The way Wolfgang Zimmerman tells his story, he sounds like a studio hermit, always buried in his current project. As the 2016 Producer of the Year, he has his name on fantastic records from the likes of Grace Joyner, Dear Blanca, and Young Mister, among others. But of late, he's engaged with more current efforts — like the forthcoming sophomore LP from SUSTO or the in-process third Brave Baby LP — than what actually won plaudits this year.
"I worked on most of those the year before this, so I've been removed from them for a while," he admits. "The releases are always staggered from where I'm at. I'm always in a different headspace."
This fits with the sort of warmly mystical vibe that pervades the Brave Baby drummer and omnipresent producer in recent years. When he describes his production work, he appears to mix engineering finesse with a sort of friendly coach mentality that makes him easy to work with. Even for groups like Dear Blanca, who Zimmerman barely knew prior to their recording session for their EP To Tell a Half-Truth.
"I'm just kind of a worker bee. Every day of the week I'm in there working on something," he says. "And a lot of people will ask, 'Do you only work with your friends?' And a lot of these people I've worked with didn't start out as my friends, but we become close. I'm the resident friend who has recording stuff and can help out."
- Jonathan Boncek
He also describes himself as a "weird counselor-type figure," seeing his production work in psychological as much as technical terms. He'll often devise little checklists or systems, like avoiding the use of the pronoun 'he,' to govern sessions as a way of spurring on creativity.
"With me as a friend and a producer, I'm always striving to not just get people to outdo themselves, but to think through what we learned from the last one," he says. "We'll have these little arbitrary rules and then you work within those parameters. Whatever comes out happens within those rules."
It's hard not to notice that Zimmerman's resume is getting increasingly heavy, with the progressively high-profile nature of Joyner, SUSTO, Young Mister, and his own band Brave Baby all getting national attention, but he seems committed to, above all, keeping things chill.
"People are always a little stressed coming in to make an album. I just try to make them confident, not put too much pressure on them," he insists.
As for winning the title of producer of the year?
"I'm excited to win something, that's nice," he laughs. "I'm not one of those guys who campaigns for these things. I was just happy to be nominated. To win is really cool."