Grace Coleman: Audio Engineer
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
Hi! My name is Grace Coleman. I am an audio engineer. I also co-manage a recording studio called Different Fur with my business partner Lien Do. I grew up in Northwest Indiana (NWI Region Rats stand up) but have been living in San Francisco since 2009.
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry? What drew you to working in the music business in San Francisco?
I got my start when I got an internship at Different Fur Studios in 2013.
I wish I had a more exciting answer for this one but I don’t, I just love listening to and making music and going to shows. I didn’t even really consider audio engineering as a career path until right before I decided to go to Ex’pression. It was kind of a leap of faith I guess. That’s been true for a lot of big changes I’ve made in my life.
What was it like starting an intern and working your way through the company?
It was pretty intense but rewarding. The hours were 10am-10pm with the high probability your day would actually end up going past 10pm. I think I was only there 2 days per week initially, but I was also going to school and working another job so I could (barely) pay rent. It was obvious right away that the name of the game was patience, consistency, and building trust with the engineers. It took some time and I definitely experienced moments of frustration but eventually I was allowed to bring in my own clients.
This is your first year officially being in the role of co-manager/engineer. How has it been transitioning into this new position? What was your initial reaction when you received this promotion?
It has been pretty good so far all things considered! Though I don’t want to put the idea forward that I’ve not experienced moments of feeling imminent doom and uncertainty. That’s definitely a thing. It almost feels like I’ve learned a new lesson almost every day since I’ve started doing this. I feel really lucky to have the opportunity.
My initial reaction to Patrick asking me if I wanted to manage the studio was that my heart started racing. It was about early-mid 2020 when I got the call so my brain was telling me “literally why would you ever agree to this” but my heart was telling me “if you don’t at least try you will most certainly regret this for the rest of your life”, so I felt pretty torn honestly! Patrick was nice enough to give me a while to think about it, and a few months later I found myself back at Fur for a mixing session after not having been there for a while because of covid. The second I walked into the control room I was like “alright yep let’s do this”
You have worked with not only music but other audio projects. What made you want to expand from music?
There are a couple reasons. The first being the opportunity to gain new experience. As an audio engineer you should never pass up an opportunity to learn. The best way to learn (for me) is by doing.
Secondly - finding consistent engineering work. It's hard in the Bay for bands to be able to afford studio time, and while I try to adjust my rate to accommodate, I can only do that so much before I am severely devaluing my skillset. So here and there I will take audiobooks, podcasts, & what have you, just to pay the bills.
When did you know being in the business is what you wanted to do? Was there a specific moment where you were like “oh god, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”?
There was never really one “aha” moment. Or if there was, I’ve forgotten it. I’d say it’s more a compounding of client growth & satisfaction that drives me. It’s a great feeling to be able to facilitate music making for people. Even better when I have repeat clients because I get to observe how they’ve grown as musicians and lyricists since we first started working together. It’s magic!
I’m not going to lie though, there have been many a time when the self-doubt sets in and I question and/or regret every single thing I’ve ever done as an engineer. Lately, I’ve been finding relief in the idea that “everything is temporary”.
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry? What is the best part of your job? Why?
I struggle with the capitalism part. It really bums me out. Also, the misogyny part can be quite draining. Also dealing with gear snobs/elitists/mansplainers.
The best part of my job is a lot of parts. One is the fact that I can use the studio whenever it's available! If 20 year old me knew this would be true for 31 year old me, 20 year old me’s head would have exploded.
Another best part is catching a vibe with a client I’ve only just met. It is a special feeling to make a new friend through making music!
What is something you wish you knew before taking on your first professional role in the music industry?
I wish I knew that drums do not naturally sound as they do on most pop punk records I grew up listening to. Lol.
What would you say are some of your success habits?
Trusting my intuition, being kind, and working hard always.
Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry?
Terri Winston (WAM), Patrick Brown, Jack Shirley (Atomic Garden East), Brad Dollar, and Sean Green (our studio tech) are all people I often go to when I have questions, need advice, or just want to vent a lil’ bit.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry?
Do it! The only way to get better
is to dive right in. Don’t be discouraged by your mistakes, learn from them. Most importantly, trust your intuition and be kind to yourself.
Have you ever been turned down or not taken seriously because you were a female in the industry? What did you do when put into that position?
Definitely. When that happens I just try my best to think about all the other people I’ve been lucky to work with that aren’t complete dingle berries.
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time (which we know can be very hard to find)?
I love basketball. Shooting hoops is how I meditate. I’ve also recently gotten back in to running which has been somewhat of a surprise to me because I used to dislike running very much.
Who is your all-time favorite artist?
Can I pick two? I hope so. Paramore and The Breeders.
What is something you can't live without?
My Last Splash CD in my car :) lol
Go-to Karaoke song? Believe by Cher. Always a crowd pleaser and pretty easy tune to sing. Tea or Coffee?
Devin Booker. He is my basketball bae.
What would you say your superpower is?
I am a very fast walker.
First concert you went to? Good Charlotte, Mest, and Something Corporate at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. What’s something that you always have on you?
Studio phone, my phone, wallet, keys, mask (I say this to myself every time I leave my apartment)
Who is your dream artist or band to work with?
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Get to studio an hour before session start time (sometimes more if there is extensive set up that I haven’t been able to do ahead of time), unlock studio, sweep front door area, clean bathroom, greet client, get to work, break down session, take trash out, lock up, go home :)
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Happy, healthy, living in SF with my partner and cat :) Hopefully with many more records under my belt.
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years? Well for starters, this
Also I’d like for major labels to not operate so ass-backwards re: paying for studio time What are you most proud of? Earning others’ trust. I am also really proud of my Dad for getting his master’s degree in teaching at 62!!
Lastly, what saying do you live by?
Everything is temporary.
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