“Succeeding in the end speaks for itself.” With Candice Georgiadis & Tommy Vicari

We make music that isn’t necessarily following the current trend or flavor of the month. We make music that as artists we are inspired by, and has relevance to what is happening in our own lives; not necessarily what we think the consumer will like. Our goal is to lift the narrative out of mediocrity, and to […]

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We make music that isn’t necessarily following the current trend or flavor of the month. We make music that as artists we are inspired by, and has relevance to what is happening in our own lives; not necessarily what we think the consumer will like. Our goal is to lift the narrative out of mediocrity, and to touch the listener with something personal.

I had the pleasure of interviewing a Multi-Emmy and Grammy Award recipient,Tommy Vicari. Internationally recognized as one of Hollywood’s finest recording engineers and music mixers. During a forty plus year career, he has recorded music for every aspect of the entertainment industry. Billy Preston, Prince, George Duke, Jeffrey Osborne, Philip Bailey, Quincy Jones, Barbara Streisand, Pino Daniele, Sammy Nestico and the 2015 Grammy Award winning Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band are just a few of the musicians he’s teamed with.

His television credits include: The Oscars, Six Feet Under, The Newsroom, Angels in America. His mix for HBO’s celebrated, Behind the Candelabra earned him both an Emmy and a Cinema Audio Society Award for excellence in sound mixing.

Vicari’s work on feature films ranges from the Brian DiPalma cult classic, Phantom of the Paradise, to the Pixar multi Academy Award™ winning classics, Finding Nemo and Wall-E. Along with longtime collaborator, Thomas Newman, Vicari worked on Road to Perdition, Little Children, Revolutionary Road, Cinderella Man, A series of Unfortunate Events, The Adjustment Bureau, Brothers, The Debt, Saving Mr. Banks, Get on Up, The Judge, Side Effects, The Help, He Named Me Malala, Bridge of Spies, Passengers, Thank You for Your Service and The Highwaymen. With composer Nicholas Britell, Vicari worked on Adam McKay’s The Big Short and his HBO series Succession, Barry Jenkins’ Academy Award winning Moonlight and his subsequent feature If Beal Street Could Talk, and David Michôd’s upcoming Netflix feature, The King.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your backstory?

Myname is Tommy Vicari. I am a record producer, recording engineer, scoring music mixer, and a multi-award recipients; Grammy Awards (two wins — six nominations), Emmy Awards (seven wins — 24 nominations), Cinema Audio Society Awards (two wins — three nominations).

I began my career at 18 years young in the mailroom of the famous Capitol Records. At the end of my shift, I wouldn’t leave the building, but instead, attended any and all sessions I was allowed to sit in on. I basically lived there for two years. Then I made a move to A&M Records, the most successful independent company in the world at the time. It was an oasis of creative activities, the place to be. I began working as an assistant engineer, and after two years, made my way to engineering.

Since those early days, I have worked with such artists as: Paul Williams, Billy Preston, Gino Vannelli, Jeffrey Osborne, Joni Mitchell, George Harrison, Prince, Quincy Jones, George Duke, Philip Bailey, Barbra Streisand, Pino Daniele, Filippo Perbellini, Sammy Nestico, Gordon Goodwin’s, Big Phat Band, Brenda Russell, Teena Marie, The Dazz Band, Stanley Clarke, Santana, Bill Champlain, Seawind, Taste of Honey, Joan Baez, Howard Hewitt, David Foster, Atlantic Star, Stephanie Mills, Jimmy Cliff, Shanice, Ray Charles, and many more.

My television credits include: Succession, The Oscars, Six Feet Under, Angels in America, The Newsroom and Behind the Candelabra, to name a few.

My feature films credits include: the Brian DiPalma cult classic, Phantom of the Paradise, Paul Williams’ A Star is Born,to the Pixar multi Academy Award™ winning classics, Finding Nemo and Wall-E. Along with longtime collaborator Thomas Newman, I recorded and mixed scores for Road to Perdition, Little Children, Revolutionary Road, Cinderella Man, A Series Of Unfortunate Events, The Adjustment Bureau, Brothers, The Debt, Saving Mr. Banks, Get on Up, The Judge, Side Effects, The HelpHe Named Me Malala, Bridge of Spies, PassengersThank You for Your Service and The Highwaymen.

In collaboration with composer Nicholas Britell, I scored Adam McKay’s The Big Short and his HBO series Succession; Barry Jenkins’ Academy Award winning film Moonlight and his subsequent feature If Beal Street Could Talk; as well as David Michôd’s Netflix feature, The King.

For a full list of credits visit: www.tommyvicari.com

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We make music that isn’t necessarily following the current trend or flavor of the month. We make music that as artists we are inspired by, and has relevance to what is happening in our own lives; not necessarily what we think the consumer will like. Our goal is to lift the narrative out of mediocrity, and to touch the listener with something personal.

I am currently re-mixing an album for World Goes Round that I produced almost 30 years ago, as it was just discovered. It is as relevant today.

World Goes Round is a band made up of respected songwriters, singers and musicians who teamed up to make an album during the late 1980s that never got released, and are finally issuing songs from the long-lost collection after a cassette copy of the project was recently discovered. The second single from the album titled “Round The World”, as well as a companion video, are now available; following the recent release of the song “Big House”.

World Goes Round features Frank Musker, Elizabeth Lamers, Jeff Hull and Marty Walsh, who collectively wrote, performed and/or recorded with such famous artists as Queen, Linda Ronstadt, Chaka Khan, Quincy Jones, Kenny Rogers, John Denver, Supertramp, John Fogerty, Donna Summer, Neil Diamond and Air Supply, among others.

