Mentorship Moment: Sanchez Harley

“Hey Darius, this is Chez. Listen, I got your number from Phil, I want you to come help me program these tunes.”

That was a life-changing phone call. Sanchez Harley is a Grammy award winning producer who I’d idolized for years. He’s a “producer’s producer“, frequently being chosen to oversee production when another producer takes the artistry role.

Sitting with Chez taught me 4 things that changed how I saw production:

1. Let your ideas run freely. 

Chez lightly chastised me about 45 minutes into the session.

“Darius, let me think for us. You give me what you got and we will edit it together. Let your well flow.

As a producer, I struggled to let others edit me, for fear of not wanting to ever present a poor performance. When there’s another in the driver’s seat, I can take the pressure off.

2. Use your ears and your mind.

Sanchez presented a string arrangement task before me. All we had was (1)  Yamaha MotifES6. I learned to explore not only my gear, but my ears.

We explored string patches, horn samples, timpani swells, glockenspiel stabs, and everything else we could use. My knowledge and experiences with orchestral arrangements were reawakened. My trust in what I truly heard was reassured.

3. Be solid in your decisions. 

In the midst of us taking a break, we started talking production.

He made me read an article that told his story of not being able to produce or play on his first band’s album. Naturally, he was upset, but he learned the difference between “the guys in the band”, and “the guys for the record”. That was a growing point that changed his life.

That lesson taught me to trust my mind on who and what I thought would work. It taught me how to find my sound, and how to trust the process.

4. Let people hear your work.

After we finished the session, we were chatting about what I wanted to do. Sanchez was set in stone that I was just a musician, instead of a producer on the rise.

I (nervously) plugged in my hard drive and uploaded a single I’d produced for a local artist named Nate Bean.

It looked a bit like this: Chez listening to Soulja

He bobbed his head with his hand on his chin, and when it finished, he said,

“Darius, I wanna take you under my wing. You definitely have something special, and I’d love to see you grow up and really do it right.”

SO glad I played him that record: He gave me a couple directives, and that single ended up charting #14 on Billboard.