How did you make the leap from music producer to scientist?
I was always interested in science as a kid, especially how things worked. So when I began working in recording studios, I was curious about why some people were so much better at making music than others. Then I sat in on some classes and did some producing at Stanford, and I became more and more intrigued by the brain science behind musical performance.
You once worked with the likes of Santana and the Grateful Dead, so academia seems like it would feel stiff. How do you keep it exciting?
Maybe it’s not as glamorous as working with Stevie Wonder, but the work in a studio is very much like the work in a laboratory. You’re fine-tuning things a little bit at a time, and it takes weeks or months before it all comes together and you have something that sounds like a finished product.
What are you fine-tuning right now?
I’m working on a book called The Organized Mind. The idea is that the brain wants to organize the world in one way, and we try to do it in another. Who wouldn’t want to leverage the natural process to better organize their life?
This interview appeared in the January 2014 issue.