Alumni Achievements: Ramera Abraham
The Beatles brought her to Abbey Road Studios during a visit to London. A brochure whistled ‘Abbey Road Institute’ in her ear and told her to follow her heart. Her dedication made her apply for a visa and move from Ottowa, Canada to London, after which she spent a full year studying with us, developing her sound engineering, music production and songwriting skills. Since then she has been recording and working with top artists in both London and New York. And, of course, the story doesn’t end there.
For this Alumni Achievements edition, we want to introduce you to Ramera Abraham, a London based sound engineer, vocal producer and Abbey Road Institute London graduate from 2018. Actually, we want to introduce her again, because it’s not the first time we’ve written about Ramera. Due to her enthusiasm and ability to connect, she has been featured in previous blogs and social media posts. And she certainly hasn’t sat still! So, time for another interview, as the story continues.
MEET Ramera abraham!
You are working as a vocal producer and a sound engineer. Do you do that as a freelancer or are you working for a studio?
I do both actually. I work as a runner at Metropolis Studios, which is based in Chiswick, London. I started working there in late 2019 after I had been there for about eight months with Spotify. Spotify has a studio at Metropolis Studios, and I was their resident engineer. And when I was at Spotify, a lot of the sessions I would do were vocal sessions. I’m a singer myself, and I knew a lot already about vocal production and how to evoke emotion out of an artist in the room with you, and I kind of got my practice, while I was the resident engineer at Spotify. When the time came for me to go freelance, I decided that that was what I wanted to pursue.
So, what was the resident engineer position at Spotify about, and how did you land that position?
The Secret Genius Studio initiative that Spotify has is mainly to cater to songwriters and producers as well as artists. So, kind of more behind the scenes. When I graduated in 2018, I knew that I wanted to get into studio work, to gain more experience so that I could go freelance and eventually have my own space. So, I had applied online for the Spotify EQL Residency position at the Secret Genius Studio after leaving the Institute, as one of many applications that I had filled out at the time. It was a long interview process for the Spotify position, but I got selected! I started working at SARM Studios, which is where the Spotify studio originated.
So, I worked at SARM for about a month. But in the first month of my residency with Spotify, they said that we were moving to Metropolis. It was a brand-new room at Metropolis, and I had the liberty to move things around in the room and do what I wanted with the gear that was given. For the first couple of months, we were experimenting a lot. Now the studio is refurbished, and it’s still a beautiful recording space. I was able to work out of two studios during the six months as the resident engineer at Spotify. I was also able to maintain relationships with the management over at SARM, and even to come into my freelance work. I did a couple of engineering sessions for them, which is a great experience.
The EQL engineers and producers are all women?
Yes, the EQL studio residency is in partnership with Spotify and Berklee College of Music and is about supporting women in studio environments. A lot of the female engineers I know, work at Red Bull and Strongroom.
But it needs to be more normalized. And it’s a great initiative to bring women to the forefront, to give them an opportunity that they might not have heard of before, or at least opens their mind to applying for things like that studio residency.
What was your Spotify highlight?
While I was with Spotify, we did a vocal session with Ivy Queen at Electric Lady Studios in New York in February of 2019. Working with the Queen of Reggaetón, which was like a week-long affair, in the legendary studio A. I was selected as one of three worldwide recipients for the residency, running the session with the artist, all-female engineers. It was filmed, and the video itself came out on International Women’s Day last year to show the recording process and how the three of us went about it. And of course, to promote the residency itself. We were interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine, which was amazing as well. That was one big final project to take away. It was crazy to set foot into that room and think about the people that have been in that studio.
Spotify put us on the map in the sense that they gave us the tools and they let us network. Being attached to Spotify gave us the ability to talk to all these people and get to know our way through the industry and put those names on our CV’s. It’s helped me in the long run, especially with my freelance work.
As a freelancer, how do you get your clients?
Honestly, that’s probably the biggest challenge. It’s getting clients and maintaining clientele. It’s so difficult in a day and age where people are also able to work from home to record themselves. Obviously, it’s another thing to want a studio-quality recording, from someone who’s experienced. If you want something that’s studio-quality, you have to pay for studio time. And myself as a freelance engineer, eventually I would like my own space, which would allow me to run my own schedule. But for now, I have a network of people and studios I can use.
But the clients that I have now, I got them through verbal recommendation, really. It’s such a cliché, but that’s how it goes. Word of mouth. There are a couple of clients I manage to maintain from Spotify and a couple of clients who sought me out after meeting me at the Institute. So, I’m now working with an artist named Matt Taylor, together with another Abbey Road alumnus, Antonio Esposito, on his EP. And I’m working with some other artists as well.
