versions and at that point if I know we have pretty much everything in the right order I'll get the vocals in - being in Newcastle I do work a lot remotely so sometimes clients record vocals themselves and send to me for editing and processing, or they'll come to me and I'll engineer the vocal session. Then it's final editing, tidying, and then it's mix and master. If I'm mixing I tend to be mixing as we go along, but I'll often do 1-2 session just on the mix. Mastering is always outsourced (it's a dark art!!!).
Do you write lyrics or sing yourself?
Yes I'm a songwriter and singer as well so I write for myself, I write for (and with) other artists and I also write for briefs.
If you had to choose one released track that you are most proud of your production, what is it?
Why did you pick that one?
I loved the song and Dom had already done a beautiful piano arrangement. In a way it was easy - the song was stunning so it was pretty easy to add in the elements. Some of the references that Dom had given me had these really beautiful but dramatic builds so when I did the sketch I actually went a little nuts in one section and arranged a full orchestral break down with sweeping violins and cellos and big orchestral drums. I hadn't scored for a while so it was a joy to write the strings. I didn't want to keep it completely organic so there's a sub in there, there's vocal chops, creative delays, little sparkles to keep the ear interested. Dom is a stunning singer so the vocals were super easy. When I work with a great singer I try to push as many BVs as we can - harmony stacks etc. I just find that I would prefer to use a vocal stack instead of something like a synth pad - it feels a waste not to at least experiment with the vocals as an extra instrument. It worked out well in this one!
What’s your next project?
Currently I'm working on 7 singles for artists - it sounds a lot but they're all at varying stages so it's not flat out work. Most are either at the editing and tidying or mix stage. A lot are alt pop but also there's some nu r&b / hip hop and country crossover tracks so it's a nice mixture! I also had a single out for my artist project on the 14th August.
How can we hire you?
I tend to work with artists in the alternative pop world (for me that's pop with an added bit of folk, indie, cinematic etc) but as long as it's a good song, I'm usually game.