When you’ve learned your craft from Manny Marroquin, you can mix on almost any system — as Jeremie Inhaber proved with Meghan Trainor’s ‘Made You Look’.
“My entire career has been about making the most with what I have,” says Jeremie Inhaber. “When I worked at a radio station I was mixing bands live to air, and we had two condenser mics and 25 Shure SM57s. So I put 57s on everything, used the condensers as overheads, and had to make it sound good. I had to record, and mix, and make it compete with other things on the radio, and with other radio stations. I had to run the whole show, and learned to manage different aspects of a production, all with very limited equipment.
“When I worked for Manny, I again learned to use fewer tools to go further. One of the things he does better than anybody I have ever seen is to do so much with so little. I watched him use just the faders on an SSL desk to get his mixes most of the way. Working in the analogue world, you have to make each console and outboard EQ and compressor count. You can’t put 10 effects on the inserts of a desk. Working at Larrabee Studios with Manny also was a high‑pressure environment, where you had to make things work, and on time, no matter what the situation. I learned to understand what tools are the most appropriate for what situations, and make the most of what’s there. That mentality carries through in my freelance career.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter what tools I work with. The less‑is‑more approach has remained with me, and it is still there today, now that I am independent. I’m working mostly from home, again making the most of what I have, which is a pair of Yamaha NS10s with an HS10 sub, a [Universal Audio] Apollo Twin soundcard and a MacBook Pro from 2014. I haven’t gotten a session yet that won’t run on it, so I don’t feel limited by it.
“I also sometimes mix on a set of Sennheiser HD650 headphones, because they take the acoustics out of the equation — I make different decisions on headphones than I do on speakers. It’d be awesome to have a pair of ATC or PMC monitors one day, but for now it’s a fun challenge to dive deeper into the tools that I have, and then to see the reward in mixing a song on a pair of speakers many people wouldn’t ever touch, and it getting 120 million streams and more!”
The 120 million streams refer to ‘Made You Look’, the recent big hit by Meghan Trainor, which was mixed by Inhaber. The song reached number two in the UK singles chart, and was a top five hit in many other countries around the world. It was the second single from Trainor’s fifth studio album, Takin’ It Back, on which Inhaber mixed eight tracks. Nine of the songs on the album, including ‘Made You Look’, were co‑written and/or co‑produced by Federico Vindver, of Kanye and Coldplay fame, who was interviewed in SOS October 2021.
The Manny mentioned by Inhaber is, of course, Manny Marroquin, one of the world’s top mixers, with a credit list so long it could take up the rest of this article. Inhaber worked as Marroquin’s assistant from August 2018 to August 2021. Inhaber has been independent since then, and has mixed tracks by NBA YoungBoy, Internet Money, Stacey Ryan, Zai1k and many others. ‘Made You Look’ is his first big hit as a freelance. “It’s really cool,” he comments. “I’m not used to paying attention to numbers and streams and marketing and so on, but it’s been great to watch this song blow up. You never know what’s going to be a hit, or not, so I did not expect it. But it couldn’t be more exciting!”
After three years assisting Manny Marroquin, Inhaber went independent in August 2021 because he “was ready for a new challenge”. However, he faced not just one but a multitude of challenges. First of all, there was the challenge of building a career, which meant networking, making connections and learning about business. He says that signing with Fated Future Management took a lot of weight off his shoulders in this respect. There also was the challenge of translating the mixing lessons he’d learned in a big studio to a small, in‑the‑box, home setup. “I obviously don’t have an SSL, so the challenge was, ‘How do I get to where I want to go with a mix without a desk and without all the outboard? How do you achieve your aim sonically with different tools?’ I found that you can, but you have to use different techniques with your different tools.
Jeremie Inhaber: You realise that the tools don’t really matter, because it’s about your ear, and your vision. A lot of what I did with Manny was ear training.
“You realise that the tools don’t really matter, because it’s about your ear, and your vision. A lot of what I did with Manny was ear training. It happened all the time, whether I was aware of it or not. You’re learning taste and sensibilities purely by listening to things, and that then translates in me working in my home studio. This is where the NS10s are important, because after spending four years at Larrabee listening mostly to these monitors, they have become my frame of reference.
“When I tell people that I work only on NS10s, they always look incredulous. But I’m really comfortable with them. It’s not just that I’m used to them, and that they thereby help me create mixes that translate to everywhere else. I’ve also grown to really like them. They are an acquired taste, but I now love listening to them. They present the vocals in a really specific way, and there’s something about the separation and detail in the midrange that I love. The general soundstage translates in a really nice way on NS10s.”
