New York, NY (October 20, 2017)—Leslie Ann Jones, a recording and mixing engineer for over 35 years and currently director of music recording and scoring with Skywalker Sound, nearly turned down the invitation to speak at this year’s Richard C. Heyser Memorial Lecture. “I haven’t written any great papers, haven’t invented any technology; heck, I haven’t even had a top-10 record,” she said.
But Jones reconsidered, and she had plenty to talk about. “If there’s one theme for all my work and all I might have done to stand here, it would be ‘paying attention,’” she said.
Jones observed that she got into the business the old-fashioned way: “I was born into it.” Her father was bandleader and music satirist Spike Jones; her mother was singer Helen Grayco.
“My mother had such style. She had the ability to sing the same song night after night and make it a memorable performance. That was my first recollection of paying attention.”
Initially attempting a career as a musician, Jones later had an opportunity to take up engineering. She co-founded a PA company, set up a recording studio in her basement, then, in 1975, was hired as a production engineer at ABC Studios in Hollywood. It was there she began to pay attention to gender, she said, which would have both positive and negative consequences in her career.
Jones had many personal firsts at ABC, she related, including being kicked off a session (Barry White’s, after his wife discovered there was a woman in the control room), erasing a take and her first engineering credit, on a John Mayall album.
She later relocated to work at Automatt Studios in San Francisco, where she spent many years before returning to Hollywood and a gig at Capitol Studios. There, she won her first Grammy, for her work on the soundtrack album of George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck. She subsequently moved back to the Bay Area to work at Skywalker, running the studios and winning three more Grammy Awards.
Skywalker is a magical place, she said: “Everybody is so good at their craft, it makes us all want to do better. We’re there to help you make the best recording possible.”