In Achymista with sound engineering ‘alchemist’.

A person, who is always in the background of the music industry. 

Everybody knows how pop stars live and why they are very important to a culture industry. But do fans know the people behind this industry, who are writing songs and making these songs sound perfect?

Scott Fletcher Horton is an American sound engineer, songwriter, and producer currently living in Prague. We are sitting in the café Alchymista which is very popular among citizens in Prague 7. He asks for a caffé latte while we can hear the sounds of different animals: ducks, birds, and cats. This place is especially beautiful during the summer when the animals walk freely between tables, while people try to take selfies with them.

Born and raised in Dallas, Horton decided at the age of 7 that he wanted to be a musician; specifically a drummer. However, his parents told him that he needed to study piano., Consequently he started his musical career studying piano, drums, and rehearsing with different local punk-rock bands. “Also, there was a lot of church music, because this is common in the US.” Small Horton went to the church with his parents and brother and sang in the local choir. His parents always supported him, paying for music courses and future education.

When Horton was 18 years old, he decided to go to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. The three years he spent at Berklee turned out to be difficult, for a number of reasons. First of all, Horton had problems deciding which degree to take in college.

“I wanted to do a Music Production major, but my parents encouraged me to take a double major in Music Business because they wanted me to earn money from music,” says Horton.

Horton found that few students at Berklee College shared his musical tastes.

“It was hard to find people who liked the same music I did, because I liked pop or punk music, while most of the students liked modern jazz and did not find popular music interesting,” says Horton.

Horton was alright with having different music tastes and being in the background, because he never wanted to be in a spotlight. He says that he does not have “a personality to take the crowd.” This is why he decided that becoming a sound engineer and a music producer rather than a lead singer or a touring artist.

Despite Horton’s different music tastes, Berklee College turned out to be a good place for musicians who wanted to work in popular music. Horton was studying with other Berklee students, who had a pop-rock band called American Authors. In his free time, he also helped them make some demos and produced them at school projects. Right now this band is touring with their hit-single “Best Day of my Life,” which picked number 11 in the Billboard Hot 100 in 2013. Although Horton has nothing to do with that song, he is proud of his classmates and their success.

After graduating from college in 2010, Horton decided to take an internship not in LA or NY, but in Prague. “It was mostly because of my girlfriend Zuzana. We met each other on Facebook.” He went to work for EMI Music Publishing, listening to songs by Czech artists and giving different comments on how to improve the material. After three months of work, he finished his internship and decided to start his music business here.

With only a laptop and headphones, Horton was doing sound engineering for small money for local bands and trying to grow his client base. After the business was up and running, he moved to another flat, bought a pair of monitors and a mixer and continued working, but only with the US publishers. These publishers are always looking for songs for different advertisements or TV shows. They liked his style of writing and how fast he wrote  songs, so today  his original music is playing on different US channels: Disney, NBC Sports, FOX, and others.

Even though the music business is obviously bigger in the US, after 7 years here, Horton does not want to move back to Dallas. He misses his family, but he loves Prague’s lifestyle. What more, the financial situation in the Czech Republic is much better for Horton. “You get better royalties for songwriting and production here. Also, the living here is much cheaper.” He smiles and adds that he does not have to drive a car here and loves working at home with his dog. “This country is very friendly to pets. They can walk everywhere.”

Horton confesses that he does not express his personal thoughts and feelings through songwriting.

“Publishers send me the requirements for songs; I write these songs with a co-writer for 3-4 hours and then send it to the publisher.”  

He mostly sits in front of his computer with Cubase (a music writing program) and  tries to get interesting sounds from his keyboard. After the song is ready, he invites a guest vocalist who learns the song and records it in Horton’s home studio. This type of arrangements helps him work internationally, especially with the talent available in Prague. For example, he can invite a Russian person to sing in Russian, if the publisher asks for that.

In 2010, Horton created the “Virtual Mix Engineer” website, in order to help young musicians in production. “Most musicians spend a lot of money on production and won’t make their investments back,” he says. On his website and YouTube Channel, which are mostly in English, he explains some tips for sound engineering. He is always open to help other musicians and make their songs sound better in a commercial way, so they can sell their songs to different publishers.

He offers his sound engineering or production for a small amount of money. One of his clients, Ethan Finley, a musician from Arlington, VA, says that “from beginning to end, Scott was polite, prompt, responsive, and beyond helpful.” Horton was really helpful in the recording of Finley’s song “Stars.”

Two months ago Horton was in Japan and South Korea, where he is hoping to expand his business despite the major differences in the market.

“Most of the Asian stars don’t sing live. This is a hard business. You need to dance a lot and be ready for a certain lifestyle: plastic surgeries and other thing.”

Right now, Korean bands start their career in the American market, so maybe Horton can be a good match.

After two hours of talking, Horton gets tired, which can be seen by his facial expression. In conversation, as in the music world, he does not like being a leader, preferring to remain in the background. In every way, Horton would prefer to let his music do the talking for him.

Photos Courtesy of Virtual Mix Engineer