Inhaber’s mix of Meghan Trainor’s ‘Made You Look’ is a good illustration of his current mix approach. “My mix session for that song is fairly typical. I more or less approach most mixes the same way from a technical standpoint, and also from an organisational standpoint, like colour‑coding and arranging my sessions. And I have a very basic template, which has a few aux tracks with the Soundtoys doubler, and a couple of reverbs, and a couple limiters on my stereo bus. It’s not much. Just a few plug‑ins that I tend to gravitate towards.
“It’s great when people send me Pro Tools sessions, because I get to see under the hood what producers do. I often learn from that. But these days many producers work in Logic or Ableton, in which case I’ll get stems. There’s a positive from that too, because when I can’t see the processing, it puts me in a different head space. I’m not thinking, ‘Oh there’s a C4 on it, can I improve the settings?’ I just have to react to what’s there, which makes it a bit less cerebral.
“I like to get the rough before I start, to know what the artist and the producer and team were living with. When I do receive a Pro Tools session I’ll normally simply roll with what’s there. I’ll for the most part build on what the producer has done. If I need to go under the hood and change a plug‑in setting, or swap or add plug‑ins, I will. But if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
“You need to understand what kind of mix you’re doing. Sometimes it only needs to be 5 percent better. The production already sounds good and you’re brought in just to sweeten it. The other extreme is mixes where they’re expecting you to completely recreate the song. It’s important to know where on that continuum you need to operate. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not usually clear from the brief. Sometimes you only find out what’s expected of you when you receive their notes.”
‘Made You Look’ was written by Trainor, Federico Vindver and Sean Douglas, and musically, it’s a mashup of ’50s doo‑wop and contemporary pop — the low end includes both 808s and an upright bass. Vindver played and programmed most of the parts, including keyboards, guitar and sampled strings, and produced the song. There’s also a live brass section, and together with the prominent doo‑wop backing vocals, it means there’s a lot going on in the midrange.
“Federico did an amazing job with the production and framing the song,” notes Inhaber. “I didn’t have any questions about where the record needed to go. I think I was able to elevate the song in a way that was a continuation of the production. The challenge was that it needed to bounce in a certain way because it’s a doo‑wop song, that also needs to compete in the modern pop world, where it is played next to an Ariana Grande song or a Taylor Swift song.
“Specifically this meant making the horns sound bright and bouncy, balancing the backing vocals against the lead vocal in the right way, and getting the low end to feel good, all while maintaining the more traditional doo‑wop vibe, and not sucking the life out of the song by making it too much pop. Getting the right relationship between the background vocals and the lead vocal was a technical challenge. A lot of the mix was about taking out harshness, bringing up the backgrounds, and cutting anything in the mix that sort of poked out, particularly in the midrange. For me, the midrange is the most important, and probably the hardest frequency range to mix. Fitting all that in a cohesive sonic space was the essence of this mix.”
“Mixing on a desk has definitely changed the way I mix in the box. You can’t grab 10 faders at once, which is one of the things that slows you down, but you can do automation moves that accomplish multiple things at once, for example by having a drum bus, an all guitars bus or a music bus, or assigning things to a VCA. Making automation moves on group tracks like that is a similar place to grabbing 10 faders. You just have to think about them a little bit differently.
“When you’re mixing on a desk, it’s harder to subgroup, or to side‑chain things, or to do multiple treatments on one source. It’s not only a physical limitation, but also, if I put 12 desk and outboard effects on a lead vocal, I’m going to have a ton of noise. So instead you have to really make that one SSL channel EQ work and that one channel compressor work for you, understand how and when to use them, in a very simple and straightforward way.
“This translates in how I use plug‑ins in the box, by using fewer and making the ones I do have count. I think that less‑is‑more approach leads to better results, because I don’t have time to overthink things. I don’t have time to tweak the 15 EQs that have inserted on the lead vocal. I’m really paying attention to one EQ, or maybe two or three, depending on the situation. Whatever tools I’m using, I’m trying to make the most of them, and trying to get the furthest with the least amount of intervention.
