When Bruno Mars steps off the stage after his concerts, Canadian Grammy-winning sound engineer Charles Moniz knows to be prepared for another burst of magic.
It happened last November when the singer swaggered into his backstage recording studio in Los Angeles with Cardi B to lay down a remix of “Finesse.” Still bursting with energy from her massive Billboard hit “Bodak Yellow,” the rapper jumped on a new verse while Mars added some freshness of his own.
Without Moniz capturing their voices, neither one of them would’ve sounded quite so good on the radio. He found the right microphones and played a role in bringing all the sound elements together in the moment.
“Creativity comes, and I think when it shows up you need to honour that,” said Moniz, who’s nominated for three Grammy Awards on Sunday.
Even if most listeners don’t immediately recognize his work, the engineer’s fingerprints are all over a few of modern pop’s biggest albums and beloved radio hits.
He won a Grammy for Adele’s “25” last year and pocketed another for helping record Mark Ronson’s inescapable “Uptown Funk,” which features Mars on vocals. He captured the infectious “doh” vocal bassline in a dressing room.
Moniz, who grew up in Burlington, Ont., was even more closely involved in Mars’s Grammy-nominated “24K Magic,” which is contending for best engineered album, as well as the prized record and song of the year awards.
The project took shape over nearly two years, starting with demos that evolved into singles like ”Versace on the Floor” and “That’s What I Like.” It was a lengthy recording stretch propelled by the singer’s tendency towards perfectionism.
“We’ll honestly feel really good about a song,” Moniz explained, ”but Bruno always is willing to be like, ‘OK, cool. Let’s see if we can push it further.’”
“There’s really no stone left unturned,” he added.
The singer’s determined approach proved fruitful when it came to the Grammy prospects for “24K Magic.” In total, the album and its songs are nominated in six categories, making Mars the third most-nominated artist this year behind Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar.
Moniz began working with Mars after a stint as Avril Lavigne’s guitarist from 2001 to 2005.
He made connections that brought him into the R&B singer’s circles, first as his bass player before taking a different role in the creation process as recording engineer.
His work alongside Mars on 2012’s “Unorthodox Jukebox” delivered the song “Locked Out of Heaven,” a stunning melodic hit driven by its epic harmonies.
Outside the studio, Moniz plays a part in the singer’s tour crew. He records concerts across the world with Mars and plugs away at side projects with the singer.
Their working partnership continues to evolve, he said, and with each recording he better understands the singer’s approach to making music.
Mars wanted “24K Magic” to exist as not only a studio album but as the foundation for his live show.
He encouraged producers and musicians to envision all the songs being played in front of an audience, drafting an idea to create a mock concert stage layout in the recording space.
“That’s something that Bruno came up with that I felt was really genius,” Moniz said.
“(He asked,) ‘In the real world how does this play? How does it make you feel? Can you dance to it?’”
Mars will set out on tour next month and the duo are almost certain to hit the studio again to throw down a few new ideas.
“He’s always an evolving artist,” Moniz said. “He’s definitely by no means ever stagnant.”