Grammy-nominated audio engineer and producer Rodrigo Barahona has more than 68 song credits to his name so far, including several popular R&B and hiphop tracks, and it all started with a humble beginning in Green River.
In 2021, Barahona became a Grammy-nominated audio engineer and producer when R&B artist Giveon’s album “Take Time” received a nomination for best R&B album. Barahona worked as an audio engineer on the entire project, and is credited as a songwriter and producer for the track “Favorite Mistake”.
“It’s a surreal moment,” Barahona told SweetwaterNOW about the Grammy nomination. “It’s like a childhood dream come true. It’s something I had planned for and set a goal for and it’s kind of crazy to see it happen.”
Over his career, he has accumulated 9 billion song streams and 7 multi-platinum songs. Other notable songs Barahona has worked on as an audio engineer include “Peaches” by Justin Bieber, featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon, “In The Bible” by Drake, featuring Lil Durk and Giveon, “Heartbreak Anniversary” by Giveon, and “Calling”, which appeared on the soundtrack for the film Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, by Metro Boomin, Swae Lee and Nav, featuring A Boogie wit da Hoodie.
Barahona spent eight years of his childhood and teenage years in Green River before graduating in 2016 from Green River High School. After finishing high school, he made a move to Florida that changed his life.
“After I graduated high school, my parents were asking me what I wanted to do. At first I was actually going to go to Western for architecture,” Barahona said. “Then my parents ended up moving to Florida, and I didn’t want to stay in Wyoming by myself, so I moved with them. That’s when I found this school called Full Sail and I went and took a tour of the school and that’s when I figured out I could actually make a career out of music, out of audio.”
He first found an interest in audio when he was in middle school in Green River. After learning how to download music online, he became the designated CD burner for his friends. From there he started learning how to do audio on a computer. It wasn’t until he moved to Florida and went to Full Sail University, that he decided he wanted to work in the music industry for a career. According to their website, Full Sail University offers degree programs that are designed for the world of entertainment media and emerging technologies.
“That’s when I really figured out what engineering was,” Barahona said.
While his parents were supportive of Barahona’s aspirations, he sensed a little bit of concern from them.
“To my face they were [supportive],” he laughed. “But deep down they were a little iffy about it. They didn’t really understand the music industry. I didn’t really understand it back then either, you know, the music business, how it works, the different avenues and how you can make money in it.”
Barahona soon learned that jumping right into the industry was the best way to get into it. Just a week after his college graduation, he moved to Los Angeles in 2018. He recalls a tough first year in LA, as audio engineers typically have to work as an intern at several different studios to get a foot in the door.
“I remember my first year in LA, I interned at like four studios at the same time, unpaid. So it was kind of rough, I had to do that, I had to work a part time job at a pizza place to be able to pay rent,” he said.
After a year of interning, one of the studios hired Barahona as an engineer. Once he was hired, a pathway unfolded fairly quickly for Barahona.
“It’s crazy, two months after being hired, that’s when I met the artist Giveon, the artist I’m Grammy-nominated with. That’s when we recorded the whole first project we ever worked on together, which is when I got Grammy-nominated,” Barahona said.
Barahona said that it’s hard to explain what an audio engineer does but essentially, his main focus in the studio is to capture the artist’s vocals in the highest quality possible.
“When it comes to different mic selections, the type of gear we use, the main goal is always to make sure the voice is the clearest and highest quality captured into the computer. After that, it’s just adding effects like autotune, things called reverb, delays into the songs, and making it sound like an actual song,” he said.
Currently, Barahona is working on a project with Toronto-based rapper and singer Nav, R&B artist Rhyan Douglas, also from Toronto, and New York-based artist Nobu Woods. Barahona said that most of his work is in R&B music.
“That’s the genre I gravitate more towards. I grew up listening to a lot of hip-hop music, so taking elements of hip-hop music into R&B is kind of like what I specialize in. It’s something that separates me from other engineers,” he said.
Barahona said he is always setting goals for himself, and he has a lot more he wants to accomplish in the music industry.
“Eventually I want to have a number one hit record. That’s what I’m aiming for, as a producer. I want to do more production stuff. I’ve focused a lot on engineering, and it’s going well, so now I feel like I want to focus more on being a producer. I want to get into artist development too.” He said he’s currently working on this with Nobu Woods. “I want to kind of develop him into a star.”
Another goal Barahona carries with him is to inspire. Growing up in a small town in the least-populated state in the United States, Barahona wants to show people that they can achieve their dreams no matter where they come from.
“I feel like growing up I didn’t really have someone, or I guess the knowledge of any type of entertainment or music stuff. Especially growing up in Wyoming,” Barahona said. “I want to shed light, and inspire people to do what they love and chase their dreams.”
To listen to some of Barahona’s work, check out this playlist that Apple Music curated for Barahona to highlight his engineering work on popular R&B and hip-hop songs.