Producer Bullion has some simple advice for musicians: Don't listen to other people's music when you're working on your own

Tape Notes podcast with Ben Howard and Nathan Jenkins
(Image credit: Tapes Notes / YouTube)

Sometimes the best advice is the simplest, and it can be the easiest to overlook. Producer Nathan Jenkins, who also works under the pseudonym Bullion, offered a great reminder of that when he recently sat down with Ben Howard and host John Kennedy for the excellent Tape Notes podcast.

The show reunites artists with their producer to discuss a recent project – in this case Howard's fifth album, Is it? When Kennedy asked them if they had any advice to offer other musicians and producers, Nathan Jenkins offered something that has held him in good stead in his numerous projects.

"It's about actually not listening to too much other music in general for me," he explained. "I've found the less music I'm listening to while I'm working on my own music or producing for other people, the more I can just focus in on that project and not be distracted by thinking, oh this other contemporary music is what I want to be doing. I think that takes me away from being present if I'm listening to what my peers are doing, if that's the word."

There's a flipside to that, though.

"The danger is you become very self-referential," offers Jenkins. "I've just had this recent discovery that maybe I'm referencing my own music in what I'm making next, which feels very indulgent but that's just naturally where I'm going. So I'm sort of embracing that and seeing what happens. It could lead to something awful eventually."

So far it's working out well, but the idea of a structure for focus and not mixing the streams could certainly help some of us. And it's something Ben Howard relates to.

"I don't listen to a lot of music when I'm making a record," he added. "It's that thing to sticking to your lane and being saturated – there's so much out there that pours into your world. It's your world and it's important to have those boundaries of how much information you let in. 

Check out the full episode of Tape Notes with Ben Howard and Nathan Jenkins above. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.