An Interview with Nicole Kirch
August 13th, 2020
Stories Through Sound is a new blog featuring interviews by industry professionals across the audio and post production fields. This week, we're interviewing Nicole Kirch.
Nicole is an audio engineer and musician based in North Carolina. She received her BS in Electrical Engineering Tech from Austin Peay State University, and became the first woman to graduate with a BA in Sound Design from Michigan Tech. She has taken on many different sound roles, ranging from location sound to post production. Nicole writes for the blog soundgirls.org, and is a huge advocate for female empowerment and representation in the audio industry.
When did you first become interested in audio as a career path?
I became interested in audio as a career path in high school. Before that I was a musician who read everything about music, guitars, basses, and the gear. But I was also a nerd in higher level math and science courses. Engineering was the family business, and I was pushed to find a path that used my math and science knowledge rather than "just" a music major. I rebelled and found a middle ground in Audio Engineering. Jokes on me, because I later got a degree in Engineering Technology as well.
You’ve taken on many roles in sound, ranging anywhere from location sound to electronics. Is there a specific job title you’ve enjoyed the most?
I am the most in my element when I am problem solving a project. It can be frankenstein-ing a sentence together from different takes, soldering a pedal together, or setting up a session. When that puzzle is completed that joy fills me up; I am as light as air. Can't take the engineer out of me it seems. I enjoy sound too much to just pick one thing, although I prefer dialog, sound effects, and tech over pure music and composition.
Do you play any instruments? Do you feel that has played a role in how you go about editing sound?
Bass is my main instrument, but I am trained on violin and guitar. The mentality of a bassist is similar to an audio engineer: not the showcase, but everything falls apart without it. You don't have to notice what I do, but you'll notice its absence. To learn or hear the bass lines in songs takes more active listening, you really have to pay attention to how it interacts with the other layers. That set the foundation for my ears.
How did you get involved with soundgirls.org? What are some ways people can get involved with the organization?
Networking is my weakest point, so I follow all the audio groups on social media. Probably too many. I saw SoundGirls was looking for more bloggers (I think they are looking now, too), and I thought it would be a way to get me more involved in the industry. They have local chapters, meet ups, and a main group on Facebook in addition to their blog. Their main mission is to support those who often get overlooked. They even have a database to find women and non-binary folks to hire for your projects (Make it EQL).*
What is your favorite sound project you’ve worked on?
This is a hard question. There are a lot of moments that made projects wonderful, but to chose one entire experience as the winner is near impossible. I enjoyed designing and building my own pair of bookshelf monitors. The whole process was for a class, but the audio quality from them added a whole new dimension to listening. The other was working on a song for a local band. They gave a great performance, so the mix was straightforward, and adding their flavor was like making magic. Being able to translate their vision to "tape" brings a smile. I have listened to that song a billion times.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to add that this industry is full of booms and busts. It is hard to carve a niche for yourself, and I know I am nowhere near where I thought I would be when I started. But no one has to be alone, there are mentors and peers out there willing to reach out, it just takes a first step.
You can keep up with Nicole on her personal blog:
*"The EQL directory amplifies the careers and achievements of women working behind-the-scenes in audio and production."
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