Gena Johnson


A few months ago, Gena Johnson was in her car when a familiar song came on the radio. It was Lee Brice’s “I Don’t Dance,” which the Recording Industry Association of America recently named the fastest certified platinum country single released in 2014.  Johnson recognized it because it’s one of the many songs she’s worked on since launching her career as an assistant audio engineer in Nashville, Tennessee. What does it feel like to unexpectedly hear a song you’ve helped engineer on the radio? “Honestly, it freaked me out!” Johnson laughs.

Since moving to Nashville in 2013, Johnson has worked with many high-profile artists, including Ben Folds, Vince Gill, Mark Slaughter, and The Band Perry.  Her job is to make sure that recording goes smoothly, from several days before the artist walks in the door, to troubleshooting while they’re in the studio, to editing and mixing audio once they’ve left. Although Johnson has lots of technical expertise that she draws on throughout this process, she says it’s ultimately about customer service. “When you perform a song for a first time, it’s like standing naked in front of people. My job is to help the artist feel as comfortable as possible.”

Audio engineering is not a job for the faint of heart. Some months, Johnson works every single day. She logs many early mornings and an equal number of late nights. Luckily, Johnson was prepared for the long hours by her education. In December of 2012, she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Music Industry – Audio Production through a joint degree program offered by Minnesota State University, Mankato and Hennepin Technical College. It’s a tough and highly regarded degree that combines extensive music theory, business courses, and hands-on training in audio production. “I learned about the technical side of this field from HTC and from the professors there,” Johnson explains.

Gena Johnson

Johnson is classically trained in voice and she earned a voice scholarship to attend MNSU, Mankato. So far, there appears to be only one downside of her crazy schedule in Nashville: she hasn’t had as much time for her own singing and songwriting. She plans to eventually release an EP, once her schedule allows time for the preparation and recording. In the meantime, she’s had several opportunities to sing background vocals on some of the albums she’s worked on which has been an unexpected perk of the job.

Successful audio engineers build relationships with other engineers, producers and artists. Not everyone gets to work with big-name artists, but Johnson has earned the privilege thanks in large part to her positive attitude, technical skills, and work ethic. Johnson remains incredibly humble and she’s quick to point out the many mentors who have helped her along the way. As far as the future goes, Johnson plans to stay in Nashville, which she describes as “the place to be.” She’ll continue engineering, learning about the business, building relationships, and of course, she’ll keep listening for those familiar songs on the radio.

Last updated by jhanson : 2016-08-01 11:50:40