Val Garay • Biography
On Val Garay’s desk sits a framed photograph of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Conspicuously absent from the walls of his office are any of the literally dozens of Gold and Platinum records that he has earned over the years for producing and/or engineering hit records for the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Kim Carnes, the Motels, James Taylor, Dolly Parton…and the list goes on and on. As Garay explained, “I’m not one to dwell on my past or rest on my laurels. I’m as committed to making great rock ‘n’ roll records as I was when I sat behind a console for the first time.”
Starting out as a songwriter and performer, Garay soon gravitated toward working behind the scenes with artists as diverse as the Mamas and the Papas, The Buffalo Springfield to Seals & Crofts. It was at the legendary Sound Factory Studio in Hollywood that he became acquainted with the studio’s owner/operator, Dave Hassinger. Hassinger had established a reputation as one of rock ‘n’ roll’s premier engineers, having helmed many of the legendary Rolling Stones sessions, including “Satisfaction” and “Under My Thumb,” as well as early Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane albums. It was Hassinger who realized that Garay had a “great pair of ears,” and offered to teach him the finer points of the craft. Working with Hassinger for a year, Garay refined his technique and perfected the punchy bottom sound, guitar blend and mixing approach that distinguishes his work today.
Garay truly made his mark early on, working with such artists as Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, The Four Seasons, Orleans, Donald Byrd and The Blackbyrds, Andrew Gold, JD Souther and Bonnie Raitt. It was in this key role that Garay helped to create and define what is still being referred to as the “L.A. Sound.” With the release and success of Ronstadt’s Heart Like A Wheel, Garay suddenly became one of the most sought after engineers in the business, known for creating never-before-heard sounds. Or as Garay explains, “We used microphones that had been previously used only for orchestras, and we set them up on drums
It wasn’t long before Garay had honed his studio experience as an engineer to the point where he felt confident in handling the duties of producer as well. Every producer needs a recording studio, so to further his continued commitment to create great rock ‘n’ roll records, Garay opened the doors of Record One , a custom-built, state-of-the-art, multimedia recording complex designed by Garay himself. During his run at Record One, the list of hit records produced there is more than impressive: the star-studded “We Are the World”, Toto’s “Rosanna”, and Don Henley’s “The Boys Of Summer”, to name but a few. In fact, three out of the five years running, the Grammy® Award, Record of the Year was produced at Garay’s studio, Record One.
With the release of Kim Carnes’ album, Mistaken Identity, Garay’s reputation as a hit-making producer was cemented. The album was a worldwide smash, and “Bette Davis Eyes” became a Number One hit in 31 countries, earning Garay a Record of the Year Grammy® in the process. Garay followed his successful collaboration with Carnes by producing The Motels’ All Four One album, which not only garnered critical acclaim, but also gave the Motels the commercial success that had eluded them in the past. “Only The Lonely” became a Top Ten smash, and the other tracks, such as “Take the L (Out of Lover)” and “Mission of Mercy” became AM/FM mainstays. Garay went on to add to his long list of impressive credits, producing albums for a variety of artists including Joan Armatrading, Marty Balin, Kenny Rogers, Santana, Dolly Parton, Pablo Cruise, and Neil Diamond.
Today, Garay is busy working with up-and-coming new artists, producing/engineering scores for motion picture and television, writing and co-writing songs for new projects and constantly searching for creative ways to take his sound to the next level. The newest of these projects is singer/songwriter Nikki Lang. The key to Garay’s continued success is his view of the role of a producer/engineer: “I’m not there to put my indelible stamp on the record so that people listen to it and hear Val Garay all over it. I go into each project with the full intention of bringing out the very best in the artists I’m working with. My only concern is that my work helps result in a great record.”