INTERVIEW: PRODUCER & ENGINEER ALISSA FARATRO SHARES HER EXPERIENCE FROM SPOTIFY'S EQL RESIDENCY PROGRAM, RESOURCES FOR WOMEN IN MUSIC, BARRIERS SHE'S FACED + MORE

Photo by: Matias Vera Pinto
Though her career in the industry took flight after graduating from Berklee, Alissa Faratro's passion for music began when she was just six years old – learning to play the xylophone in kindergarten then moving on to piano before enrolling in voice lessons.

Faratro first began pursuit of a music career upon noticing the lack of female representation in the industry. She moved from her hometown of Montreal to Boston, beginning her studies at Berklee College of Music in 2015. Faratro would go on to graduate from the Bachelor of Music in Music Production and Engineering Program with the North American Tour Scholarship Award.

From working at Planet Studios to working with Grammy-nominated vocal producer Simone Torres and Christina Aguilera's award-winning musical director Rob Lewis, Faratro's latest venture took her to Los Angeles, as the only Canadian chosen to take part in the Spotify EQL Residency Program.

Spotify Equal (EQL) selects three women-identifying producers and audio engineers to help open the doors into the industry through hands-on experience working at the Spotify studios and gaining access to invaluable networking and mentoring opportunities.

Faratro honed her expertise through EQL's experience – working in the studio alongside Grammy-nominated artist Kelli-Leigh, emerging artist Annie Bosko and Luke McDermott from the Disciples (co-wrote Calvin Harris’ "How Deep is Your Love").

In an industry where less than 5% of music producers and engineers are female, Alissa Faratro is on a mission to use her voice to inspire and empower women:


“We definitely need to encourage and recognize more women engineers and producers in the industry. I get too many artists telling me that I’m the first female engineer they’ve worked with or that they know maybe one or two others. My goal is to never hear that from an artist again. With the opportunity Spotify has given me I want to help inspire young women to pursue their dreams and aspirations in the music industry and to show them anything is possible with hard work and dedication.” 


Q: What initially interested you in a career in audio engineering?


It started with me wanting to have more creative control over my own music and educating myself to explain my ideas with the correct terms to the engineers I was working with. I found it frustrating to go into the studio, do my part as the artist, and then leave my work in the hands of someone I didn't know to finish it, so I decided to learn how to do it myself. I guess it all began because I was being a control freak! It made me realize I could be really useful to other artists if I was an engineer myself because we speak the same language, and that’s what drew me in.

Q: Congratulations on your Spotify residence! Can you give us some insight on your experience in the Spotify EQL residency? Any highlights? 


Thank you! Yeah, it’s been a really incredible experience! It’s really fun because the entire Secret Genius initiative was made to support Songwriters, Producers and Artists by giving them a space to collaborate and create, and I get to be a part of that. I got to be in the room with people who wrote or produced some of your favorite songs in the past few years and that’s really crazy. Obviously meeting a ton of really cool artists is a perk but I think the most exciting about this experience is that every day is a new challenge. A highlight would have to be the session I did with Madame Gandhi, Trakgirl and the other EQL engineers. It was so fun to collaborate with other women that are great at what they do. You can actually find a behind the scenes video on Spotify’s Instagram profile, and also on mine.

Q: What does a typical day in the program look like? 


My role is the in-house sound engineer for the Los Angeles Secret Genius studio. I usually get to the studio about an hour before the session starts. I like to do my homework and research the people that are booked in the studio to have an idea of what we’ll be working on or at least what genre of music it’ll be. It’s important to know that information because it will dictate what type of equipment I’ll need and how I’ll set up the room for the client. That’s about all I can do to prepare for a session because each session is different. I never really know exactly what they’ll need until they walk through the door, so I have to think on my feet and adapt to whatever is needed of me. At times I’m working with an artist who comes in on their own and needs more guidance, so I take on the role of a producer. Other times it’s an experienced writer who needs someone to operate the computer so they can get their ideas out, when that’s the case I’m strictly an engineer. It’s all about reading the room, figuring out people’s needs and doing what you can to make everyone feel comfortable.

Q: For women looking to get into the audio engineering industry, are there any entry-level groups, internships, workshops or other resources you can suggest? 


Yeah absolutely! There are a ton of organizations that support women in music! A lot of them organize conferences, masterclasses, networking events, mentoring programs, internships and some even offer scholarships. There are also directories that you can look at to find and collaborate with other women in the industry like The EQL Directory that Spotify launched in collaboration with SoundGirls: makeiteql.com. Some organizations you should definitely look up and support are: Women’s Audio MissionWomen in Music, Soundgirls.org, She Is The Music, Women In the Mix, Girls Behind The Rock Show, VOCL, etc.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you can give to women aspiring a career in the field? 


Don’t take things personally and stay focused on your work. There are so many reasons to doubt yourself but you’re going to be your biggest ally. No matter what happens, just trust yourself because there’s no reason you can’t do whatever you set your mind to. It sounds so cliche but I promise it’s true!

 Q: Have you personally faced discrimination or obstacles – as a female, in the industry? 


Sure, it happens all the time. Most of the time it’s not so obvious or blatant, sometimes it’s not even anything specific. As women, not just in the music industry, we deal with microaggressions on a daily basis. It’s definitely nothing we can’t deal with--if I’m being honest it gets annoying and exhausting because even when you do your best not to let it get to you, it takes a lot of energy to constantly be the bigger person. It’s one more thing we need to handle. I’ve had people doubt me, be surprised I was the engineer, question my capabilities, I’ve been patronized and talked to as if I knew nothing but all this says more about who they are than it does about you.

Q: What keeps you motivated and dedicated to your craft? 


Thinking as an entrepreneur is what keeps me motivated because I’m always thinking about my next steps. I’m constantly trying to grow and expand my “business” so to speak. If this pandemic has taught us anything it’s how to reinvent the way we work and do business, and that’s how I always try to think. The music industry excites me so much because it keeps you on your toes. Just when you think you have it figured out, it's already evolved into something new.

Q: Do you have any specific goals for your future? Any studios or artists you aspire to work with? 


Drake and Rosalia. I really want to work with them to see what their creative process is and be a part of it. It goes without saying that I want to be working with the top artists in the game but what I’d really love to do is help develop and break the next big artist.

Q: Anything else you would like to add? 


Yes! I’m actually working on starting my own management company. If any artists, songwriters or producers are reading this and want to connect, you can reach me through my Instagram profile @alissafaratro. I’m always looking for new people to work with! You can send me any of your work to listen to and don’t hesitate to reach out even if you just want to chat!

For more information on Spotify's EQL Residency Program click here.



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