The art of listening.

The daughter of esteemed musical satirist Spike Jones and singer Helen Grayco, Leslie Jones, Director of Music Recording & Scoring at Skywalker Sound, was born into the music industry. And, her parents’ talents had a big influence on her recording, engineering and producing style today. “I think they were my earliest inspiration even though I didn’t know it at the time,” she says. “The biggest benefit I have from hearing [my parents’ show] since I was little is the mountains of music that I’ve spent my life listening to. My father had a very eclectic record collection, from Stravinsky to Elvis Presley, so I grew up with a very varied taste in music that’s been with me since I started.”

According to Jones, an admiration for music can have an incredible impact. “For younger people wanting a career in this business, I think that’s the best advice I can give: spend time just listening to music. Don’t turn it up too loud…really listen to what someone’s trying to do, even if it’s the kind of music you could never see yourself doing, because you can always learn something from it.” But Jones’ success is attributed to more than just listening to the late-greats; it’s understanding your clients. You need to uncover their vision and expectations, so you can find the sound that they want. “It’s really important to have a conversation with the person whose record you’re going to be recording, whether it be the producer, composer or artist,” she explains. “On every project that I do, I have a conversation with the composer or the artist about what it is that they want. The more information I can get at the beginning, the better the session will go.”

Though Jones spends most of her time recording and scoring for TV and film, it was a recent archival project that has been the highlight of her career thus far. “One of the best projects I’ve worked on here was archiving all of the analogue reels of music from Star Wars Episodes 1-6,” she adds. “It was fantastic listening to the genius and music of John Williams over the decades. And, if it’s the last thing I do in my career, it will have been well worth it.”

With other professional credits ranging from the Apocalypse Now soundtrack to the Israeli Philharmonic live performances, one might assume that Jones has put a major emphasis on her career, but “the other thing I would say to a new engineer just starting out is that it’s important to have a life outside the studio. It’s fine to work 24/7 and say ‘yes’ to everything, but it’s another thing to have a life that informs what you do. Whether that means having interests outside of music or joining organizations in the industry. It gives you a wonderful understanding of other people’s jobs and what they do. Learning to work with other people in the industry has made me a better engineer and producer.”



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