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Fifteen Years of Awesome Audio: How TA2 has Made its Mark


President and Audio Director, Steve Gadsden tells LBB how the uniquely details-oriented studio is looking to the future after a decade and a half of sonic excellence

Fifteen Years of Awesome Audio: How TA2 has Made its Mark

“It’s been a change of pace - it’s not something that comes naturally when your eyes are so used to looking forwards…” 

For Steve Gadsden, president and audio director of TA2 Sound+Music, the studio’s 15th anniversary has provided a unique opportunity. As opposed to his usual precision-focus on the present and future, the milestone is a rare occasion on which to take stock of how far he and the TA2 team have come. 

And there’s plenty to look back on. The Toronto-based studio has spent the past fifteen years earning a hard-won reputation for quality that helps to distinguish TA2 from its competition. It’s come about in large part thanks to the studio’s approach - spearheaded by Steve - based on nailing the details. “It’s kind of the antithesis of ‘fake it till you make it’”, he says. “I always feel that if I’m going to stand up in front of a group of people and talk about audio as an expert, I’d better make damn certain I actually am an expert. That means no cutting corners, and an appreciation for all the little details that truly bring a creative vision to life”. 

That attitude runs deep, having taken root in the TA2 president from an early stage in his career. “I believe in earning your stripes. I’ve always been a musician and a writer, and I’ve been working in studios all my life. I’ve lived the evolution from analogue to digital, I’ve been the engineer tracking and mixing albums, TV shows, animation, movies, and games”, continues Steve. “I’ve been the producer, the sound designer, the dialogue editor, the voice director, the foley artist, the talent, built studios - every possible audio role. And all along that journey I’ve been teaching the next generation what I know. In building TA2, I’ve brought all of that experience to bear”. 

As Steve explains, all of that experience has a profound effect on the way TA2 operates. “What I think our partners have found is that TA2 is a partner they can depend on”, he says. “Yes, we need to be crazy creative and outside thinkers - but we believe we need to know the science of what we do. That way, you can let it go and fully embrace the art of it”.

Reflecting on the evolution of TA2, it rapidly becomes obvious just how essential that attitude has been. And whilst this passion-powered, quality-first approach might be the defining characteristic of his studio, it’s by no means exclusive to its president. All across the TA2 team, you can see evidence of a kind of passion which - to paraphrase Steve’s earlier comments - just can’t be faked. 

“In terms of how we’ve evolved as a company, a lot of it has been in tandem with the people we’ve brought on”, explains Steve. “For example when [partner and EP] Christine Leslie joined us she already had amazing passion and experience with licensing, which was not something we had a tonne of expertise in at that point. But her character and experience helped us build out our offering substantially, to the point where we’ve become a go-to destination for our clients licensing requests”. 

Fittingly, given the milestone anniversary, there’s also a theme of long-termism in Steve’s reflections. It’s a tendency to see the bigger picture, or the wood through the trees. “[Audio director and composer] Oliver Wickham is another example of someone who, actually, originally joined us straight out of school. He was trained in the studio as an engineer, then shadowed me on productions as an audio director. He earned every step and he’s a trained and talented composer in his own right” he says. “And he’s been another phenomenal person in helping TA2 to grow and become what we are today”. 

Making the Right Kind of Noise

Bringing the calendar right up to the present day, TA2 has become a regular presence across the industry’s biggest creative stages. In 2023’s Super Bowl, for example, the studio’s audio chops helped bring to life two standout ads for TD in Canada. 

“Both of these ads for TD were music licensing pieces which Christine was instrumental in putting together”, recalls Steve. And yet, even here we can see an example of TA2’s patented quality-oriented approach to the details.

“We actually arranged and recorded our own versions of the licensed songs in our studio”, he continues. “It’s so important that the music you're using works holistically with the other creative elements in the spot. That’s something we’re acutely aware of”. 

But the studio’s expertise is not limited to flagship Big-Game TVCs. Another string to TA2’s bow is the studio’s ability to tackle creative passion projects - bringing them to life in a way that surprises even their creators. “We do a few things, I still try to engineer, mix, and produce a couple of albums a year”, says Steve. “An example of that being Jay Danely’s Ethio-jazz project”. 

In addition to its quality, the sheer diversity of Steve and TA2’s work is also notable. “We’ve just launched [audio director] Drew Frohmann’s Human-B-Gon sci-fi comedy podcast, which is - topically - all about AI taking over”, adds Steve. “Drew created, wrote, and directed the show - which is produced at TA2”.

Another strong example would be Missing Matoaka, an astoundingly ambitious campaign which saw Steve help create an entirely separate audio track for the classic Disney film Pocahontas. The alternative track’s purpose was to shine a light on some harmful misconceptions around indigenous people in the pacific northwest which were elevated by the original movie. 

Speaking exclusively to LBB, BBDO Canada’s SVP and ECD Derek Blais expressed his surprise at the extent to which Steve and the TA2 team went to create an authentic-sounding environment. “With the overarching theme of truth, we made sure every ambience was connected to the region, down to the wildlife and birds you hear in the background”, recalls Steve. “It’s that kind of challenge which really gives you a creative buzz. Every project we tackle is like its own little Rubik’s Cube which needs to be solved, but it’s especially satisfying when someone asks you if you can do something which they’re not even sure is possible. Making that stuff happen is hugely satisfying”. 

True to form, it doesn’t take Steve long to cast his mind to the future and where TA2 might be headed. In that consistently quality-and-details-focused approach, we can begin to see the outline of an answer. “Something that’s never going to change is how important audio is for helping brands to cut through the noise - in fact, maybe it’s never been more important”, he says. “It’s 50% of the way people experience a brand. So there’s no overstating just how large of a role it plays”. 

The enduring magic of TA2, however, is just how well looked-after that 50% is on any given project. After fifteen years in the business, maybe that’s the studio’s greatest trick - ensuring that half of a brand’s media presence is a guaranteed hit. 

There’s a lot to be said, then, for the benefits of sweating the details.

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Genres: Music & Sound Design

TA2 Sound + Music, Mon, 27 Feb 2023 08:57:58 GMT