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Gwinn native works with top musicians from many genres


August 7, 2010
By RENEE PRUSI Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE -Mike Picotte has already worked with some of music's big names like Lee Ann Womack, Tricia Yearwood and Blink 182.

His title is senior sales representative and Avid Icon specialist with Sweetwater Sound in Fort Wayne, Ind., but beyond that, Gwinn native Picotte has developed a reputation for having an ear as an engineer and producer to achieve the right mix to get the most out of a recorded performance.

Picotte, a 1997 graduate of Gwinn High School, graduated from Northern Michigan University in 2001, majoring in electronic production and new technology.

Article Photos

Mike Picotte, second from right, poses with members of the up-and-coming Australian band Summerset Avenue. He’s been working with them in Los Angeles as a co-producer. (Photo courtesy of Mike Picotte)

"Chuck Ganzert was my mentor and professor," Picotte said. "Though him, I spent 40 to 60 hours a week in a lab working on music. I learned to use an industry version of Pro Tools, which meant I was extra advanced when I started in (the business)."

Through Sweetwater, Picotte deals with large studios, training others how to use programs.

"I get connected with the managers and the artists, making sure (recording) is always done really well," he said.

In fact, this past year, Picotte was rewarded for his expert efforts as an engineer. He won a 2010 Detroit Music Award for Outstanding World/Reggae/ Ska Recording for a CD he worked on with 1592, a band out of Detroit.

He travels around the country to work with other artists. Recently, he was in Los Angeles to work with Summerset Avenue, an up-and-coming Australian band, as a co-producer.

"The maturity level and work ethic of that band blows me away," he said. "They are going to get to come to the U.S. to tour and I think the music's there to make them a success."

Music has been part of his life since he can remember.

"I grew up playing as a kid. My parents thought each of us should play an instrument so I played the guitar and trumpet, my sister (Mel) played the saxophone and piano and my brother (Jim) played the trombone and piano."

That background has served him well in his work as producer, Picotte said.

"I can still read music and I still have a good ear for when someone's on pitch," he said. "I am going to start playing bass, I think. With pop music, I can play some guitar, but with jazz and rock, I have an ear to hear it, but I get other musicians to do the playing."

In addition to his work at Sweetwater, Picotte has a home studio.

"It's the clone of the studio that I work out of in New York City," he said. "I have invested lots of money in gear to get my start. I have all of the fun stuff. If it's 2 a.m., I can get up and work on it if I want. The drums, the bass, anyway. Then when it comes to the singers, they can call me when they're ready. It makes it nice to go into the studio."

Musicians sometimes like to book far in advance, he said.

"But then they have a cold or something, so you have to be flexible," Picotte said. "Everybody's different, though. Some like to work on the spur of the moment, so it's nice to not have to worry about someone else's studio schedule."

Time is money when working on a recording.

"When I was (recently) in New York City, we had to get the record done," he said. "We had to make sure the production was done on time."

In June, Picotte was in Los Angeles working with Neil Pogue, who is most well known for his work with OutKast. Picotte also has worked with jazz drummer Omar Hakim, bassist Nathan East and rocker Joe Satriani.

"I like working in all aspects of music, all genres," Picotte said. "I want to get the best quality of what the artist is able to do and give them the best of what I have to give."

Picotte said it's important to him to treat the musicians with the utmost respect.

"I was working with Omar Hakim and they wanted me to edit Omar's drums to match the loop. Omar is such a legendary player that I said, 'how about we edit the loop to match Omar?'," he said. "They thought that was so respectful. I meant it. I thought what Omar plays should not be touched."

Although he's just 31, Picotte already has "good memories of meeting and working with" some of the top musicians in America.

"I am not a starstruck person. I look at what has to happen to get this done," he said. "It's the producer's role making the artist feel comfortable. You have to be a good communicator to get the best out of the music. You have to know how to work with creative egos to get the best product."

Picotte said he hopes to continue to grow as a producer.

"I hope to continue to work to make really good records," he said. "I want to continue to do what I love to do. I wake up every day excited about what I do.

"It's amazing I am actually able to make a good living working at what I love."

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is



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