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How I Got That Sound: George Seara

Shawn Mendes ‘Treat You Better’ By Joe Matera
Published July 2023

How I Got That Sound

Juno‑winning and Grammy‑nominated Canadian mixer and recording engineer George Seara has worked on numerous multi‑platinum albums since he began his career back in the mid‑1990s, with credits including Shawn Mendes, James Bay, Demi Lovato, Alessia Cara, Rihanna, Drake, Herbie Hancock and Sting, to name but a few. Asked to pick a favourite sound from his catalogue, he chooses the vocal on ‘Treat You Better’ by Shawn Mendes.

“I get asked about this song a lot, and how I mixed it. The song was mixed by a few others as well, and my mix was ultimately chosen as the version that everyone preferred. I’m just humbled to be a part of it all. Shawn is the real deal, a once‑in‑a‑generation talent, and I’m always inspired working with him. His dedication and passion for his craft is noteworthy and I think he really cares deeply about what he’s writing and how he’s singing it, and that it’s authentic.

How I Got That Sound“I mixed this single on an SSL 6000E console with VCA automation. The console is punchy and has an edge when pushed, which I like. Mixing analogue is how I learned. It’s very fast for me, recalls are a snap, and I just love having physical faders and EQs to work with. I can use a gentle touch or push the mix bus for a more aggressive sound, where fitting, and I like that it’s pliable and can provide sonic ‘colour’.”

Up Close & Personal

“‘Treat You Better’ is a moody, introspective anthem, and Shawn’s entry vocals draw you in close right away. Shawn’s lead vocals return on the console, which had an Avalon 2055 equaliser, Empirical Labs Distressor [compressor], and a Retro Instruments 176 Tube Limiting Amplifier on the insert. My aim was for the vocals to be warm, and present, with close proximity at the entry. I started with a 2:1 desk compression ratio with a fast release and +3dB at 100Hz and +3dB at 16kHz desk EQ, with a high‑pass at 70Hz. The Avalon 2055 EQ had a mild presence boost above 15kHz while the Distressor was set to 4:1, with medium attack and a fast release. The Retro 176 was also set to 4:1 medium attack and fast release, and side‑chain filtered at around 70Hz.

“I absolutely love these compressors on vocals! In addition, I often use a TC Electronic System 6000 for reverb and effects, and I used a Large Warm Hall preset, as well as a Pitched Stereoizer preset for ‘widening’ very slightly. The Large Warm Hall sound is magnificent and it’s one of my favourites for adding depth and space, while retaining intimacy.

George Seara: With pop music, I like to work on vocals early on in the mix, so that they are at the forefront.

“With pop music, I like to work on vocals early on in the mix, so that they are at the forefront, and often begin the mix by getting a nice quick balance of key instrumentation and then move to vocals. From there I bring in other instrumentation around the vocals. In this case, I started with entry guitars and vocals. I will no doubt spend equal time on making sure that the drums, the foundation, feel great and hit hard, along with the rhythm section throughout.”