Musker is a veteran British songwriter whose credits include co-writing such hits as The Babys’ “Back on My Feet Again” and Paul Nicholas’ “Heaven on the 7th Floor.” He and Lamers also teamed up with Queen guitarist Brian May to co-write “Too Much Love Will Kill You,” a 1996 U.K. hit for the legendary rock group Queen. Lamers’ resume also includes stints singing backing vocals for Denver and Jeffrey Osbourne. Hull has co-written songs for Khan, Patti LaBelle and many others. Walsh is an acclaimed guitarist whose many credits include Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money,” Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” and Diamond’s “Heartlight.”

Musker, Lamers, Hull, Walsh and Vicari recently got together via Zoom to discuss the music they made together 30-plus years ago. For more info check out: https://www.worldgoesround.info/.

What do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd

Since 1976, I have been an independent recording engineer. My company, VSO, inc. (Vicari Sound Organization), does not adhere to one genre of music. We record and mix music for records, motion picture scores, theme parks, television movies, television series, television variety shows, Super Bowl Half Time shows, commercials, and last but not least, documentaries.

I have worked in every sound recording studio around the world, be it on an eight channel Mackie to 100 channel Neve, to unlimited channels DAW (digital audio work station). I have been thrown into every situation you can think of, and my responsibility is to make it work. I approach every project with the same respect, knowing that at the tip-of my fingers, is someone else’s dream.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

There have been so many stories of this nature throughout the course of my career. However one stands out above all the rest: New Year’s Eve 1999, The Millennium Show, Washington DC.

I was commissioned by Quincy Jones to mix a 100 piece live orchestra on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on December 31, 1999, featuring every major artist of the 20th Century.

The temperature was below freezing level. It was the turn of the century. Y2K was the belief that all computers would fail. Wide scale panic was pervasive across the country. What would happen if all computers failed? Concerned citizens stocked up on provisions in case of Armageddon.

Because it was such an historic event, all recording mobile trucks were booked…all analog trucks. The choices I had was an SSL (Solid State Logic) digital console. I was advised over and over by colleagues to under no circumstances, use a digital console. It would fail on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the President of the United States in attendance, beamed around the world on live TV. Y2K would wreak havoc on my broadcast.

After weeks of research in the U.S. and in Europe, I had to make a decision to go with the digital console, or use equipment that clearly could not handle the scope of this endeavor. In spite of the collective consensus, I made the decision to use the SSL digital console, and leave the outcome up to the recording Gods.

At the first rehearsal, all the microphone pre-amps froze. Not a great start. We acquired heaters to warm up the pre-amps, and they functioned as planned.

The show went live in front of an enormous crowd across the mall, with every popular artist of the 20th Century, with John Williams conducting a 100 piece orchestra, as well as a choir. The clock struck midnight, and as in a fairy tale, the show went on with no interruption. 2000 started with an unanticipated success. I followed my instinct, took the risk and the gamble paid off.

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? 🙂

Succeeding in the end speaks for itself.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have had mentors and have been inspired by the ones who preceded me every step of my career, and to this day, I am still learning. There are so many names and so many stories. I will focus on a few: Herb Alpert, Hank Cicalo, Bruce Botnick, Phil Ramone and Al Schmitt.

I left A&M Records as a young engineer with a secured staff position to pursue studying under Armin Steiner, owner of Sound Labs. Armin was at the time an innovator in orchestral recording and popular music. Armin Steiner is in a league of his own.

Quincy Jones called me in 1997 and requested that I attend a meeting at ABC Television. I had no idea what the meeting was about until unbeknownst to me, I was to mix the Oscars, live. I told Quincy: “I don’t know how to mix a live TV show, I’m a studio rat.” Quincy looked at me and replied: “Figure it out!” He knew that I would rise to the challenge and had the talent to do so. I have been mixing the Oscars for 24 years now.

Thomas Newman took a chance with me when I was hired to sub for his scoring mixer. I recorded and mixed the theme for Six Feet Under. Next thing I knew, he hired me to score Road to Perdition, one of his all time classics. I had worked on film before with Paul Williams on Phantom of the Paradise, A Star is Born and Yentl, but I was mostly experienced as recording engineer. We have had many successes together since.

Nicholas Britell asked me to help him mix this movie for Paramount. It turned out to be The Big Short. Since then, we have collaborated on Moonlight, If Beal Street Could TalkThe King, and HBO’s series Succession.

The list goes on and probably would be more fitting for a book.

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us.

First and foremost, for as long as I can remember, I have loved music. To this day, it is my driving force.

I remember clearly watching my father coming home one evening, his head down after being let go from his day job. I looked at his embarrassed face, and swore I would not allow that to happen to me. Ironically, it has happened to me, only I had the resilience and determination to get up, dust myself off and go back to doing what I do best.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)

I have no strategy to share other than to pursue what you love. There is no easy path to any career and there is always a mountain to climb. A doctor needs to put in many years in residency before he can practice. A violinist must practice hours and hours before mastering his instrument. In his bestseller Outliers — The Story of Success, author Malcolm Gladewell writes that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in any field.

I am reminded of a quote Composer Bill Conti once shared with me during a session: “There are three reasons to take a job: 1) the project 2) the people 3) the money.” You must have one out of three to go to work. If you get all three, you’ve hit a home run.

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

In my earlier days I was taught: “you will be given a chance to sit in the seat. If you are not prepared, you might not get a second chance.” Quincy Jones once said: “If you can see it, you can be it.”

Commitment, preparation, persistence, and showing up will get you there.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I must borrow a quote which still moves me. From his documentary film: Shadow Man, The Sammy Nestico Unfinished Story. Maestro Sammy Nestico says: “Never let anyone steal your dreams. If I can make it, so can you. We may not be changing the world dramatically, but we are improving it, one note at the time.”

Can our readers follow you on social media?

Of course. My website is: www.tommyvicari.com

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