Justin Bieber’s Vocal Producer Kuk Harrell Explains His Job

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Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

When you look at the production credits on an album, a lot of names are listed. There’s a producer, an engineer, songwriters, and often a vocal producer. But what exactly does the vocal producer do? CBS Local talked to Kuk Harrell, who is currently working on Justin Bieber’s latest album and has worked with Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna and Beyonce to find out.

“The vocal producer is the person who’s responsible for guiding the artist through their performance,” Harrell said. “Starting at the front of the record, getting all the way to the end of the record. Basically, my job is to…get them captured [on tape]. To get the most lively performance possible on the record.”

A vocal producer will do whatever it takes, from teaching the artist how to sing a line to creating several different interpretations of a vocal performance so the artist can pick the best one.

Harrell is a triple threat in the studio who works as a songwriter, vocal producer and album producer.

He told us the three different areas of expertise go hand in hand. “Most songwriters are outside looking in, trying to get into the studio with an artist…As a songwriter, having the advantage of being in the studio with a Justin Bieber or Jennifer Lopez or Rihanna recording their vocals, I get to have first-hand information as to what songs they’re looking for.”

But being a vocal producer for lots of different artists is a different experience for Harrell every single time. He has to work within their schedules and preferences.

“Once they step into the booth it’s the same process because at that point the artist, they’ve actually gotten to a place where they let go of everything else that’s going on to go, ‘Okay I trust this guy. This is the guy to do this job and now we’re about to do what we do.’ But the difference between Rihanna and Justin…Justin’s a young kid. It’s all about having fun with him. We have fun, we play ping-pong together and all that kind of stuff and…have food together and then we start recording.”

-Courtney E. Smith, CBS Local

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