How I Got Here: Dan Murtagh, music producer and mix engineer

Like many of us, Collarts teacher Dan Murtagh wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in his career. Despite having played in bands throughout high school, he first enrolled in a ‘safe’ university degree, only to soon discover music was a passion he couldn’t ignore.

“I decided to follow my passion and see what happened. I enrolled in a Bachelor of Music and during that time I was proactive in the music scene,” he said. 

Cutting his teeth at Sing Sing Recording Studios with awarded music producer Forrester Savell, he has quickly become one of Melbourne’s most sought after music producers and mix engineers.

From pushing the boundaries of audio technology, to cultivating perseverance, we find out how Dan Murtagh got his start in the music industry and his advice on making a career out of doing what you love.

On putting in the hard yards from day dot…

“While I was studying, I kept playing in bands and drew on my network to get other musicians in to do recordings with me. I managed to produce a bunch of records while I was still at school, which was a good springboard.

Once I graduated, I ended up working in a local studio in Adelaide. One of the bands I was working with really wanted to get their album mixed by the famous Australian music producer Forrester Savell. It turned out to be a really good opportunity for me because Forrester liked my work and ended up offering me a job in Melbourne.

I worked as his audio engineer for a couple of years until a room came up for lease there at Sing Sing studios and I took it over with a friend of mine.”

On finding a mentor…

“Forrester took me under his wing, showed me his style and method of production, plus taught me a lot of the tools and tricks I use today.

My advice is to find someone to turbo-charge your experience and learn from as many people as possible. Find someone you respect and who has knowledge that you don’t – I spent hours watching Forrester work and learning about how to approach technical things as well as how to interact with artists.”

On the importance of perseverance…

“Perseverance is one of the biggest keys to making it in the music and entertainment industry. A lot of people tell me they don’t have the same talent as somebody else, or they don’t have the right equipment, but they are just excuses. Opportunities arise through sticking with it and making sure you have positive relationships with people in the industry.

You need to have grit and perseverance for when there are setbacks or times you feel overwhelmed. You need to hustle, get your hands dirty, think outside the box and don’t be afraid of speaking to people. You’ve got to keep moving forward and strength of character goes a long way.” 

On education as the greatest springboard…

“I took the route of getting an education and it has benefited me greatly. There is such high quality education being delivered and study is the quickest way to learn the trade – you can get a degree at Collarts in two years and come out highly skilled. If you were to do that learning on your own it would be a much more daunting task. Collarts is an excellent springboard for a career in the industry and all the people that work there are all practicing industry professionals as well as being amazing educators.”

On being in charge of your days and building good habits…

“I really like being in control of my own schedule. It’s great working for yourself and deciding what work you want to do.

I also enjoy having the regular work as a teacher and that structure. Building some routine into your day can be excellent even if it’s just a regular morning coffee or a break. I like to do a bit of meditation in the morning and that really helps me. It’s really easy to overdo it when you work for yourself, so learning to switch off is essential.”

On his best piece of advice to aspiring music producers…

“Learn the technical aspects inside out, so learn your DAW (Pro Tools for me) and learn your technical equipment, but also learn your music and learn to relate to musicians as people. I’ve taken the time to learn a bit about every instrument and how musicians work, rather than treating the process like a machine. Clients appreciate you for it and you forge deeper relationships if you can work on your people skills.” 

Dan Murtagh has recently relocated from Sing Sing to Debasement recording studio and teaches a variety of audio production subjects at Collarts.