For the past couple years, Nate Pyfer has lived a double life. As an electrician by day and musician by night, Pyfer understands the bittersweet reality of his circumstance. The stability of his day job helps him pay the bills, but it’s also a hindrance to his goal of making a career in music. Something has to give. That’s why, starting this summer, Pyfer said he plans to take a big step and start working as a producer full time.
“I don’t want to be poor doing something I don’t like,” he said. “I’d much rather be poor doing something I do like. That’s why I decided it’s time to give music everything I’ve got. I’ve just got to make it happen.”
Pyfer is somewhat of a local legend. He has been a part of Provo music since 2004 and has played in some of the area’s most notable bands, including Code Hero, Night Night and most recently, The Moth & The Flame. It wasn’t until 2010, however, that he decided to try his hand at producing.
“You have dreams of being huge and of being rock stars or winning a Grammy,” he said. “It seems like every year, every new project you’re doing, you’re always thinking to yourself, ‘This is the one.’ But then I realized I was getting a little too old and a little too fat and that I could probably do better adding and taking away from other people’s music than I could with my own.”
Working with The Moth & The Flame on their self-titled debut was Pyfer’s first opportunity to work as a producer. By the end of it, he said he had the confidence to pursue music production more seriously. But for that, he needed some guidance.
“I started talking to some of the local people who’ve found success in the music industry,” he said. “One of the things they all told me was that if you want to succeed you’ve got to quit your day job and you can’t give yourself a plan B. That way you pretty much have to force yourself to make it.”
Although the prospect of quitting his job as an electrician to pursue music is daunting, Pyfer is encouraged and supported by his wife, Heather.
“It’s hard because he’s so busy,” Heather said. “He goes to work and then comes home and there’s always music stuff to do, but he loves it. I’m proud of him and I’m along for the ride.”
Pyfer doesn’t underestimate the value of having a supportive spouse.
“Luckily I’m married to someone who is just awesome,” he said. “If you don’t have the support of the people closest to you, you won’t make it.”
Besides a supportive wife, Pyfer also finds motivation from his peers in the local music community. Corey Fox, owner of Velour Live Music Gallery, has known Pyfer for years and acknowledged the traits that make him a good producer.
“My experience is that the best producers all have certain eccentricities,” Fox said. “Nate definitely has a lot of those, as well as being a respected multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and a mad scientist with electronics. All of these traits come in very handy when producing bands.”
Fox also praised the work Pyfer did with his production debut, which was released at Velour last November.
“I think The Moth & the Flame’s music was the perfect fit for him to really shine as a producer,” he said. “That album is sure to be the launching pad for a promising career.”
Brandon Robbins and Mark Garbett, the founding members of The Moth & The Flame, said they owe a lot to Pyfer for helping make their album such a success.
“He’ll bring these great ideas to the table and we try them out and they turn out to be rad,” Robbins said. “He’s an exciting producer. He’s excited about what he’s doing and it comes through in the work he does.”
Garbett lauded Pyfer’s knack for thinking outside the box and his ability to turn those ideas into sonic realities.
“Without Nate we would never have discovered the greatest parts of the album,” he said. “Being able to experiment and coming up with crazy ideas, he just knew how to make those things come to life. He’s a genius.”
Part of Pyfer’s brilliance comes from his ability to hear music in the cacophony of the world around him. When he was 18, for example, he said he worked the graveyard shift in a manufacturing facility. As he worked through the night, he noticed that one of the machines emanated a constant hum.
“The note was a G,” he said. “I wrote like 50 songs that year, all in the key of G and all because of working that shift. Music can become so vanilla if you let it, but you need to hear and create sound out of everything around you so you can give people something fresh.”
Currently, Pyfer is putting his skills to use producing an album by a band called ALARMs. He’s also started pre-production work with Soft Science, another local band, and has a list of other projects he’ll pursue once he starts to produce music full time.
The transition from moonlighting as a producer to making it a career is something Pyfer looks forward to, considering the intricate balancing act he’s had to pull over the last several years. As far as Pyfer is concerned, the only way he could ever make a career in music is by making a total commitment to it.
“When you try to keep one foot in three or four different places you learn it’s impossible,” he said. “When you want something to succeed, though, you just have to jump in with both feet and pray to God that it works.”