September 17, 2015
Several months ago Lynn Fuston found himself at a crossroads. Should he continue his work as a Nashville sound engineer, or should he instead change direction and do something entirely different with his life? At that time, Fuston had 37 years of studio work to his credit, but he could not deny that the recording industry was undergoing a seismic shift. More and more artists were leaving the big studios to take an increasingly DIY approach to laying down tracks, and Fuston, who had spent his career engineering albums for such Christian music luminaries as Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Kathy Troccoli, DC Talk and Twila Paris, witnessed first-hand the results of that sea change.
Basically, his work was drying up and he had a crucial decision to make. A few things happened to influence that decision. First, he had an incredibly lucrative couple months at the boards. That allowed him to fly south to his ill mother’s bedside. Ten days after going into the hospital, his mother died, forcing him to do more soul-searching.
“I’m a Christian,” he told me in a recent phone interview. “I believe God works in mysterious and sometimes not so mysterious ways.”
Enter Sweetwater’s annual GearFest. It was at the most recent incarnation of this celebration of gear that Fuston heard Sweetwater was in search of an editor for its publications division. Fuston could boast not only nearly four decades of sound engineering, but roughly 27,000 blog posts about and reviews of music equipment – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ultimately, he chose to throw his hat in the ring for the newly created manager of written content position.
“They flew me up here a week later and offered me the job on the spot,” Fuston said. “Then they said, ‘We need you to start in two weeks.’”
That was a tall order for someone who had accumulated 40 years worth of stuff and had a house to sell and a family to relocate. Much to Fuston’s surprise, his Nashville house sold 48 hours after he put it on the market, and 19 days after being offered the post he found himself in Fort Wayne, heading up a staff of 11 writers charged with creating web and catalog content.
“It was like dominoes. Everything just fell into place.”
For a while, he lived in an apartment in Fort Wayne, driving back to Nashville on weekends to finish packing, but eventually he found a home near Foster Park and says he couldn’t be happier in his new surroundings. He takes long walks around the park in the evenings, and right now he’s enjoying the fall foliage and the crisp, autumn weather. The only thing that worries him is the upcoming winter.
“Several people have told me that there are two things you need to live in Fort Wayne in the winter – a snow blower and a parka,” he said. “I’ve got my parka, but I don’t have my snow blower yet. I guess I’ll find out soon enough whether I have what it takes to survive here. So far I love it.”
Fuston isn’t one to be intimidated by such challenges. At the age of 18 he left his home in Texas to enroll in the relatively fledgling music business program at Nashville’s Belmont College. There he learned the ins and outs of sound engineering, while holding down a series of full-time jobs, including one at a music publishing house and another at a jingles production company.
Nashville was a very small world back then, and the Christian music scene even smaller. Soon he found himself engineering a song for Amy Grant.
“I was 19 years old, at the time,” Fuston said. “I was a kid and it was such a cool chance. We didn’t start recording the song until 10 o’clock that night and we worked all the way through until 5 a.m. the next day.”
Even though the producer ended up scrapping Fuston’s work and recording the song all over again, it was an incredible foot-in-the-door opportunity that quickly led to other work with up-and-coming artists.
Fuston thinks the key to his success as a sound engineer came down to listening.
“I worked hard to be very in-tune with the artists, to pay attention to whether or not the artist was happy in the studio, and if they weren’t, I made sure to make them happy, to solve their problems and anticipate their needs without their ever having to say anything.”
His new job with Sweetwater might seem slightly outside the wheelhouse of a sound engineer, but Fuston has been writing and editing gear reviews for the last two decades, and he sees a strong connection between the work he did in the studio and the editing and managing duties he’s now called on to perform every day.
“Oddly enough, my time in the studio prepared me well for what I’m doing now,” he said. “We have deadlines we have to meet, and things change on a daily, hourly and sometimes minute-to-minute basis. You have to be ready to turn on a dime, to make adjustments to assignments, and we improvise a lot, just as we did in the studio.”
Which makes it sound like Fuston is a bit of a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants sort of manager. Not true. His motto is “Good enough is not good enough.”
“It has to be excellent. I’ve committed myself to excellence, to getting things right. Sometimes someone will tell me, ‘Only you will know the difference if we replace this word or this sentence or this paragraph. The reader won’t. The customers won’t.’ Maybe not, but I’ll know, and I don’t want to put out a product that I’ve only given 90 percent to. I’m here to push harder, go further, and demand more.”