“Also, for a while, I started my mixes with everything in. I stopped doing that recently, and I now work in a more traditional way, starting with just the drums, and then the bass, and I’ll work on the groove. I’ll then unmute other things one by one, sort of in order of importance, and bring in the vocals last. When I started my mixes with everything in, I noticed that I paid less attention to the groove and the feel. But when I build mixes as I go, I can focus more on the individual elements. It’s definitely been working better for me.”
Jeremie Inhaber’s mix session for ‘Made You Look’ is exceptionally well organised. With only 41 audio tracks, it’s modest by modern standards. It starts with five Master Fader tracks, after which there are 13 audio drums tracks (yellow), grouped in folder tracks called KICKS, CLAPS and PERC, followed by a DRUMS aux track. Next are three bass tracks (red), a guitar track, a HORNS folder with two horns tracks, eight audio music tracks that include bells, organ celesta, strings, piano, and two effects tracks. All music tracks are in blue, except for the bass and effects, which are in black. The vocal section (red) consists of a VOCALS aux track, a lead vocal track, a BGS folder with three backing vocal tracks, a vocoder track, a CHOIR folder track with two audio tracks, and another three vocal tracks. At the bottom are four reverb aux tracks (green), with the AKG BX20, Waves H‑Reverb, PSP Spring Reverb, and Valhalla VintageVerb.
Inhaber comments: “My clips are not colour‑coded, which drives some people crazy, but I like it because it allows me to differentiate more easily between them. I started using folder tracks because it simplifies my view, and helps me streamline what I’m doing. I like doing fader moves on groups, like a global turn up, turn down, or apply automation, and this works great with folder tracks.”
Download a high-resolution screenshot of the Pro Tools Mix Session to zoom in and see details.
Other than some work on the toms, a handful of sends to the AKG BX20 aux in the percussion section, and a couple of treatments on the DRUMS aux, Inhaber did relatively little to the drums. “I received a note about the panning of the toms, so I did some panning automation, and added a send to my Buckram aux, which is a preset on the H‑Reverb. It’s a really short, non‑linear gated reverb that I like a lot. I think it originally was a preset on the Lexicon 480L, but the corresponding preset on the H‑Reverb works for me.
“The AKG sends on some of the percussion came with the session, so I did not touch it. They just put these elements in a bit of space. I added the DRUMS group aux, with the SIR Audio Tools StandardCLIP and the Waves Manny Marroquin EQ, because I wanted the drums to sound a bit more hyped. I used soft clipping from the StandardCLIP to add some grit and crunch, and Manny’s EQ to add some 15kHz — his EQ is one of my favourites for adding top end. I don’t normally add an aux for all the drums, but felt that the drums needed some more modern weight, attitude and vibe.
“There are three bass tracks. Most of the song combines an 808 with an upright bass that adds texture and some of the doo‑wop vibe. Working on the bass was a major focus of this mix. The song is about the 808, which gives it a modern sound, and I treated it lightly with the Waves SSL Channel and Plugin Alliance Bettermaker EQ. During the pre‑choruses there’s just a second upright, by itself, and I have quite a bit more processing in this, because it needed to have the same weight as the combined 808 and first upright. So I added the Waves RVox, an aggressive setting on the Waves SSL Channel, and the Waves RVox and Soundtoys Decapitator. All that’s to beef up that second upright and make it as present and warm as the 808.”
“There’s only one guitar track, and I added a send to my SPRING aux track, on which I had the PSP Audioware SpringBox reverb plug‑in, which is part of my template. I like how dark it is. It has a lot of character. I wanted to give the guitar a little bit more bounce, and a different sense of space than the other instruments.
“Next is the horn folder track, which combines one track of live horns and one track of sampled horns. I added four plug‑ins, because I wanted the horns to have more character and make them fit with the strings, guitar and vocal, who are all in the midrange. The Manny EQ adds brightness, the Twincom Millennia TCL‑2 compressor is very clean, and the Waves PuigChild 670 adds character.
“I reach for the SSL console plug‑in probably in 90 percent of situations because I know it so well, but I was looking for a different flavour on the horns, and different types of compression to set them in a different sense of space. The Millennia works well on pop horns, but sometimes it makes things sound too artificial, and using it on programmed horns doesn’t really work because it can make them sound even more programmed. That’s why I added the 670, which gives the opposite of that super‑clean, super‑clicky Millennia sound.
“One plug‑in that’s really helpful for managing the midrange is the Waves API 550. I didn’t understand API EQs until I started boosting midrange with them, and I was like, ‘Wow, this is what they’re for!’ It’s become one of my main tools for midrange sculpting. It’s why you see an API plug‑in on the celesta, strings and piano in this session.”
