Some people have a talent for music that’s just innate, and all it takes is the right spark to make them realize they can turn it into a career. Born in the tropical climate of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Leslie Brathwaite was never at a loss for inspiration on his path to the recording industry.
"I grew up in a very musical culture,” he says. “I remember at an early age, watching one of the calypso bands. While everyone else is paying attention to the festivities, I'm looking at the equipment, thinking 'How do they hook all of this up?' I always knew I wanted to do something behind the scenes in music.”
Leslie would later get his own small multitrack recorder and turn his bedroom into a makeshift studio, which would become the first of many recording spaces he would find himself working in. His interest in production would eventually lead him to discover the Recording Arts program at Full Sail, and though it meant a long trip from home, he flew out to tour the campus and was surprised to find himself surrounded by other like-minded artists.
“I was so over school, but I knew I really wanted to go somewhere that focused on what I wanted to do,” he says. “I found out about Full Sail from my guidance counselor, and after I came to visit I realized where I could go with this career.”
Just over a year later he had earned his diploma, and was packing up again, this time for Atlanta in order to break into the city’s growing music scene. If ever there was a case of talent and timing coming together it’s hard to imagine a better example, as Leslie soon developed a relationship with acclaimed producer Dallas Austin, with whom he’d assist on such ‘90s classics as Boyz II Men's II and Outkast's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.
Those records opened the door to a stream of opportunities, and would eventually see him move on to become a mix engineer and producer, roles he continues to find new inspiration in to this day – blending the music and vocal tracks recorded during a session into the final mixes you hear.
Since his breakthrough, Leslie’s credits have spanned the world of rap and R&B, and include collaborations with such artists as Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Ludacris, Ciara, and Young Jeezy. In addition to chart success, he has also been recognized with multiple Grammy statues, including nods for his work on the Monica/Brandy single “The Boy is Mine,” as well as TLC’s multiplatinum album Fanmail.
“It’s good to be recognized by your peers, but I don’t focus on it,” he says. “My mom – I let her enjoy all that stuff. I’m proud of myself, but a good moment for me is when I’ve got somebody like Mary J. Blige or Cher calling me going, ‘I want you to mix my record.’ That’s the real GRAMMY® moment for me right there. Mary J. and Cher were artists that came to me because they wanted my sound.”
It’s a signature sound that Leslie has been developing for most of his life. And as much as his dedication to his craft has made him a fixture in the city’s music community, it’s obvious that he still has that same inherent fascination for music that took him from his bedroom in St. Thomas to the recording studios of Atlanta.
“It comes down to the fact that I really love music, I love the recording process, and the friendships I’ve made with a lot of great artists,” he says. “You have to show people that you care. Do all these little things to make yourself stand out and take initiative. It’s all about the extra little steps, and that helps keep me grounded.”