The ambition of musician Vanessa Silberman shows in her multi-tasking.
The vocalist, guitarist and songwriter is also an engineer and producer. Additionally the L.A.-based performer does independent artists and repertoire (A&R) talent scouting work. “I have an artists’ development label called Diamond Heart Production,” she said. “Multi-tasking artists Linda Perry and Dave Grohl are inspirations, as are Sylvia Massy, an engineer, and John Feldmann, an artist, producer and A&R.”
All those hats keep Silberman on the move, as she was Monday when we talked while she drove to a show in Idaho Falls, Idaho, with Boston-based artist Carissa Johnson. Their tour makes a stop in Minneapolis at Palmer’s Bar Friday, where they share the bill with 4th Curtis and Dani of CCWD.
Q: You’re my second woman recording engineer interview this summer. Susan Rogers, who worked for Prince, was first. How did you get your training?
A: That’s awesome. For a long time it has been more male-dominated. In high school I started recording a little bit. When the internet started, I was downloading songs and recording them to a tape with a microphone. Recording my own music, I started getting into Pro Tools [digital audio software], and then I got a chance to work at this studio in North Ridge, Calif., the Foo Fighters’ studio. The in-house producer engineer really took me under his wing. It’s a whole other thing to learn consoles and patching and all that stuff vs. learning on a computer. I was the in-house assistant engineer for a couple years.
Q: Why are you tackling all aspects of the music business instead of just performing?
A: I’ve always had this outlook of not waiting around for anyone else. If you want something, go do it yourself. When one is out there being an artist, that’s what you mainly do, [but] helping other artists along the way creates a lot of community. The best thing I can do is show other women that if they are interested they can do it, too. I’ve always had this drive, not waiting around for people to put me on a red carpet and the big record-deal stuff. If I want to tour I’m not going to wait, I get out there and start touring. I toured a lot with my old band Diamonds Under Fire. I book my own shows, do my own press and marketing.
Q: Tell me about your single “Outswimming Sharks.” Who are these sharks you’re outswimming, hugging ...?
A: Before the song was recorded I kind of had a vision and sound in mind. I heard some recording that Ken Susi [of the Boston-based metalcore band Unearth] did. I thought he would be the perfect fit. I ended up being in collaboration with him and he also played a little bit on it. Carissa [Johnson], who is also on my label, is also featured on it. The exciting thing is stepping behind glass and letting someone help produce, as well to have me try stuff I didn’t think of. “Outswimming Sharks” is kind of a darker, heavier song than my other songs. Where I am talking about “Down in the mud, when you need a hug, when you need a drug.” I am talking about the energy drain you sometimes get being around certain people. Nothing that has to do with me [at this] time.
Q: Mentions of drugs and being around certain people bring Demi Lovato to mind. Is the music scene as rife with drugs as its image?
A: Well, I don’t drink and I don’t do drugs. I don’t even smoke. I’ve been around drugs, sure. I feel like the days of people and bands partying like they did in the ’80s or ’90s I think are kind of over and we’re moving to a different generation where you can’t really afford to be stupid and act like a rock star. I’m trying to promote being a healthy artist, being smart and Earth-conscious. We want to add to the world, not take away.
Q: About this “Outswimming Sharks” cover shot with the guitar concealing what looks like a naked you. Did you run that by your grandmother?
A: I haven’t shown it to her. She doesn’t go online but I would be happy to show it to her. I think she would be OK with it. I wanted people to see a different [facet of me] because this song is way more intimate and serious and darker than most of my other material. I kind of felt a little more exposed.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.”