Christian Cone - Jackson, MS
Updated: Jan 8
Christian's Social Handles:
Willy: I've got a good friend with me from the Jackson area, Christian Cone. Now if you're from Jackson you're probably familiar with him as a drummer and a music director, keyboard player. But for those of you who are not familiar with Christian, he is a two-time Jackson Musician of the Year winner. He is an all around good guy and I can't wait to get into our interview!
This podcast is for listeners who want to excel in their music directing and create a better team, a solid flow and will better communicate to their teams. One of the first things I like to ask people is if there is someone who is coming into an entry level Music Director position, what materials do they need in order to be successful?
Christian: In my experience, I never read a book to be a music director. I know that's not the case for everybody to have the experience and exposure of sitting within rehearsal with their favorite music producers, etc. I have been privileged to have been around music for so long. Especially the greats of Mississippi. For those who are not in that position, there is a platform through LoopCommunity called Gospel Producers. The site was coined by John Mike, one of the directors of LoopCommunity. He has a platform with at least four of the greatest producers and music directors. They literally give a Masterclass of 15 videos showing hands on, studio sessions; how to do things without having experience and how to get in the seat to get experience and exposure. My experience was all about watching the people I had around me and taking the positive things around me.
W: So experience has been the best learning lesson for you?
C: Yes sir
W: Expand a little bit on LoopCommunity. What kind of systems have you learned from Gospel Sessions? I haven't ever tuned into that and after this session I definitely will!
C: LoopCommunity is very equivalent to the well known MultiTracks.com. I can say they do have their differences. With MultiTracks, you know you're going to get Bethel & Elevation. Basically everybody's albums that come our that are top tier, you know you're gonna get those masters. The reason I became a part and contributor of LoopCommunity is because it also gave producers a platform to contribute their own handmade stems. It's almost like Multitracks are masters straight from the original session, while LoopCommunity has a "Christian Cone's version of The Blessing." Producers can import their own ideas. LoopCommunity does has the masters, but can import their own versions, maybe to make it feel more live. Producers can import theirs and, of course, it goes through all of the legal things the correct way; licensing and everything. Now, with the Gospel Producers platform, one of my favorite producers that is outside of the circle I'm in is AyRon Lewis. He's done things for Kirk Franklin, the group Rizen, Lisa Knowles-Smith, and James Fortune. One thing that I appreciated that he said in the first video was "Never ever overthink something." The second thing was "you cannot second guess yourself, because most of the time creativity comes out first."
W: Man! You are preaching! If I would have known that 3 or 4 years ago that would have saved my life! Keep going on that!
C: That brings me to what I've learned in basic recording principles. One thing I've taken from him [AyRon Lewis] in my own setting is creativity comes first. So I never delete takes. If there's a part that have to punch, I never delete that first take. I'm always gonna keep all of my takes so I can pick and choose because there might be something in that second take... yea I probably messed up on bar 15, but it may be something on that first take that was like, "ok that's Christian's sound... that's him." I also took a bunch of ... how to record. I'm sitting in my own home studio right now and I'm blessed to have this at my age . It's mind blowing. I would have never known the things, other than my personal experiences around town, I wouldn't have had as much experience with the hand on things, like "how does an input have to go in? Is the gain too low, too high?" It just taught a lot of that, so all I can really say is that you should watch it for yourself!
W: Two things that you said that spoke to me the most was that creativity comes out first and to never erase a take. I think that's so good! What kind of gear have you purchased within the last 6 months that has made a positive change in your music directing?
C: I have a Motif 8. I also play a Yamaha MO-8, which is literally my first professional board. I'm kinda glad I put all these boards out because I can give you a scale of where I started, and where I am now. I used to see the local greats like Marcus Singleton, Barry Bolden, Donavon Thigpen... they used to always have a Motif. As you know, they stopped making Motifs and they've gone to a new one. You had your Motif 8, the classic, then the ES 8, EF 8, XF, so I really wanted an XF-8, but it wasn't in my price range so I had to get something that was equivalent, which is the MO-8. I started out on an Akai Pro Sensation 49. I'm talking about no sounds on it. I was literally using stock sounds within GarageBand or Logic. And with me, I listen to a lot of the greats in Gospel Music and some other genres, so I had to have "that sound." SO I always bugged my friends from my music circle. "man, what can I do to get this board? What can I do to get this sound?" I know you can manipulate sounds inside your DAW, but it's all programmed. I know online they have sites where you can get certain worship pads or synths. Especially like the CCM sounds! Those have totally changed my game in worship. I use those in Contemporary Gospel.
W: Is there a certain patch that you know of that you use pretty consistently?
C: The Juno Pad.
W: From Multitracks?
C: I actually got it from That Worship Sound. I just recently got some sounds from MultiTracks, I think the Grand Piano Essentials. But as far as physical gear, what changed my sound was this Roland Fantom X6. I'm talking atmospheric sounds, Moog sounds, synth leads, all of that. They put the icing on the cake to what I already had inside my Motif. It's like apples and oranges. Do you want something sweet or sour? I'll take a midi cable and if I don't necessarily like what the Roland Fantom is doing for this song, I'll take it to the MO-8.
W: So it sounds like a mixture of the MO-8 and the Roland X-6 Fantom gives you a pretty dynamic combination between the two boards. I know you most as a drummer - you're a fantastic drummer. As a drummer, what kind of things do you need in order to feel at ease when you're working with a music director? What do you need from your MD to make you feel comfortable?
C: #1 is relationship and integrity. I've kinda been raised around like-minded musicians. I've seen negative minded musicians and it seems like no matter which side they are on, when I play with them there's a certain type of presence. It's automatically like chemistry. That's another thing that fits into a relationship - you have to have a relationship off of the instrument as well. Usually I love conferences. I love rehearsals. Pretty much every one of my rehearsals are going to take at least 3 days prior to the event. So, during those rehearsal times I take pride in going to lunch on a break. Having off time where we can learn about each other. That's the number one thing that I look for from an MD, that he/she has a good relationship with the rest of the band.
W: Give me a little percentage. Is there a breakdown with some MD's that you have a great relationship with them but they don't have it all together musically, or vice versa. You're telling me you would take the MD that has a great relationship with you that you can call on but not necessarily as musically proficient, over the person who is a dynamite player but will walk all over you in the process?
C: Absolutely! The one thing about it is it's almost like a drummer to play in the pocket. Less is more. In a way, you have to lead the standard of whatever you're executing. I would take a person who is not that musically proficient because maybe I know something that he doesn't know, but he'll take constructive criticism. And that's another big problem that most musicians have, is that they can't take constructive criticism. It's just a thing about communication. You've got to know how to communicate with people. Even with musicians who don't know how to take constructive criticism, you have to know how to communicate to that person. So that brings me back to the word experience. You go through different experiences; things that work out and things that don't work out. But that's why you have practice. That's why you explain to your crew, whoever is playing, whoever is singing, that there's a difference between practice and rehearsal. Rehearsal is not the time to practice. That relationship can either be made or it can already be there. It's good if it's already there but you're not going to get that every time, so you know you just have to know from experience how to respectfully criticize someone (constructive criticism) while still teaching them something.
W: Always going back to relationships! If that relationship isn't there you're not going to be able to speak to somebody and say “hey, would you mind doing this for here,” or “let’s change that up a little bit.” Relationships are going to back that up. If you're MD’ing and ask a fantastic musician with a negative attitude to play in the pocket, they may very well dismiss it with “bro, whatever.” I can definitely see that happening, especially amongst musicians.