Grammy-winning producer Bruce Irvine works closely with local musicians, including soul singer and Charlotte resident Anthony Hamilton and his wife, singer Tarsha McMillian Hamilton. Irvine also manages Charlotte-based pop-rock quartet S.O. Stereo, and Irvine and his partners in GYB Entertainment are developing young artists like The Local Traumatic.
Q. How did your relationship with Anthony Hamilton develop?
It has been really interesting. It’s evolved into a family. If you look at my discography, I’ve worked with some phenomenal singers. It’s not even close as to who the greatest singer is. That’s what he really sounds like. If you’ve heard him live, you’ll see he doesn’t miss notes. His pitch is unbelievable.
Q. How did you bond?
We got to where we didn’t have to talk. We joke all the time, but when it came to working he would name some obscure thing and I’d know what he was talking about. I don’t do everything he does. That doesn’t come into play with our friendship or working relationship. It’s good for him to work with other folks. Then I’ll get a call: “This guy’s not doing my vocal right, would you talk to him?”
Q. How has S.O. Stero grown in the last five years?
The whole key with them is the development process. They were a lot more Dave Matthews in the old days. Now they’ve reached the point where I know it’s them. When Brad (vocalist Bradley C. Davis) sends me a new song he’s demoed in his guest bedroom, it’s already really close to what (the public) would hear. The whole band is really focused and has been patient making sure they have the right sound.
Q. Where does creative process come in as a producer?
It’s about the best possible way of showcasing who they are. I’m trying to peel away until we get to the basis of who they are and build from there. I come from the place that you’re hired because (an artist) wants the sound that you do. With development, it’s figuring out who they are first and then using the expertise of (knowing) where common mistakes are made, where (in a song) you’re going to lose a listener, (and) helping with arrangements more than telling someone, “Play this.”
Q. Were you a guitar player?
I was such a great guitar player I became an engineer. Somebody pointed out that I fell under the auspices of “guitar owner.” I had a really weird style that would fit one out of every 50 bands that I would work with, so I still played on things. I was always more of a credit reader and always on the tech-end of it.