Fraser T. Smith, who’s worked with musicians such as Adele and Sam Smith, credits his Berklee Online courses with helping him to fine-tune his production skills. 

Fraser T. Smith has worked with everyone from Adele to Lily Allen to the Kaiser Chiefs, and most recently with British soul singer Sam Smith. His writing and production work has helped artists top the charts in both the UK and the US. But despite his success, the guitarist-turned-songwriter-turned-producer knows that he will never stop learning.

“It was my ambition to go to Berklee [in Boston], but at the time it wasn’t possible so I had to let that one go unfortunately,” the Buckinghamshire, UK native recalls. “When I was a little older, I heard about Berklee Online and checked out a prospectus. I thought, ‘Wow, this certainly fits. There are courses on here that are applicable to me as a songwriter and producer.’”

Though he’d been playing guitar and writing songs since his teens, Smith’s career in the music industry didn’t start until he became a touring guitarist with UK pop star Craig David. When he reached his 30s, Smith shifted gears from performance to production. “It was important for me to feel that I had that sort of grounding in mixing records and lyric writing. I’d always written and produced to some degree but I felt that focusing in for 12 weeks at a time enabled me to hone the craft of being a songwriter and a producer,” he says of his decision to begin studying with Berklee Online. “It’s truly been pretty fantastic. I can honestly pinpoint each one of the 11 courses I’ve done in having a definite hand in every single track I’ve made, all thanks to Berklee Online.”

The courses Writing Hit SongsBerklee Keyboard Method, and Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools directly aided Smith in his work with British megastar Adele. Smith cowrote, produced, and played piano on the track “Set Fire to the Rain.” “The production course that I did with Stephen Webber helped me understand the vision that Adele was looking for and also with crafting the production of that song,” he recalls.

Fraser T. Smith talks about his Berklee experience in this video.

In an ever-changing industry, Smith values the education provided by Berklee Online’s renowned instructors. “I think for everyone nowadays who’s into maintaining their relevance, you’ve got to be very versatile. You’ve got to encompass lots of different jobs and you have to be proficient in a lot of different styles. In England maybe a little bit more so than the US—but yeah, definitely relevant in the US—the recording styles are mixing up. You may get a band that’s using electronic music or you may get an electronic artist who wants to record a piano. Everything is mixed up now in a big way so you’ve got to have a lot of skills to throw into the massive melting pot of music. I can honestly never see a point when I will not be studying with Berklee.”

Though Smith’s touring days are largely behind him, he still travels regularly for work. “Even when I’m traveling I can fit [my classes] into a schedule because I can study using the iPhone app and the tablet app, so I can be studying in airport lounges or on the plane. I’ve often been doing assignments at six o’clock in the morning! But I think that if [my classes were] set to a certain time of the day, I would find that quite difficult to accomodate. The flexibility means that there’s no excuse not to be able to study.”

So what’s next for Fraser T. Smith? He plans to take arranging courses with Berklee Online while also staying busy as a producer. He recently produced and cowrote the track “Not In That Way” with Britain’s latest blue-eyed soul export, Sam Smith (of “Stay With Me” fame). As a testament to Smith’s versatility, he’s also working with British garage-punk duo Slaves and alt-pop artist Bipolar Sunshine. “I’m even thinking about taking the Writing Hit Songs songwriting course again, just to sharpen things up and approach it from a different perspective,” Smith confesses.


 Published September 5, 2014