It sounds like a serious amount of networking?
Exactly! A lot of networking. And they taught us that at the Institute, you know, like take every opportunity as it comes, no matter how big or small, you never know where it might lead. But I have to admit, the networking, I definitely underestimated how much networking I would’ve needed to do, coming out of being a student at the Institute.
You really have to go to all the events. And it’s even something as important as speaking to a friend of a friend that records music. Even though you might not know a lot about the genre, you never know where it might lead. And every single thing you record that gets released is something to add to your CV. And the more references you have for people to listen to, the more reputable you become. That’s kind of how I see it.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned from the Institute?
Well, I think on top of all the technical stuff, like operating DAW’s and outboard gear and, you know, the technical aspect of things, it would definitely be ‘how to work well under pressure’. I remember being so stressed for our final exams, especially anything practical. The thing about the Institute is that you learn by doing, which is the most valuable way to learn, in my opinion. My biggest takeaway was learning how to work under pressure, especially for big studio environments like Metropolis and freelancing work in general. If you’re working with someone that’s a very high profile, you just need to be on it.
What does it take to work under pressure, you think?
You need to be able to stay calm. Definitely maintaining face and not changing the environment around you. I believe that there’s always this kind of aura or that you set in a room when you’re recording and it’s kind of a bit of a sacred space that you create between you, your artist, your producer, whoever is in the room. And you kind of have to maintain the balance even if something goes wrong, also if there’s a technical difficulty, you just being very transparent, but in a very calm way. Don’t make it seem as if there’s anything to worry about. And also, to be very empathetic. I think that’s an important quality to have.
Building a relationship with the artist?
I think it’s the most important thing. People always ask both other vocal producers and me, you know, what’s the most important thing when you’re recording, and the people almost expect the answer to be something technical.
But my opinion at least, I think the most delicate thing is your relationship with the artist and how you maintain that. You know, at the end of the day, they have to want you in the room.
Are you a musician too?
“I’m a musician, yes. Probably first and foremost. I’m a drummer, and I’m a pianist as well. I started playing the piano at the age of five, and I’ve been playing the drums since I was seven. I come from a very musical family. I grew up with music all around me. If you are an ‘Abraham’, you play at least two instruments. So, I kind of I grew up with learning piano as almost a prerequisite” she explained laughing. “But it developed into this love for music. As I continue in it, there’s just a joy and a passion that I have for capturing. Capturing those moments or capturing that artist at that moment with their song or whatever it may be. I don’t know. I’ve just been doing it since I was a child.”
“I’ve written my own music since I was little as well and have been singing since I was young, too. Which again, contributes to a lot of my vocal production. But, also being a drummer has come in very handy. I think a lot of people look, especially bands in London, look for sub drummers to sub-in. So, I also freelance session drums. It’s good to kind of stay grounded in the music itself.”
Are you also producing your own music or working on your own music?
Yes. I don’t have anything released at the moment, but I am definitely sitting on several songs that could be released. It’s more finding the time to do it. What when do you find the time to record yourself when you’re recording everybody else?! But slowly it’s coming. My music is leaning towards the pop side and has a bit of funk influence.
I work a lot with Antonio, who is also an alumnus, and that’s a lot of his influence as well, disco and funk. And actually, my very first single is a song that I did with Jerry Barnes and Ralph Rolle from Chic, which we recorded at the Institute. That’s probably the first single that will be coming out later this year.
Jerry Barnes and Ralph Rolle, playing on your song. How did that happen?!
Literally a year ago today, I did my very first session as an engineer with Jerry and Ralph at the Institute. And that came about in 2017 when I was still studying when Nile Rodgers became the Chief Creative Advisor at Abbey Road Studios. Jerry had come down to the studio in London at the Institute with Carlos, our Programme Director, that day, and my friends and I happened to be recording in the studio, and he really loved the drum sound. And I actually can’t take credit for the drum sound that day. But, I took his number, I took his email and I said, “Jerry, listen to my music, I’m a very big fan of everything you do, let’s keep in touch.” You see again, networking!
And then this time last year he asked Hannah, our Head of Marketing if he could record at the Institute, with myself involved. And so, we organized a two-day recording session. I did the last day at the Institute and the first day was Jerry and I arranging drums and editing together at Spotify studios. And then he came back for another recording session in June. So, I got the opportunity to kind of pitch him one of my songs, and he wanted to co-produce it. So that will be the first single that I release.
I’m impressed. Sounds like you have this ability to just approach people, talk to them and create opportunities.
