NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Chief Mastering Engineer Emily Lazar laughed as she tried to recall the amount of albums on which she has worked. The number is so high that she has lost count.
“It’s funny,” she said. “I don’t know exactly how many, but we do know that it’s over three thousand. It could be way more than that at this point.”
Lazar has worked with music’s biggest artists including Dolly Parton, Coldplay and David Bowie. In 2019, her work on Beck’s album, "Colors" earned Lazar her first Grammy.
“If you’re an engineer or a producer, that’s the [award] that you feel really strongly about because it’s really about the engineering work…so it was really special for me to win that one,” she said.
The win was historic. She became the first female mastering engineer to be awarded the Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical) Grammy.
“It was thrilling in a lot of ways and it was also very disturbing,” Lazar said. “You go, ‘Oh my god, it’s 2019 and we’re just breaking the ceiling now, and I’m doing it? This is crazy.’”
Lazar has always loved music. She began in the industry as a singer/songwriter, but soon found that she yearned for more control over the sound she was creating in the studio. It was then that she began to develop her skills as a mastering engineer.
“Once I started to understand it and get into it, I started to get very obsessed with being the best at it and learning how to really manipulate sound so that it pleased me,” she said.
But as a female in the field, Lazar faced some challenges.
“I can recall many times where I would go shopping for equipment [including professional recording equipment] and have people in all seriousness look at me and make an assumption that I would [end up saying] something about me shopping for a boyfriend or a husband,” she said. “There was no [thought about] what would I be doing in there buying these things [for myself].”
Lazar maintains that male or female, it’s the quality of a person’s skill set that should define his or her success. Still determined, she never let those difficult encounters stand in her way.
“One of the things I think I can inspire women to have is a real strong sense of self about what they want to do and a belief in their own skills,” she said.
Lazar says she hopes to see more inclusivity in an otherwise highly male-dominated field. During her Grammy acceptance speech, she said, “she’s in the mix,” which was a reference to the Recording Academy’s Producer and Engineering Inclusion Initiative. According to the Academy’s February announcement, the “unprecedented new initiative…aims to expand opportunities for female music producers and engineers.”
It’s those kinds of advances, along with historic “firsts” achieved by women in every field that gives Lazar hope for the future.
“I’m very involved in trying to help steer the ship to a place where it is inclusive and everyone is being heard and has the opportunities that I didn’t have,” she said. “But I really believe that we’re getting somewhere better and I’m hoping that we do.”