Apogee Customer Spotlight – Justin Goldner

Justin Goldner‘s musical explorations have taken him around the world to 33 countries as a bassist, guitarist and producer, making music with the likes Sting, Ricky Martin, Macy Gray, Hugh Jackman, Steve Martin, Matisyahu, John Turturro (The Big Lebowski), Allison Williams (Girls), Donald Glover, Jesse McCartney, Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead), Jason Robert Brown and others, including his mentor, Meshell Ndegeocello. Outside of touring and recording, Justin writes, produces and arranges for various artists with Funky Butter Productions, including recent recordings for the Jem & The Holograms Official Tribute Album, Grace McLean, Morgan Karr, Bri Arden, Abby Bernstein, Carrie Manolakos and Shaina Taub. As house bassist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent and house guitarist in Broadway’s The Bridges of Madison County, he plays nightly for audiences in New York and across the U.S.

With budding interests in world music, Justin developed a commitment to musical traditions on their own terms– performing on a litany of string instruments including banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, oud, cavaquinho, Puerto Rican cuatro and Mexican guitarrón– remixing them in new and innovative settings on Una PasseggiataA restless traveler and self-professed “language junkie”, Justin is (mildly) conversant in 8 languages. In recent years, his muse has led him to Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, South Africa, Latin America and Turkmenistan, where he has performed and engaged with local cultures, conducted music workshops in 3 languages and exchanged experiences and music with others from across the world.

Apogee: Why Duet?

Justin: As a freelance producer and session musician based in New York, I need to be able to record, mix and edit in any number of places: from my home studio, at pro studios, and on the road. When upgrading my studio, I did a shoot-out between comparable interfaces and was shocked to find such a stark, noticeable difference in sound from the moment I hit play. The Duet immediately provided not only clarity, but a greater sense of depth to any track I ran through it.

Apogee: What do you enjoy most about your Duet?

Justin: Given the excellent sound quality, it’s really the ease of use that has made me committed devotee. There’s nothing worse than having a great musical idea only to get bogged down in technological troubleshooting, and so the fact that my Duet can get me from the kernel of an idea to musical exploration, and do what I need without any headache is crucial to my creative process.

Apogee: What’s your setup like and how are you using your Apogee Duet these days?

Justin: At my home studio, I use my Duet in conjunction with a pair of Aphex preamps and a compressor to lightly shape the sound. I also like using the Duet to re-amp processed signals in order to find interesting, unique timbres.

The Duet is already super portable, but I’ve been so thrilled with it that I recently shelled out for an additional Apogee ONE that I use on the road, for writing sessions, mixing and editing on planes. The ONE is fantastic because in addition to the clarity and depth of the Duet, it has a built-in condenser mic that I can whip out in a writing session and with minimal set-up, capture usable tracks. And as a lover of sound design, if I hear some strange, interesting noise while on the go, the ONE can record it directly to my iPhone or iPad for me to toy with later.

Apogee: How does your Duet help you achieve your sound?

Justin: The Duet has an incredibly low noise floor and provides great depth, which allows me to craft a more nuanced sonic image and provide careful feedback when I’m reviewing mixes. In addition, the ease of use of the interface let’s me make quick and precise adjustments on the fly, so that when I have a vocalist in to record, for example, I can give them exactly what they need to hear and thus get better performances.

Apogee: How did you first get to work with such amazing artists?

Justin: I’ve been unbelievably fortunate in my career, largely thanks to an inspiring and supportive music community in New York City. I’m always surprised and humbled to find that someone I worked with on a gig or a session once upon a time thought to recommend me for another project years later, which has let me play with some of my childhood heroes (and keeps the childhood music nerd in me alive!)

I think it’s also really special to recognize that there are tons and tons of talented, creative artists making great music who haven’t yet received the recognition they deserve. Finding and collaborating with those sorts of people has been critical for me: the high-profile gigs are special and are a blast, but sometimes the most under-the-radar projects are the most creatively fulfilling (and may later see their moment in the sun).

Apogee: Can you tell us a little about your journey?

Justin: I had a tough time figuring out exactly what I wanted to do in music, but I knew I didn’t want to do anything else! I moved to New York to attend NYU when I was 18 and bounced around between classical, jazz, pop, hip-hop and world music, between guitar and bass, recording and arranging, and took on absolutely any role I could with just about anyone who wanted to make music. For a while, I think failure to settle on a single instrument stunted my growth, as my skills were weaker and less specialized than my peers. But in time, the sheer variety of projects helped provide me with a real breadth of knowledge and perspective that I think helped me “catch up” and gave me a unique skillset.

Apogee: What advice would you give aspiring musicians?

Justin: The path to success in music is really no secret: do it, all the time, everywhere and with everyone you can, and hold yourself to the highest of standards without getting discouraged. What they don’t seem to tell you from the get-go is that it takes time for our skills to catch up to our taste (there’s a famous Ira Glass quote about this lag time), and that there are all sorts of important extra-musical factors: Be on time! Be reliable! Be a fun person to be around! Go support other musicians!

But I think the number one most important factor is to make sure that you’re still enjoying it with the same gusto as when you discovered the magic in music. If you can keep your aim on that, it’ll carry you through stormy waters: the setbacks, the self-doubt, the crappy gigs, the years required to build your experience and skills to where you can finally achieve what you’ve set out to do.

Apogee: What do you enjoy most about your work?

Justin: Everything! But the recurring magical moment for me is collaborating with an artist or musician who just blows me away, who brings something so good, so viscerally inspiring to the table that I can’t wait to stay up all night helping to realize their vision. Surrounding myself with people like that is why I do what I do and what pushes me to better at it.