Master mixer stockpiles Grammys at his Merritt Island home
Mike Couzzi displays a favorite among his dozen-plus Grammys.
photo by Mike Gaffey
February’s Grammy winners don’t have a thing on boomer Mike Couzzi. He’s won so many Grammy awards, he’s lost count.
“I’ve probably won 13 or 14, something like that,” the Merritt Island-based master engineer said of the prestigious music awards and certificates that fill a trophy case in his home mastering studio.
For the past three decades, Couzzi has engineered and mixed hundreds of albums from such artists as Frank Sinatra, Gloria Estefan and the Pet Shop Boys. He won his first Grammy in 1991 and earned some of his other Grammys for work with Estefan, Christina Aguilera, jazz great Arturo Sandoval and guitarist Carlos Santana.
Now a master engineer — someone who takes a finished mix of a song and standardizes it so that it sounds the same when played in different systems such as a car stereo, a home stereo or a boom box — Couzzi works from home, finishing artists’ music sent to him online.
“Basically everything’s done over the internet nowadays,” he said. “All the files are transferred over the Internet and then everything is done inside the computer, and then you send back the final product to the client on the Internet as well.”
The Los Angeles native first became interested in music and electronics at age 12, when his grandfather gave Couzzi his giant console stereo.
“I immediately began taking it apart to see how it worked,” Couzzi said. “I then reassembled it in smaller boxes and built new speaker cabinets that I could use in my room.”
Couzzi got his first recording job in 1978 when he was hired as a recording technician at Wally Heider Studios in Hollywood. There, he set up sessions and hung out with such performers as the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, the Bee Gees, Michael Jackson and
A few years later, Couzzi and a longtime friend moved to Fort Lauderdale and opened their own recording studio. Couzzi started building a reputation as an independent engineer by working at larger studios.
Couzzi later teamed up with a producer at the forefront of the growing Miami pop dance music scene and worked on “Exposure” by Exposé, which spawned four top-10 singles and was certified double platinum.
“At this time, my career really took off and I was very much in demand,” he said. “The Miami music scene was really exploding and I was right in the middle of it.”
In 1999, Couzzi won a Grammy for his work on tracks for Santana’s “Supernatural” album, which earned eight Grammys and was named Album of the Year.
“He’s very demanding, he’s very driven,” Couzzi said of Santana. “He’s been doing this a long time and he’s quite an amazing talent.”
In 2011, Couzzi and his wife, Julie, and their two children, Jonah and Lana, moved from South Florida to Merritt Island. He converted part of the garage of their new home into his studio.
“I miss being able to go into a big studio, record all the musicians and then do the mixing on an analog console, where now I’m mixing everything digital inside a computer and I’m by myself,” Couzzi said. “But the advantages are that it allowed me to get out of Miami to move here and to have more independence and flexibility in my working environment, where before I didn’t have that. I enjoy having my own controlled environment because my studio is very well set up and I know exactly what the product is going to be when it leaves my studio.”
Among Couzzi’s current projects are albums by Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja and Brazilian pop singer Daniela Mercury, who has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide.
“She’s really, really huge in Brazil,” he said of Mercury.
Couzzi is happy to have made Brevard County his family’s new home.
“The people here are much more friendly,” he said. “I really don’t miss the horrendous Miami traffic, and I really enjoy the nature here on Merritt Island. My family and I are very much into nature so that was a big draw for us. It’s really nice to be able to go out into the river and go paddleboarding, just seeing all the birds out here, the manatees, the dolphins. It’s an amazing place for nature.”
For more information, go to mikecouzzimastering.com.