Andreas Werner: At the Heart of America’s Music Business

The Consulate General of Switzerland in Atlanta visiting Swiss music producer Andreas Werner in Nashville, Tennessee.

Andreas at his workstation in the music studio © Consulate General of Switzerland in Atlanta

Andreas first visited Nashville in 2005 while traveling around the United States. That experience created opportunities and friendships that motivated him to return to the city several more times, starting in 2008. Three years later, Andreas finally decided to relocate from Switzerland to the U.S. and to launch his career as a music producer.

In January of this year, Andreas was passing through Atlanta on his way to a concert in Macon, Georgia, when we first met him. At the meeting, he invited us to Nashville so that we could experience this vibrant music city and have an inside look at the studio where he works. His enthusiasm for music and expertise in the scene left no doubt that Nashville would definitely be worth a visit. Only a week later, we met Andreas and his wife Rachel, who were eager to give us a tour.

The world’s largest repository of country music artifacts (Country Music Hall of Fame) © Consulate General of Switzerland in Atlanta

Our first stop was the Country Music Hall of Fame, where Andreas introduced us to industry insiders. Through our conversations with them, it became apparent that Andreas had made a profound impact on the music business of the South. Additionally, he proved his in-depth knowledge of the history of American music when we strolled through the gallery.

No museum guide could have provided us with more details on musicians like Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, and Kenny Rogers.

Growing up in Bülach in the Canton of Zurich, Andreas had always been fascinated by music. Early on, he started to play guitar and write his own songs. At the same time, he developed a true passion for Americana-style music. With its roots in tradition, Americana incorporates elements of various music styles, including rock, folk, bluegrass, country, as well as rhythm and blues–genres that are not very popular in Switzerland. Therefore it is not surprising that Andreas Werner ended up in Nashville, the epicenter of American music. The question is rather: What can someone from Switzerland contribute to American music?

Live concert in Five Points, East Nashville © Consulate General of Switzerland in Atlanta

We were sitting in a pub in Five Points, the heart of East Nashville and a hub for local music, when Andreas provided more detail about his role in the Southern music scene. He explained that while many musicians are extremely talented and have a plethora of ideas, they oftentimes struggle with the realization of larger projects. That is where Andreas comes into play. In addition to his ear for good music, he is also stellar at project management. Andreas is determined to make sure that recordings are completed on time and within budget. It might be surprising to some to see how structured the procedures in this business are. It is often assumed that a music producer works irregular hours, weekends, and late nights. On the contrary, Andreas mostly works traditional business hours.

Andreas presenting the studio piano, which used to be on Johnny Cash’s famous TV show for many years © Consulate General of Switzerland in Atlanta

As you enter the Creative Workshop, the studio where Andreas produces many of his recordings with engineer Joe Funderburk, there is a hint of glamour and showbiz. Gold records and pictures on the walls remind us of great musical successes and famous guests. The studio has hosted none other than Rod Stewart, Elvis Presley, The Doobie Brothers, and Jimmy Buffett. Andreas also often works in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, at a studio called The NuttHouse with Grammy-winning engineer Jimmy Nutt. Muscle Shoals hosted the recording of many hit songs from the 1960s to today. Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones produced some of their biggest hits in the Alabama town. Andreas himself, too, has worked with many talented and renowned artists. He also manages the Muscle Shoals Allstars, a collective of Muscle Shoals’ legendary session players. Despite all the great names, he remains humble. That is probably another reason why he is well liked in the industry.

Although the interior of the house reflects the enchantment of a recording studio, the outside is somewhat misleading. Located in the Berry Hill neighborhood, this seemingly regular residential house has been used as a music studio since 1970. “Most people don’t know that this is a recording studio,” Andreas said, grinning, “which is favorable; nobody is bothering us.”

The Creative Workshop © Consulate General of Switzerland in Atlanta

The studio is equipped with countless instruments, microphones, and other devices so that various genres of music can be recorded. The premises have been constructed specifically to optimize the quality of sound. Just as in any other recording studio, the Creative Workshop consists of a “live room,” where the artists perform, and a “control room,” where the producer and the engineer oversee the recording. In rare cases, Andreas plays the guitar in the studio, otherwise he takes a seat behind the window pane. He compares his job as a music producer to a casting director of a movie. He casts the musicians according to what he knows they can contribute to a certain song: “You don’t want to change a musician to play a certain way, but rather you want to select the musicians that fit best for each part.” Although the musicians have seldom heard the songs in advance, they have to come up with a perfect part within only a few minutes. This also shows that music recording is very much focused on efficiency. However, Andreas points out that recording music is always a lot of fun–not only because they all love to play music, but also because most of the people he works with have become very close friends.

The ‘live room’ where the studio musicians perform © Consulate General of Switzerland in Atlanta
Switzerland in the USA

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