Andrew Sarlo's Big Year: On Producing for Bon Iver, Big Thief, and More

The alumnus goes behind the scenes of some of 2019’s top releases and curates a playlist of his productions for Berklee Now.

December 3, 2019

Producer Andrew Sarlo ’11 is having a moment right now. Over the past few years the music production and engineering alumnus has produced every album by break-out indie band Big Thief, and he's worked on releases by Empress Of, Nick Hakim B.M. ’13, and many other artists. And this year, two of the critically acclaimed albums he worked on, Bon Iver’s i,i and Big Thief’s U.F.O.F., on the latter of which he was the sole producer, received Grammy nominations for Best Alternative Music Album. 

In the latest episode of Sounds of Berklee, we spoke with Sarlo about his production philosophy—which is more people-focused than gear-focused—and about his journey from recording a Bon Iver sound-alike track for a Berklee class to playing a crucial role in producing the opening song on the band’s new record. You’ll also hear about Sarlo's work on the upcoming Buck Meek B.M. ’10 album, and he’ll explain why it’s maybe not such a good idea to produce two albums for one band over the course of just a couple months—unless that band is Big Thief.

Listen to Andrew Sarlo on Sounds of Berklee:

We also asked Sarlo to curate a collection of some of the most memorable tracks he’s produced over the years. Listen below, and see what Sarlo had to say about each track he selected.

1. "Cut My Hair,” Big Thief 

"Simply put, this is such a heavy song lyrically to me about Adrianne [Lenker B.M. '12]'s last few years. I really feel for her in this tune, and it was the first song we captured appropriately while recording Two Hands. It led the way for the rest of the material."

2. “iMi,” Bon Iver

"This monster of a tune is just a triumph in Justin [Vernon]'s catalog. I'm super honored to be a part of it."

3. "Needy Bees,” Nick Hakim

"Truly just a beautiful tune and I'm super pumped about an accidental fade-in on the strings that we kept in!"

4. "You thought what you saw was it,” Show Me the Body

“Quite frankly the gnarliest thing I've recorded. I'm super proud of how this one turned out with four mics in the four corners of the room and blown up through API preamps."

5. "Set Me Free,” Active Child

“Really a beautiful tune that Pat [Grossi] had started and I helped him finish. I love all the strings and harp glissandos!"

6. "Ruiner,” Wilsen

"These are great friends of mine and we collaborated on their next LP together. I think it came out beautifully!"

7. "I CHOOSE YOU,” Adam Melchor

"It was Adam, Ethan Gruska, John DeBold and I who all gathered to record a few of Adam's songs and it was hilariously fun. You may be hearing me on the drums!"

8. "Betsy,” Big Thief

“This is a tune that came out so smoothly in the studio, and it's oddly about Adrianne's dog."

9. "Farmissplease,” Nick Hakim

"I adore how this song makes me feel. It's wild and was added to the album pretty much last. Nick crushed the demo and we went into a friend's studio to finish it off. It was such a smooth process."

10. “what lovers do,” Hand Habits

"We slayed this one. I just love the harmonies so much and the band feel is really lovely."

Sounds of Berklee credits: 

Engineered by Tony Brown and Brandon Bichajian

Produced by John Mirisola

Theme music by Sleeping Lion

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