gela akhalaia
Arts & Culture Music

Gela Akhalaia is Working with the Music Industry’s Elite

Audio Engineer Gela Akhalaia’s handiwork has brought in many millions of listens for the artists he works with, and over the years, he’s built an impressive roster of artist collaborations. 

Akhalaia has worked with Grammy-nominated artist Jordin Sparks, Grammy-winning songwriter Brody Brown, platinum-selling artist Natalie Larose, and Grammy-winning artist Mali Music, just to name a few of his collaborations. 

In addition to his extensive studio work, Akhalaia has also donated his time via the Dreams Come True program, which focuses on helping children and adolescents with serious diseases. 

Looking back to the start of Akhalaia’s career, it all began with a personal commitment to rap music. He believes strongly in the expressivity and artistry of the genre, and he’s been supporting rappers for years, both by engineering tracks for up-and-coming artists and also by judging the Rap Renaissance festival, which provides a platform for promising young rappers in Russia. 

In our interview with Akhalaia, we picked his brain to learn more about his influences, his method for working with artists, and some of his favorite projects. Check it out below. 

To start out, who are some of your biggest musical influences? Have your influences changed over time?

Akhalaia: Throughout my life, I’ve been surrounded by so many different types of music: classical music, folk music, pop, rock, rap, R’n’B, house, drum and bass, and even flamenco. To me, genre or the artist’s thoughts and background have never had an influence on what I was listening to. The most important thing was how it sounded. This is probably why I became an Audio Engineer. 

Andy Wallace, Chris Lord-Alge, Dave Pensado, my man Konstantin Matafonov, and my man Leandro Hidalgo. These are my influences, they are all amazing audio engineers, the best of the best. We can make music that sounds great, no matter what genre it is.

You’ve been heavily involved in rap music for years now. What about this genre speaks to you?

Akhalaia: There are two things: the groove and the lyrics. You can put the whole story in the song with all the details, using different literary devices. And the rap community is different. It’s big. They support each other a lot, they organize events, battles, and festivals. 

I’ve also been successful in making rap music. The last two albums I worked on were for rapper Jacques-Anthony. “Lilium” and “At Any Cost” have already been streamed over 10 million times, and he’s had multiple nationwide tours with those albums.

You’ve also judged the Rap Renaissance festival multiple times. What’s it like to see so many aspiring artists performing? 

Akhalaia: Like I said earlier, rappers are supportive and they like to compete, too. The festivals I was judging at were very well put together, with prizes, great shows with famous headliners, and big opportunities to promote competitors’ songs. 

The regularly held Rap Renaissance festival is giving life to the community, it’s a place for aspiring rappers to be heard and breakthrough. Sometimes their songs are as good as multi-platinum-selling records. And I’m glad that I was invited to be a judge. I met some great folks there and have even worked with some of them in the studio.

Changing topics briefly, can you tell us about your work with the Dreams Come True program?

Akhalaia: That experience was heartbreaking to me. I got to know about that little girl’s disease after the studio session. I used to work with children a lot, so that session was pretty ordinary to me, except there was a cameraman who was filming and taking pictures, but still, nothing unusual. 

Working with kids is much more difficult than with adults, but I always find a way to make it fun for them. As soon as you gain the child’s trust, there are no more difficulties to get the song recorded. That girl was happy that day, and even though my heart was broken, her smile made this experience positive.

So when you’re working with an artist, in any genre, what is your number one priority?

Akhalaia: The number one priority is to make an artist happy and satisfied. In order to do that, I always stay positive, very professional, and try to understand exactly what an artist wants so I can meet their expectations. 

I always try to do even more than what an artist needs. Be nice and friendly, but first do the job. From my experience, I learned that the bigger the artist, the easier it is to work with them. Famous artists are always respectful and polite. 

For example, Grammy award-winning Mali Music. I’ve worked with him multiple times. He’s like a family member, very open, and takes advice, even though he has many more awards than I do. That’s how I move, too, no matter how big the artist I’m working with. I always treat them the same way: with respect and love, and I put all of my hard work and 100% of my skills to make sure that the song is perfect.

What’s one of the projects you’ve worked on that you’re the proudest of?

Akhalaia: There are so many yet unreleased projects that I’m proud I’ve worked on. Unfortunately, I can’t share this with the world yet. So instead, I’ll just give you this: the EP “Still FWM” by Tone Stith. He went on tour with this album throughout the US. It has over 20 million streams on Spotify alone. I worked on two songs: “Something In The Water” featuring Maeta and “Perfect Ten” featuring Kenneth Paige. Please check them out, you’ll love those songs.

To close things out here, do you have a message you’d like to share with aspiring engineers and producers?

Akhalaia: First of all, make sure that your knowledge base is fully and completely covered. And then, just be yourself, move the right way, and always do a little more than people expect from you. Be honest and respectful!