ADAM SOFO: KEYING THE VOICE
When Adam Sofo is not playing keys and producing tracks for The Voice, you’ll find him working at the multi-award winning bespoke music studio ‘The DA’s Office’ as a composer for film, television, and games. He also plays keys for Delta Goodrem.
Adam’s a busy guy and we caught up with him prior to Season 5 of The Voice to hear how it all falls into place for him.
TM: What is your role at The Voice and what does it specifically involve?
AS: My role in The Voice band is keyboardist and programmer. Programming involves creating tracks for the songs on the show that need additional sounds. I also need to come up with arrangements on occasions where the artist wants a different take on the original. Playing keys involves playing organs, Rhodes, synth parts, and all the orchestral parts I can cover live.
TM: How long have you been with The Voice band?
AS: It’s our 5th season.
TM: Is there any specific gear you’re using to get the job done?
AS: On stage, I’m using the Korg Kronos as my main instrument and I do two things with that: I use all the on-board sounds like organs, pianos, Rhodes, a lot of the big synth sounds, and I also use it as a MIDI controller for Kontakt to play additional sounds like orchestra.
I’ve also got a KingKorg which covers most of the additional synth parts. The KingKorg works particularly well in the big dance tracks that we do.
I love using the Korgs on stage. I find that the sounds — particularly the piano emulations and the Rhodes — are just so powerful and realistic and they’re very expressive. I love the action on the Kronos, I find it really effortless.
TM: You say a lot of your job is recreating some of these songs to perform live. Is there any particular process you have for getting that done?
AS: We get the arrangements for the artists and they all have to fall into a specific time category for each round of the show. From there, I pull the cut version into Logic, it gets beat-mapped, then I just use my ears to get the sound design happening and go from there.
TM: So you recreate the songs track-by-track with the closest instrument approximation you can find?
AS: It just depends. To be honest, a lot of it is trying to find stuff. We try not to rip it off exactly as it is. It’s about finding different arrangements that suit the contestant, and we often blend different versions. There are so many cover versions of songs, so it’s good to try to do something more interesting with the original. The producers provide a lot of direction in that regard. Everything from choreography to lights has to work in sync, and the goal is to create a moment and get the best performance from the contestant. It also creates something that the audience can relate to. People will react to emotion. We create the emotion.
TM: What are some of the bigger challenges associated with your job at The Voice?
AS: I think just being consistent on your instrument. That’s what differentiates the players we’ve got in the band from other musicians I’ve worked with. It’s one thing to be a really good musician, but it’s a whole other thing to be very consistent all the time. On The Voice, you just don’t have room for error. You don’t make mistakes. Some of the days are long so you need lots of concentration. We might be playing on stage at 7am, then rehearsing with the artists from midday. We only play the songs two or three times before we start filming. There’s a lot of waiting around but you have to be on the ball because they can hit record at any moment.
TM: Are there any ways in which the gear you’re using — the Kronos and the KingKorg — make it easier to do what you do?
AS: I think the main reason I like Korg is because of the sounds. They translate well both live and in the studio. They are so powerful and you don’t have to do anything to the patches. You select the patch and it sounds great and that just makes it easy. I don’t want to think too much about dialling in sounds on stage. I also like the set list function and the ability to have everything there on the touch screen ready to go for the day. I can easily touch to flick between patches — it’s easy and its there!
TM: What do you enjoy most about being at The Voice?
AS: In any job, I think it’s important to constantly challenge yourself, think of new ways to keep your mind active, and to constantly be growing and learning in your profession. That’s what I try to do on The Voice. I practise a lot and I make sure I’m constantly searching for better ways to do things. Better production in my programming. Better mixes. Better sound on stage. I think it’s a very important part of it.
So as long as I’m learning and growing personally and professionally on the job I’ll keep doing it. The day I find myself getting bored, that’s when I change. So yeah, at the moment it’s still challenging, it’s cool.
TM: Are there certain types of songs that are more challenging to perform than others?
AS: Yes there are. The duets (two keyboards or guitar and keys) are the most difficult to perform because there are times when we’re recreating something like an orchestral piano thing, so typically I’m recreating orchestra.
TM: Do you think there are lots of opportunities in that industry for players?
AS: I do. I think that it’s a tricky question though because it’s changing so fast with technology. To be honest, the only reason I’ve got a gig is because I spend a lot of time in the studio working on my production programming and arranging. Composing with The D.A’s Office really helps as well. We are challenged constantly in lots of ways on various projects across multiple genres.
Anyone trying to survive in the music business knows you need to work really hard and be good at lots of different things.
TM: Just on the Film and TV biz again, do you have any advice for people who want to get in? What would you suggest to somebody who wanted to get into the part of the industry you’re in right now?
AS: To be honest, I don’t have any secrets. I’m happy to help anyone who wants to learn and wants to know how to do it. I think a lot of musicians are afraid of sharing their knowledge or losing a gig, but if someone can do my job better than me, that’s a great thing because there needs to be good people in the industry to keep a high standard and you’re not going to get that if guys like myself are making a good living and not helping younger people that are coming up in the ranks.
If I’ve got any advice for younger people who want to do it, it’s get out there, go knock on doors and have a conversation. Face to face. And have a positive attitude and good work ethic. That’s what will get your foot in the door. Just be willing to do anything and everything you can to make it work. And be humble!