“I don’t normally add a VOCALS aux, but in this case I did, because in the notes they asked me to hype the vocals and bring them forwards. All the vocals — lead, backgrounds and ad libs — go through this track. It was part of balancing the doo‑wop and the pop sides. They wanted the vocals to be a little bit more pop. So the aux has the Waves Rvox, the FabFilter Pro‑Q 3 and Manny’s EQ adding high end. I added 8kHz and 25kHz with the Manny EQ. The latter has a very wide bell, which reaches down into the audible range. That EQ is really, really smooth.
“The Bettermaker EQ helps to make it sound really poppy and glued, and the [FabFilter] Pro‑MB tames some of the harshness, but also glues everything together even more. I needed a global move to bring all vocals forward and make them more present. The lead vocal track has many of the same plug‑ins as the VOCAL aux, with an added send to the AKG BX20. The backgrounds are as important as the lead in this song, to give it that doo‑wop ensemble vibe. Compressing and saturating the backgrounds together with the RVox and SSL Channel definitely helped me get there.”
“There’s an inactive track called MIX below the METER track, which is the stereo bus in the rough mix. I’ll often draw inspiration from this. All tracks in the session are sent to the METER track, which actually is a Master Fader track, and from there the signal goes to the INPUT track, and is printed on my print track below it. In the session screenshot [see above] it’s my most current mix, number 13. Earlier mixes are above the INPUT track. The rough is above that, at the top.
“The METER track started off as a technical thing, so I could see how hard I was hitting my mix bus, but I now also add plug‑ins to it. With three active plug‑ins on the METER track and seven on the INPUT track, I have a total of 10 treatments on the entire session, and there’s quite a lot of aggressive processing going on to give the track more vibe.
“The METER has the UAD Pultec EQP‑1A, which was another plug‑in I used to support the vintage vibe in the track, the Waves Manny EQ, and the Dangerous Bax EQ, which sounds really clinical and modern. I add low end and grit with the EQP‑1A, and high end with the Dangerous. Having different curves from different EQs also helped me toe that line between vintage and modern. If I was a better engineer, I probably could just have one EQ doing all of the moves! But, for the sake of maintaining the vibe and character of each specific EQ curve, I drew different curves from different tools.
“The chain on the INPUT track starts with the Cytomic The Glue [compressor]. I think the Pro‑Q 3 and Black Box are from the producer. After them I added the Brainworx bx_digital v3 EQ, the StandardCLIP and FabFilter Pro‑L 2. In this case the StandardCLIP is about the groove, affecting how the kick hits, how the snare hits and how the transients feel. The Pro‑L 2 adds just one dB. My meters told me the track was loud enough as it was. Randy Merrill mastered the track, and did a really, really good job. He did something to the high end that I really like.”
Jeremie Inhaber’s success with his mixes for Meghan Trainor is the culmination of a journey of more than a decade. “I’m Canadian and originally come from Montreal,” explains Inhaber, “but grew up in upstate New York. Throughout high school I played electric and upright bass in rock and punk bands, orchestras, jazz trios and so on. I quickly noticed the recording process was my favourite part of playing in bands. So when it came to choosing what to study, I did the Recording Technology course at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
“While at UMass I worked as a live‑sound engineer and mixer, and a Live Sound Director at an FM Radio station, WUML. The day after graduation in 2017, I moved to Los Angeles, where I worked as an intern under Wil Anspach, at the time the engineer of rapper Vic Mensa. Wil introduced me to Amy Burr, manager of Larrabee Studios, who took me on as a studio assistant. After a year I had worked my way up to become Manny [Marroquin]’s assistant, and learned a lot of what I know now!”
Marroquin is well‑known for being one of the few top‑level mixers who continue to work on a hardware console. It had a deep impact on Inhaber’s mixing outlook, and has made him one of the very few young mixers active today who are completely at ease with mixing both on a desk and in the box. “From day one I had to work with the desk,” recalls Inhaber. “I needed to print stems through the desk in a way that’s representative of Manny’s mixes. There’s no room for error at all: these stems needed to sound exactly like his mix. So I had to be able to use the SSL, and all the outboard in the room. I needed to be able to troubleshoot and fix any hiccup the desk threw at me, and if the AMS DMX 15‑80 or the Neve 33609 was crackly when printing stems, I needed to be able to fix that without changing the sound.”