Dragi Ivanov has long been known as a producer aware of how to tailor his skills to a musician’s needs, while bringing his own sense of practical artistry to any track he produces.
As the producer of Terrell Hines’ hit song ‘$3.99 (model1)’ Ivanov’s seasoned skill as a recording engineer proved imperative to capturing the song’s crisp sound quality. His ability to expertly wear many hats was reflected in how he wrote, produced, recorded and mixed the song for one of music’s most promising artists today.
Hines, who is also in the hugely popular band Wake Child, attested to the critical role Ivanov played in shaping the song’s sound from its inception and how they both wanted to create something that was compelling from the get-go.
Hines says, “As creatives we were pushing the envelope, so we started gathering our ideas and organizing them and Dragi produced, mixed and mastered…3.99.”
Hines further points to the collaborative nature of the song-making process, and the respect Ivanov grants the artists he works with and to the listeners of their music.
“We both love music and are intrigued by sound so we wanted to see if we could get music out in a way not normal to the ears but relatable to the ears spreading positive informative messages to society.”
Ivanov echoes Hines’ assertion that each of the cognoscenti wished to make a song that was edgy and create a new standard of music.
“Both of us always wanted to push the envelope and just create something that is crazy and innovative,” Ivanov explains. “We just wanted to make something that we hadn’t done before and that was exciting for us, we didn’t set out to do anything specific we just wanted to see what we can do and how well we can do it.”
It’s clear that Ivanov achieved his goal of producing a song that was edgy and compelling in a really subversive way, a rarity in a crowded market where every other producer is trying to push musicians to make a statement.
With Ivanov though, he’s the real deal. Combined with Hines’ writing, with it’s biblical references that are simultaneously respectful of spirituality but not condescendingly preachy to a listener, the producer and artist break new ground. The result is an edgy and compelling rap track that offers an incisive social commentary on the way unbridled greed has compromised the moral fabric of humanity, detailing the extreme lengths people go to for things worth $3.99. Listening to the song itself on an instinctual level leaves a listener conscious of a darkness, an effect countered with hip beats that get the body moving in a manner reminiscent of Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ but with an even more potent punch.
Elaborating on the uniqueness of Ivanov’s approach, highlighting how the man is as interested in the process of making the music as the end result, Hines says, “Working with Dragi is therapeutic,” Hines astutely claims. “He can form any color and structure through music. When it comes to music and just sound in general he definitely has his own unique aesthetic.”
Adding his crucial creative input and mastery as a producer into the mix, Ivanov played a key role in the song’s composition, of course bouncing the ideas back and forth with Hines while producing, recording and mixing the song. He explains, “Everything you hear from the drums and bass, to the synths and the pads as well as the guitar parts and the way the whole song sounds is what I did. I created all the interesting sound design elements such as the clicky percussion parts, 808 bass, the menacing synthesizers, sound effects and vocal effects and treatment is what I did as part of the production process.”
The uniqueness of Ivanov’s skills as a music producer are reflected in the imaginative ways Hines describes Ivanov’s approach, pointing to a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that effectively highlights the Macedonian native’s creative magic.
For instance, the song invokes Black church and gospel music style through the use of organs and tambourines, grounding it in a sense of history that is both culturally specific, and universally resonant.
In a more obvious reflection of Ivanov’s significant success within his field, it also helps to understand that the musicians Ivanov works with always enjoy a loyal and fervent fan base, ensuring that his songs reaches huge numbers of ardent listeners around the world. That, and his producing skills have equally come to be known within the industry as a secret weapon which can make an artist’s career.
Hines additionally points to the adaptability of Ivanov’s specialized skill-set as a producer who can jump between genres while also maintaining the artist’s sensibility and integrity.
“Dragi understands music from many different perspectives. He also knows what he is doing on the production side whether it is production or mastering, which I could trust him to execute every time creatively and professionally.”
The most obvious manifestation of Ivanov’s versatility is in the work he’s done with the band Wake Child. The incredibly popular Californian group, frequently known for invoking psychedelic 60s sounds with their own unique millennial bent, clearly owe some of their success to the producing prowess of Ivanov.
For the track ‘Hangup Blues,’ Ivanov talks about how he and the band “wanted to make a seemingly Lo-Fi sounding record but also have it be epic.”
The product is a filmic and moving track which has received over 60,000 streams on online and been promoted by multiple blogs and Spotify playlists. It’s clear that fans of Wake Child and Ivanov recognize how the song manages to expertly use vocals and guitars in a symbiotic manner that builds towards a rough and tumble crescendo that grabs a listener by the collar and pulls them into a collective, and at once, individual experience.
In essence, it proves how Ivanov – who produced, recorded and mixed the song for Wake Child – tells a story with music in a way that only the most celebrated and iconic music producers are able.
He speaks with authority with the how the song is constructed, indicative of how Ivanov is deeply connected to helping produce music that tells a story and effects emotional change within a listener.
“The song starts very small with only a Rhodes piano and vocals it eventually builds up to the first chorus which is very interesting because the relationships between the instruments change in a way that the chorus feels a lot bigger than the actual verse.”
The humble manner with which Ivanov explains how his personable nature lends him an advantage when dealing with different musicians is equally interesting and endearing.
“Another thing is [because I’m an] introvert I don’t necessarily talk too much and I am very sensitive to situations that I know how to stay away or step in when I need to and that way I am able to meet people feel comfortable in the studio and give their best performance.”
“Hangup Blues” consequently manages to be romantic and solemn at the same, echoing a deeply felt sense of love that is truly poetic. When the song hits a beat change half-way through, it shifts a listener into an aural experience that really affecting.
Producing the song itself represented a significant challenge, which Ivanov embraced with gusto
“This project was different because it was the first project where I had to produce a full band,” Ivanov clarifies.
“[I] usually work with only an artist and my job is to create the music behind the artist, whereas with this project I had to learn how to step away from being a the musician and focus on more technical and managerial side of things.”
In closing remarks, Ivanov adeptly sums up the authentic approach to his work that highlights his genuine and specialized creative spirit.
“For me I would say is that I want the music to be exciting and feel effortless.”