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One of the most sought-after music producers, engineers, arrangers, and remixers in the entertainment industry, eight-time Grammy Award and five-time Latin Grammy Award winner Humberto Gatica is in demand not only for his pristine technical ability and faultless ear, but also for the passion he brings to every single project he undertakes. His peerless artistry blends the sonic and the creative into an inspiring package that has led some of the best-selling and most beloved artists in the world — including Celine Dion, Josh Groban, Michael Bublé, Andrea Bocelli, Julio Iglesias, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, and Mariah Carey — as well as legendary producers David Foster and Quincy Jones — to want to work with him. Over the course of his nearly four-decade career, the Chilean-born Gatica has had a hand in many landmark, multi-platinum albums and singles including Chicago’s 17, Tina Turner’s Private Dancer, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, USA For Africa’s “We Are The World,” Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” Josh Groban’s Noel, and Michael Buble’s recent No. 1 Crazy Love.
It’s a reputation Gatica built from scratch after emigrating to America at the age of 17. He turned his passion for music and his desire to bring out the best in an artist — whether it be an emerging fresh face or an established veteran talent — into a versatile career that finds him producing, engineering, arranging, and remixing some of the most memorable recordings in music history.
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Humberto Gatica was born in the central Chilean city of Rancagua, 54 miles south of Santiago. His father, a civil engineer, passed away when Humberto was nine and he went to live with his grandmother in a house filled with music. His grandparents owned a small cantina where people would come to be entertained. In the ’50s, Gatica’s uncle, Lucho, became a world-famous romantic balladeer who enjoyed a string of Spanish-language hits including a version of Consuelo Velazquez’s “Bésame Mucho.” Signed to EMI, Lucho moved to Mexico in 1957 and continued to make records (now age 82, he has released more than 90 to date). Inspired by the style and quality of these recordings, Humberto taught himself to play acoustic guitar by ear at age 15. Whenever one of his uncle’s albums arrived in the mail, Humberto would pore over it, sparking in him what he describes as a passion for things to sound right.
A few years after his grandmother died, Gatica decided to seek his fortune in America. After a three-day journey, he arrived in Los Angeles with 20 dollars in his pocket. He took a series of jobs — parking cars, operating a forklift in a warehouse — and within a year had earned enough to send for his mother and younger brother, all three of whom lived together in Gatica’s one-room apartment in West Hollywood. In 1973, Uncle Lucho came to Los Angeles and introduced him to his friend Val Valentin, a well-respected sound engineer who had worked with producer Norman Granz on a series of recordings for the Verve jazz label in the ’50s and was then the head engineer at the MGM recording studio. Gatica describes walking into MGM as an instant love affair with the studio. Valentin eventually brought him on as an assistant (Gatica’s first assignment was to make himself invisible during a recording session with Sammy Davis Jr. run by legendary producer Don Costa). Another task was to fetch soda for “Duke,” whom Gatica would later learn was none other than Duke Ellington, for a session that also included Oscar Peterson, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, and Joe Pass.
Hooked, Gatica soaked up the creative atmosphere of the studio like a sponge. When MGM was sold in 1976, he became a free agent and went on to engineer hit recordings by Alice Cooper, Hues Corporation, Average White Band, and Hall & Oates. In 1978, Gatica was introduced to a young keyboardist and aspiring producer from Canada named David Foster, who had become an in-demand session player. When Foster was hired to produce Chicago’s 1982 album 16, he brought Gatica with him. Gatica’s engineering work on its follow-up, Chicago’s 17, earned him his first-ever Grammy Award in 1984. He thanked Val Valentin during his acceptance speech.
