By Michael Cerio, Radio.com
One of the lesser-known names with multiple nominations, though, is Tom Coyne. You may not have heard of him, and you have certainly never been to one of his concerts, but Coyne is part of three of the five nominees for Record Of The Year and two of the nominees for Album Of The Year—both categories that he’s won before. So who is he?
Tom Coyne is the Senior Mastering Engineer at Sterling Sound and is credited as Mastering Engineer on Taylor Swift’s 1989 and The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind The Madness. He also is credited on Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk.” He’s the guy that gives these records a final polish before they are ready for your ears. “It’s the final creative process before it’s released to the public” explains Coyne from his studio in New York. “The artist has one last chance to do little tweaks here and there to mixes and to the album as a whole.”
Working with artists like Taylor Swift and their producers, Tom is responsible for the final sound of a song or album. He’s also pretty good at it, becoming one of the go-to-guys in the industry. The way Sam Smith’s voice floats along the piano of last year’s Record Of Year winner “Stay With Me” —that’s Tom. Adele’s GRAMMY-winning 21 and the massive 25—that’s Tom too.
This is Coyne’s fifth consecutive year of being nominated in the Record of the Year and Album of the Year categories.
“The more successful mastering engineers now are the older ones, the guys that grew up cutting vinyl. We still have our ears” says Coyne. “You’ll find that the most successful ones are probably forty-five, fifty to seventy. You think we’d be retiring by then, but why retire when you’re having fun?”
Relationships with industry titans like songwriter and producer Max Martin have led Coyne to work with some of the biggest stars in the world. In a digital world it’s a process that has gone from in-studio sessions with artists to mostly emails and uploading files, yet Tom still occasionally gets some face time with the voices behind his work.
For Adele, Coyne did his mastering work on 25 in one day, “She called me on Saturday and made a change on a fade and that was it” he remembers. For 21 though, Adele sat with Tom in the studio to make her final tweaks. “She’s just a lot of fun in the studio. I couldn’t understand her,” he laughs. “She’d say something and I’d look and think, she’s gonna think I’m deaf. And then I’d look at her manager and he knew what was going on I guess. He’d ask the question again and I could understand him.”
This February, Tom will once again put on a tux and head to Los Angeles for the GRAMMY Awards—seated behind the artists you know with the people who help bring them to life. It’s an exciting life for Tom Coyne working with the biggest stars in music, but even better for his kids. “I get more enjoyment out of them getting excited. It’s a father thing,” he says.
The 58th Annual GRAMMY Awards happen February 15th on CBS.