Gosh, I hope so. I try to be good at networking. I get a lot of it from my father. Kind of my ability to approach people. My dad raised me to be a good communicator and I loved watching him connect with people. You have to break down their barriers and build their trust. This gives a better platform for them to want to collaborate. You also have to be adaptable to any environment. I grew up moving a lot, and I’ve lived in six countries in total. I’ve been quick to embrace change and I like to apply the same principle to recording, except with people instead of countries.
What made you decide to go to Abbey Road Institute?
I was a Law and Music student in Canada, where I finished my University degree. Then I came to London on holiday. I am a huge Beatles fan, so obviously I went to the Studios just to visit. And when I visited the shop, I saw that there was a pamphlet for Abbey Road Institute, which caught my attention. I did a bit more research on music production and sound engineering, and I read about how most sound engineers are very highly skilled musicians. And having graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in music and in law, I thought that I might take it upon myself to apply. So, I did. And now we’re here. I kind of stumbled upon it and then did my research.
You had to apply for a VISA?
I did, yes. First, I had to sit myself down when I was still in Canada and ask myself: What are you going to do? Are you going to pursue this? And then I thought, you know, I am. Because it’s what I’ve been doing my whole life, and I’m quite good at it. And I think that I can, you know, turn my passion into my career. I am a huge advocate for doing what you love. But at the same time, that comes with so much hard work and dedication.
And yes, the visa process was strict. The Institute wrote a blog about the whole process it earlier. And I had to do it twice now. My first two years from that blog post, I had to ‘do enough’ to extend my VISA. So, this pushed me as well to network and really get my foot in the door, knowing that I had two years in London to do this. And then I needed to ‘do enough’ in the two years to warrant me staying another five.
You like it here in London?
Yes, I do like London! There’s something for everybody here. It’s such a wonderful and culturally diverse environment for creatives, which are two things that are very important to me as a creative. So, moving here was the right decision.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Who are your role models?
I have had the absolute honour of assisting the engineers at Metropolis who have been amazing engineers for years. And one of the engineers, in particular, Liam Nolan, he’s been one of the biggest inspirations to me. Liam has recorded Adele, Clean Bandit, Jesse Glynne, and many more. I’ve only assisted a few sessions at Metropolis, but they’ve mostly been with Liam Nolan. It’s like having guest lecture everyday.
And of course, Sylvia Massy as well. Another great engineer. I had the pleasure of meeting her when she came to guest lecture at the Institute. She’s so experimental, which is great.
And Jerry Barnes is definitely a tremendous role model for me from my few sessions I’ve done with him as his engineer. He’s quite literally become like a second dad to me. Jerry is the bass player of Chic, but also knows what you’re doing engineering-wise. And he knows exactly what he wants. And if something sounds wrong, he’s going to tell me exactly what it is. Every time I’m in a room with him, I soak up his knowledge. But in general, I’m always learning from fellow producers when I work with them on projects and get to go through their stems.
Influences in my own songwriting include Julia Michaels, Kamille, Tayla Parx, and Bruno Mars. Most of my current music writing is 90% pop with a dash of funk. But I also love Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks, and the like.
What would you advise students that are currently studying sound engineering?
“Listen to Carlos!” She says, smiling.
And besides that, use all of the facilities that you have to your disposal at the Institute, that I wish I just had every single day. I remember capitalizing on the time I had there. I would literally arrive for class at 10:00 a.m. and leave at 10:00 p.m., And a couple of my other colleagues would do the same. We would just spend the whole time mixing, recording, writing, doing production together. And it was so fun.
And another thing that I would advise students is to make friends with the people that are in your intake. It’s your network. If you need help with writing, there’s someone that you can reach out and ask. You can ask the person sitting next to you. You know, you have a multitude of musicians at your disposal. So, use them. And make it a point of reaching out to alumni who are always there to help you.
You speak with so much enthusiasm about everything you’re doing. What is it, that makes you love your work so much?
Connecting with people and their emotions. That’s why I do what I do because I like seeing people use a medium like music or their creativity to output what they’re feeling. And I love being part of that process and helping them realize and having some sort of creative input. Makes me feel great!
We’re now staying inside during the Covid-19 pandemic. How are these times for you?
It’s difficult because I can’t record. Obviously, I need to be in the same room as someone to be recording them, and that’s not happening. But for the time being, I’m keeping myself busy with editing. I’ve got a couple of projects I need to mix, and I have a nice small but functional setup at home. And I’ve started to write a little bit more now that I’m in quarantine on my own. Being left alone in my house with my thoughts. I haven’t written in a very long time actually and being in quarantine has really made me want to write again.
So, mainly just doing work for my freelance clients at the moment and doing my own work. Until things are able to pick up again. Hang in there, Everyone!