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“Humberto knows what he’s doing. Sonically, he’s connected with the planet and has studied his craft enough to be cognizant of what’s going on. In film, a director of photography has the same role that a sound engineer has in music. The job requires accurately capturing and enhancing the moment — and Humberto is simply a pro.” — Quincy Jones
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The remainder of the ’80s found Gatica working on some of the best-selling albums of the decade, including Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Bad (which earned him his second Grammy Award) with Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down, Julio Iglesias’ 1100 Bel Air Place, the soundtrack to the film Footloose, Tina Turner’s Private Dancer, Barbra Streisand’s Till I Loved You, and the 1985 famine relief charity single “We Are The World.” (Gatica would later go on to co-produce the 2010 version “We Are the World: 25 for Haiti” with Jones.)
In 1990, Gatica began what would become a fruitful relationship with Canadian songbird Celine Dion, whose debut English-language album Unison was Gatica’s first of many recordings with her, including 1993’s Colour of My Love, 1996’s Falling Into You (which earned Gatica his third Grammy Award) and her epic 1998 single “My Heart Will Go On” (which landed him his fourth). The ’90s also found Gatica working with Luis Miguel, Gloria Estefan, Ray Charles, Paul Anka, Chaka Khan, Neil Diamond, Kenny G, Johnny Mathis, Cher, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Ricky Martin, Mariah Carey, and his first of many albums with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
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“One of Hum’s greatest strengths as a producer is his ability to bring out the best in the people around him. He inspires with an infectious personality, an immense musical talent, and love for what he is doing. He creates a vibe like no one else. An incredible engineer and world-class musician, he has a sixth sense and always finds a way to get what is needed to turn something good into something great. He just feels it. I trust him implicitly. He has been a mentor and loyal friend. He also happens to have a couple of the best ears in the business.” — Michael Bublé
“Humberto and I have recorded together since the beginning of my career and it is always an incredible experience. I completely trust my music and my voice in his hands.” — Josh Groban
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In 1998, David Foster signed a remarkable 17-year-old classically trained pop singer named Josh Groban to his new Reprise Records imprint 143. With their long working relationship established, Foster asked Gatica to engineer and mix Groban’s 2001 self-titled debut. Subsequently, Gatica has been a part of each of Groban’s multi-platinum albums including the 2007 Christmas blockbuster Noel, which was the best-selling album of that year. Gatica also forged a strong artistic connection with another of Foster’s 143 signees, Canadian pop crooner Michael Bublé, and has worked with him on several albums including his two chart-toppers 2007’s Call Me Irresponsible and 2009’s Crazy Love.
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“What I love most about Humberto is the passion and excitement he brings to a project.” — Diane Warren
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But to Gatica, you are only as good as your last project. Not content to rest on his previous achievements, Gatica is dedicating himself to his production work and will unveil a host of exciting projects in 2010. These include the debut from Due Voci, a male/female vocal duo who will release an album of multi-platinum songwriter Diane Warren’s greatest hits, including “Unbreak My Heart” and “Because You Loved Me,” memorably re-arranged by Gatica. He has also produced upcoming albums by 21-year-old pop crossover singer Griffith Frank, Italian teenage classical pop vocal group Il Trio, and a Cuban music project called Havana Jazz Club, as well as Josh Groban’s new studio album and a Christmas collection with Michael Bublé.
Also slated for 2010 are two projects very close to Gatica’s heart. The first is Voces Unidas Por Chile, a group of Latin America’s biggest stars — Shakira, Beto Cuevas, Juanes, Alejandro Sanz, Juan Luis Guerra, Laura Pausini, and Maná’s Fher Olvera, as well as Michael Bublé — whom Gatica has assembled to record the charity single “Gracias A La Vida.” Proceeds from its sale will go to the reconstruction efforts in Gatica’s native Chile after the massive earthquake that rocked the country in February. Gatica’s other labor of love is producing a set of Spanish-language romantic classics, including “Bésame Mucho” and “Historia de un Amor,” sung by his adored Uncle Lucho in duet with such top-notch vocalists as Julio Iglesias, Alejandro Sanz, Luis Miguel, Juanes, and many others. These are passion projects that are truly in keeping with Humberto Gatica’s enduring compassionate and creative spirit.