Sean Hill is the amazing producer behind Landry Cantrell’s spectacular album, Projections, releasing today, June 16th (read the TBAP review of Projections here). Sean is not just a producer, but a songwriter as well. Hard at work on a Christmas album already, Sean took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with us on TBAP. Follow our conversation below and learn more about Sean!
Miranda ~ Hello Sean! Delighted to have you visit TBAP today. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Sean: Absolutely. Thanks for having me! Well, I’m a 31 year-old, Atlanta native. My wife, Crystal, and I have been married 7 years. We have two kids, Rylynn (almost 3), and Paisley (18 months). And we have a 3rd baby girl in the oven! Our family motto is that we work hard and play harder!
Miranda ~ How did you become a Christian? Tell us your story!
Sean: I grew up as a church kid: Wednesday night youth group, Sunday morning, and Sunday night; no shortage of time at church! My family was, and still is, devoted church-goers. I was blessed and fortunate to have a very great upbringing. I first gave my life to Christ on a Sunday morning at the age of 11 when I felt an encounter with God, personally, for the first time during a worship service. Nothing extraordinarily unique about the service or the worship, except that God became real to me that morning, and has remained very real ever since.
Miranda ~ When did music become a part of your life?
Sean: Music has been a part of life for me since the beginning. It runs in my family. My grandfather spent many decades in southern gospel as a singer in a group called The Crusaders; he is since retired. My dad is a professional guitar player and songwriter. My brother is a multi-instrumentalist, writer, and producer. Music is in my blood, so to speak. Some of my first memories are of me crawling around my dad’s basement studio as he was writing and recording music. I grew up with instruments lying around, and I eventually discovered that I could express my thoughts and feelings through these mediums. If I had to put an age number on it, I think I really started playing bass in 4th grade in my brother’s “garage band.” From there, I picked up guitar, then drums. I began writing and making recordings around age 12, and it continues to today!
Miranda ~ What events led you to become a professional songwriter and music producer? For each, is the story the same?
Sean: Yeah, I had a wake up moment in my early twenties. I got into a real dark place of becoming very critical of Christian and Worship music. I would make fun of what came on the radio or what we played at church. It was very much connected to pride issues. But to keep a lengthy story concise, God got a hold of me and woke me up one day. God changed my heart from being a critic, and He challenged me to try and become the change I wanted to see in the music. So, instead of sitting on the sidelines and booing at the players, I stepped into the game and began to work hard honing my craft to hopefully one day influence Christian music for the better. Before that moment, music had been a fun hobby, and after that encounter, it became my mission and calling.
Miranda ~ How would you describe your early days in the industry? What lessons/principles did you pick up along the way that keep you afloat even now?
Sean: Work on everything to the best of your ability. Every project, every song, every track that you are associated with is your handshake to the world. Songs travel so far in today’s connected world, and you never know whose hand you are shaking with your music. And, you ALWAYS want that handshake to be as professional and polished as it can be.
Miranda ~ The beats of Landry Cantrell’s Projections are amazing! What inspires you to produce the way you do?
Sean: Well, thanks! Inspiration comes from so many different places. In Landry’s case, however, he had a clear vision to go pop in his record. The way he writes, the rhythms in the phrasing of his lyrics, and his melody lines are inspiring for a producer. He brings something fresh and unique to the table, and I found myself reaching for sounds that I rarely ever go after, and so I would also be coming to the table with something fresh and unique. Big synths, sidechains, world percussion, clean electric guitars, stacked and layered harmonies—all comprised the approach we found, that worked for the overall sound of his record. The artist, their voice, their story, and the way they write their songs tell me how to approach their production.
Miranda ~ You’re also a songwriter. What artists/songwriters have you worked with in the past and, who do you hope to work with in the future? Also, are you working on any project right now?
Sean: Yeah, I’ve had a great honor of working with some of the most amazing writers and artists in Christian music on some level or another. Some of those people are well-known, and some are unknown, but many on both sides of the spectrum have been equally incredible. In the future, I trust God to connect me to the right people. I don’t necessarily seek out connections (or network as some would call it), I just trust that I will continue to meet and work with the right people at the right time. I’m always working with artists, so yes, working on some really fun stuff now!
Currently working on a full-length Christmas record (in June, I know!), and a great EP with a worship leader from Virginia, along with several singles. Production is always a busy career with juggling multiple projects!
