In the Studio with Content Video’s Steven Gottlieb
SST: You have recently worked with both David Crosby and a new artist from Kenya named JS Ondara at SST. The live video of Ondara performing in the IIWII Recording control room is astonishing.
SG: He's an amazing musician and it was an honor to film him at such a high-quality level and at a great location. JS is from Africa and the backstory is that he somehow fell into the music of Bob Dylan and wanted to explore that. It led to him to travel to Minnesota — which is Bob Dylan's birthplace and where he grew up, but also a place he ran away from as soon as he could — and his debut album just came out on Verve Forecast. JS is super-talented, and I think he's very special. We were psyched to work with him.
On Working With David Crosby and JS Ondara
SST: What is your role in the production with him?
SG: My career has been spent working in music videos, doing everything from video promotion to production and commissioning and consulting. I got started at a small music video trade magazine CVC Report, which inspired me to start a website called Videostatic.com that's become a hub for the production industry, spotlighting the best videos and providing as full credits as possible. For my production and consulting work, I have a company called Content Video through which I commission full-on music videos, but also produce all sorts of video content in-house, ranging from live shoots, in-studio sessions, interviews, documentary-style and much more. I work with labels of all sizes, managers, and even directly for artists, helping them create the video content they want to accompany their music. For JS, I worked with the label's creative director and my great team to execute every step of those videos.
SST: Are you a director yourself?
SG: No aspirations to be a director, no. I'm happy to take that role of connecting the right people and putting them in the right position to create something special. Using the JS videos as an example, I worked with a fantastic director/DP named Blaine Dunkley, who I first met when he came onto a project as a camera operator. It was a good fit and we've been able to keep growing and working together.
SST: Your office is in the SST complex I believe?
SG: Music attorney Matthew Kaplan was kind enough to let me sublet a spare office room he had. It's right next door to SST's studio, which has been convenient in many ways. That was the spark behind the JS Ondara SST Sessions project, in a way. Seeing the space and speaking with studio manager/engineer Billy Perez and the team made it very clear we could deliver something of high quality on every level. Being there every day just makes it a very easy fit in terms of logistics.
SST: Other than your proximity to the studio, why did you shoot the Ondara video here?
SG: What I really love about SST is that John Hanti has created a place that's essentially a playground for musicians and creatives to work out of. The artists feel very comfortable at SST. They've got every piece of gear you can imagine, top-notch people working the board. It's been a good fit, whether it's performances with Jay or doing an interview shoot with David Crosby. We also did something with Renee Fleming, the famous opera singer, in that same space. Everyone walks away pleased with what the facility has to offer.
On Working With David Crosby at SST
With David Crosby, we did an interview for his new album. We recorded that in the control room. David keeps a mental note of every studio he comes across. He was definitely intrigued and interested in the Focusrite console.
SST: What was the focus of the interview?
SG: We did what they call “track-by-track pieces.” Separate clips where he talks about each of the album's songs from the record. Of course, David Crosby takes the conversation wherever he wants, so he covered way more than the album. It was one of those conversations that left everyone saying, "that was amazing," since Crosby is one-of-a-kind and unfiltered. He's honest in a way that's different from most modern musicians.
SST: Thanks, Steve.