Surpassing cumulative sales of 250 million records globally, listeners might assume mixing engineer Manny Marroquin is preparing to retire after two decades of musical excellence. Yet with a discography that boasts names like, Bruno Mars, 2Pac, John Legend and Nas and has garnered eight Grammy awards, Marroquin’s last year of musicianship puts him in position for more accolades than ever before.

The Guatemala-born, Los Angeles-raised mogul is a two-time contender in the best engineered album, non-classical category at the 2019 Grammy Awards. Additionally, Marroquin’s work is eligible for two of the evening’s highest honors, as Post Malone’s Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 “rockstar” is up for record of the year and his Billboard 200-crowning LP beerbongs and bentleys is nominated for album of the year. Still, perhaps the evening’s most humbling recognition will arrive in memory of a collaborator Marroquin considered “family”: Mac Miller.

The late Pittsburgh MC earned his first-ever Grammy nomination posthumously, for best rap album, with his final album, Swimming. “For me, it is bittersweet. … It hit a lot of people hard and me because as a human being, [Mac] was a really special person. As a musician, he was a very underrated artist,” Marroquin explained.

Billboard connected with the chart-topping engineer to discuss his contributions to upward of 40 No. 1 Billboad 200 albums, what he has en route alongside BMG, working with music’s biggest icons and beyond.

Your family moved to Los Angeles, California when you were nine years old due to the Guatemalan Civil War. At that point, what did the American dream mean to you — was it always music?

It is funny because when my mom [took us] on a plane to LA, we were supposed to be here on vacation. She promised us a trip to Disneyland. So, whenever a day gets hard in the studio or anything, I always say I am still on vacation. [Laughs] So, it can’t be that bad.

For me, it was not even about the American dream. It was like, “Let’s got to Disneyland. Come on!” That was definitely the American dream. I got into music because there was always music around with my family. My mom sang and played in a band with my uncles. Music was a huge part of our culture and household. I started playing drums as I saw my family members do, around [the age of] 12.

I really, really enjoyed it. I would not say I grew up in the tough streets of LA because I am sure there is always [somewhere] tougher. Still, I grew up [around] the gang culture in LA. I think that wasn’t me. [Laughs] So, I was looking for a way out. Music was definitely the way to avoid certain crowds. Also, when I say music saved my life I truly believe that. [Laughs]

At present, you are known as an eight-time GRAMMY-award winning mixing engineer. What your avid listeners may not know is that your journey began at Enterprise Studios as a runner. Describe your hustle towards becoming the man with one hundred Top 10 albums on the Billboard 200.

You know, I do not see things that I don’t think about when I work on mixing. I do not think about Grammys, obviously. I do not think about the charts. I honestly take it from a very basic approach. The artist or producer comes to me to work on their baby. That is what I always say. I am an expensive babysitter. [Laughs]

Whenever they come, I try getting into their mind, whether that means talking to them, or even the music [will] speak for itself. I try to understand what their vision is. It is never about me. [The process] is never about my sound or what I can bring to the table. It is always about how I can [create a moment,] whether it is a song that makes you cry, dance, sing-along, or whatever that true emotion is: (a) I am trying not to fuck it up, and (b), I am just trying to make sure it sounds like what they envisioned. [Laughs]

But, I never think about a sound. That is kind of interesting because I am dealing with what most people perceive as a technical field. I feel it is more of a creative field with technological tools. But what we are trying to do is create that emotion that the artist once had. So, I focus subconsciously on that. Thus, the ten thousand hours I used to look at [something in the studio], is what, thirty thousand now? [Laughs]

Alongside Post Malone, you were Grammy nominated for “record of the year” with “rockstar” and “album of the year” for beerbongs & bentleys. Creatively, how was it collaborating towards two of the Grammy’s highest honors?

You know, I heard — and I have been working with Post for a long time now — [but] he has a great team around him. He has Louis Bell which is his engineer/producer. Post has Frank Dukes. That is another amazing producer. He has a tremendous A&R team. And, I have been touching his music for years. So, doing this new album, I remember something was really special about it.

Also, I remember being in a different country when I got a call from the A&R, Rob Stevenson. [He said,] “Hey, man! We’ve got the new Post album.” I have always been a Post Malone fan from day one, even from “White Iverson.” So, something felt different about these songs, especially, “rockstar.” The moment I brought up the faders I knew, my gut told me that it just felt right.

In today’s world, I don’t even know what genre he is. He is one of the only artists where you can not pin him down. I call it genreless music. You know? Nowadays, [people question,] “Is it hip-hop? Yes. Is it alternative? Yes. Is it kind of rock? Yes. Is it pop? Yes.”

I mean you could say “yes” to all of them. So that is exciting for me. If you look at my discography, I do not just do either R&B or pop. I do hip-hop, rock, and actually, I tend to do a little bit of everything. So, that is almost like an ideal artist for someone like myself — where I can bring my alternative knowledge into the studio. I carry a pop sensibility, too, so it can compete with the Ariana Grande’s of the world. And, it also had this cool hip-hop element to it. That is my background, mixing hip-hop.

It was a match made in heaven when I really went deep into the album. [I said,] “Oh, this is something that I had not heard before.” I have heard elements of it in other people’s music, but not all at once. The incredible thing is that [creating with Post Malone] is not forced. It is organic.

By Bianca Alysse for Billboard

About The Author

Bianca Alysse is a creatively driven Bronx-born writer and editor. Before becoming The Knockturnal‘s music editor she served as Latina‘s creative coordinator and was a contributor at Billboard. The Boricua scribe has a lengthy resume in the music industry and has penned for Universal Music Publishing Group, Epic Records, G.O.O.D. Music, Compound Entertainment, Artistry & Récords, and Arcade Creative Group. Her work has been seen on platforms like VIBE, mitú, TIDAL, Remezcla, and behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week. As an independent contractor, she has written for Sony Music Entertainment’s global business affairs department, Warner Music Group, and currently Roc Nation.

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