Miranda ~ What inspires you to write the lyrics in the songs that you write?
Sean: The best lyrics are written out of genuine experience. I try to write from a place of authenticity with what I’m going through. Maybe I just discovered some new revelation of God, or had a unique experience of joy or loss close to me. Whatever is going on in my life, I tend to process through lyrics as genuinely as I know how.
Miranda ~ What are you most grateful for right now and generally?
Sean: Hands down, I’m most grateful for my family that God has blessed me with. Many years ago, my wife was told she would likely never have children, and we are only months away from having our third child. God’s faithfulness and goodness to me and my family is overwhelming. I get to hold literal God-miracles in my arms every day. My kids are constant reminders of the power and goodness of God.
Miranda ~ What do you believe a Christian music artist/songwriter can add to the world?
Sean: Much like my songwriting approach, an artist should add to the world what they personally experience with God and personally experience in life. Authenticity in lyrics and artistry breaks down walls and barriers of even the most critical people. So when artists/writers can discover how to truly be real and honest, they can touch audiences far and wide.
Miranda ~ What would you like to see change in the Christian music industry?
Sean: I’d like to see the listeners be willing to embrace more creative styles. I feel like at times, what is popularized in Christian music is a fairly narrow scope of music. Music is so diverse and can be SO many different things. I’d love to see more diversity/creativity accepted to inspire and encourage artists to take more creative risks.
Miranda ~ What advice would you offer to a person who wants to go into the songwriting/music production business? Are the rules for each different?
Sean: My biggest advice to anyone trying to get “in” is odd, but, stop trying to get “in”. There is no “in”. Don’t worry about trying to get signed by a label or get a publishing deal or network with this person or that person. Just START somewhere. Start writing. Start creating. Most people will never reach their dream because they are unwilling to start (and often times start at the BOTTOM). Secondly, you must be very willing to put in some long hours. Creativity + work ethic is the simple formula for success in this industry. One without the other is a flop.
THIS or THAT (The Fun Questions!)
Coffee or Tea? Tea! I’ve actually never had coffee! Sweet tea is like water.
Gym or Outdoor? Outdoors. I love golf, and love time outside on a golf course!
Sneakers or Boots? Sneakers. You never know when you’ll be challenged to a race.
Running or Walking? Walking. Walking a golf course and enjoying nature is one of the most relaxing things I do.
Cereal or Fruit? Cereal. Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Frosted Mini Wheats every morning.
Music or Books? Music. It’s my life. I love it.
TV or Magazine? TV for sure. A good Netflix show before bed is a nice way to wind down.
Summer or Spring? Spring. I love seeing things bloom back to life after a long dead winter.
Rain or Snow? Snow. In Atlanta, snow is a rarity. When it happens, it’s magical.
Blazer or Leather Jacket? Uhhhh. Neither. I wear black t-shirts every day, and don’t own a blazer or leather jacket.
About Sean Hill
Sean Hill has worked with an ever-growing list of satisfied clients ever since stepping into music production in 2011. He has had his hands on hundred of songs in a wide variety of Christian music genres. From writing, to producing, to mixing, to engineering, to mastering, Sean gets involved at any and all different stages of the process. Hill digs in deep into every aspect of music production to ensure that he is truly capturing the vision of the artists he has been entrusted to produce. Every small detail is a big deal to Sean, and no idea goes unexplored in his production process.
Sean is not motivated by fame or fortune, but truly desires to serve The Lord by serving the clients that he’s working with. Hill has a big heart for the Christian music industry and The Church at large. He, himself, is a part-time Worship Pastor and desires to see Kingdom songs that reach for excellence in both songwriting and production. Hill hopes to be involved in songs that encourage and empower The Church and its people.
Sean likes to keep the atmosphere light in the studio. Oftentimes, Sean’s ADD nature will keep clients laughing and stress-free. Also, Sean enjoys sitting down and sharing meals with his clients to really get a chance to know their hearts and know how to best serve them. Clients continually recommend using Sean and Uphill Studios for not only the fun recording experience with Sean, but also the excellent production quality they receive.
In 2014, Sean produced Jamie Grace’s single, Born Tonight, which became a top 25 hit on Billboard’s AC Christian Music chart.
In 2015, Sean’s production of Brad Guldemond’s Let It Out album received 4 nominations in the Gospel Music Association’s Covenant Awards. Let It Out went on to win Children’s Album of the Year. Learn more about Sean by visiting his website.