T Bone Burnett Offers Students Tips on Music Production—and Life

Mike Keefe-Feldman
March 16, 2016
T Bone Burnett at Warner Music Nashville with Berklee
Pat Pattison, T Bone Burnett, and Stephen Webber
Berklee students listening to T Bone Burnett at master class
T Bone Burnett delivers a master class to Berklee students at Warner Music Nashville.
Pat Pattison, Berklee songwriting professor and founder of the Berklee Nashville trip, now in its 31st year, with Burnett and Stephen Webber, director of the Master in Music Production, Technology, and Innovation program at Berklee’s Valencia, Spain campus
Responding to student questions about studio practices, Burnett says, “You just try to treat people the way you’d want to be treated.”
Mike Keefe-Feldman
Mike Keefe-Feldman
Mike Keefe-Feldman

Legendary producer, film music maven, songwriter, and artist T Bone Burnett shared his experience and wisdom with Berklee students at a master class at Warner Music Nashville on Monday, March 14, 2016. Burnett is well known for his music work on acclaimed film music for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Walk the Line, and Crazy Heart, among many others, and has produced artists such as B.B. King, Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch, Elvis Costello, and Los Lobos, as well as many others.

While renowned producers like Burnett are often less than forthcoming when it comes to the magic that makes them so sought after in the studio, he generously offered some invaluable studio advice to the Berklee students who traveled to Nashville for the college’s annual spring break trip.

“Instead of saying ‘let’s do it one more time,’ and then ‘one more time,’ and then ‘one more time,’” Burnett said, “say, ‘let’s do it three more times.’” He said the result is that the artist feels less pressure, and is therefore often able to deliver a better performance on the very next attempt.

“The best thing to do is just love people,” Burnett said. “A producer’s job is 90 percent support and encouragement.”

He also addressed concerns about the proliferation of free streaming music and the ramifications that can have on artists and songwriters.

“We have to stand up for artists’ rights,” Burnett said. “People say the market has spoken, and I say, ‘Yeah, and it will speak again.’"

Berklee President Roger H. Brown thanked Burnett for his generosity in making himself available to the Berklee community not just in Nashville, but also recently, in Los Angeles and in Boston.

“We appreciate you so much,” Brown said, “for your advocacy for artists and music, and for your ability to thread the needle in doing things that move a lot of people and have artistic integrity as well.”

Burnett received an American Master Award from Berklee, along with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, during a live broadcast of Music City last night. The trio shared the stage to close the show, performing Welch's "Everything Is Free," a profound statement for artists' rights if ever there was one.

More on Berklee in Nashville 2016