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Grammy-Nominated Engineer Louis Bell Breaks Out

When Post Malone's "Circles" landed a GRAMMY nomination for Record of the Year, it was yet another recognition of Louis Bell's work. Now the go-to producer, engineer and co-writer reveals his streamlined workflow, talks about working out of Electric Feel Studio and more.

Louis Bell
Louis Bell, Variety’s producer of the year, works out of works out of Electric Feel Studios in West Hollywood, surrounded by Genelec monitors.

West Hollywood, CA (December 2, 2020)—The Grammy nominations came out last week, and with the announcement that Post Malone’s “Circles” was up for Record of the Year, Louis Bell added yet another Grammy nod to his growing collection of industry plaudits.

In 2019, Bell had more number-one singles than any other producer or songwriter, with Post Malone’s “Wow” and “Sunflower,” Halsey’s “Without Me” and the Jonas Brothers’ “Sucker.” He produced eight Top-10 hits, staying atop the Hot 100 Producers chart for weeks. In September, he equaled Taylor Swift’s record for the most production credits—18—in a single week on the Billboard Hot 100 this century. Oh, and Variety also crowned Louis Bell producer of the year.

The basic tools of Bell’s trade could practically fit into a briefcase: a Sony C-800G microphone, a Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo interface and a laptop PC running FL (formerly Fruity Loops) Studio and Pro Tools. “I’ll create a really nice loop or different loops in Fruity Loops based on the chord progression, then export it into Pro Tools, which is where I do my arranging and mixing,” says Bell.

“Once we have the song laid down, I’ll spend hours dialing in certain sounds, maybe swapping out drum sounds or layering different things, on my own time. I’ll always try to push things further than they need to go and then dial them back.”

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Bell adopted Fruity Loops in 2002. “I was in the generation just after SSL and API boards were the standard if you wanted a specific sound to compete on a commercial level,” he says. “It was an economic decision. I wanted something that, if I really learned this one piece of gear, would help me long-term. I wanted to be more flexible and dynamic, and I felt like in-the-box would allow me to have an infinite number of possibilities.”

He hopes he’s setting an example. “It’s good to feel like I could have some positive influence on producers of the next generation and make them realize how much they can do with so little equipment, to help them economically when they’re starting out and not feel that it’s too much of a financial burden.”

While he grew up in Boston, MA, he came to L.A. in 2012 to work with hip-hop artist Mike Stud, who introduced him to his manager, Austin Rosen, founder of Electric Feel Entertainment. Bell signed to the management company and works out of Electric Feel Studios in West Hollywood.

Bell acquired a pair of Genelec 8351B nearfield monitors to supplement the room’s soffited 1035A mains earlier this year. “I’ve been using the 1035As in the A room for the last seven years to mix every record I’ve worked on,” he says. “I honestly don’t feel confident sending off a song until I’ve done this. The mids and vocals are crystal-clear; the high-end is tastefully tamed.” The speakers give the kick drum a chest-thumping punch that cuts through the low-end in every mix, he says.

Since hooking up with Post Malone in 2015, Bell has been his right-hand man ever since. “When I met him, he was 19, I was 33. It’s been an amazing journey, and a pleasure to watch him grow and learn and evolve as a musician and an artist. I feel like he’s taught me more about myself as a producer than I’ve learned from anyone else,” he says.

“I thought I knew who I was and what I was trying to do musically, but it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. It gets harder and harder the older you get, so you have to change your approach every time just to remind yourself that there are no rules and there are no bounds.”

Hollywood’s Bleeding, Post Malone’s third album, was Bell’s highlight of last year, he says. “Any time I get to work on an entire project and oversee it and executive produce it, and make sure that there’s a story being told and it’s being unveiled the right way, and then being able to get the right features on there, that’s a satisfying experience.” Featured artists include DaBaby, Future, Halsey, Lil Baby, Meek Mill, Ozzy Osbourne, Swae Lee, SZA, Travis Scott and Young Thug. Ozzy had never done a feature before, says Bell: “His voice sounds amazing still. He lived up to the hype.”