Sparta resident wins 2019 Grammy Award for master engineering of Album of the Year, 'Golden Hour'

| 28 Feb 2019 | 09:51

    When Steve Fallone was a boy shopping for records with his mother in Paramus, NJ in the 1970s, he could never have dreamed that on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019 he’d walk the red carpet with his wife and daughters, and then win a Grammy Award for his master engineering. But that’s exactly what happened. The final award of this year’s Grammy night was for Album of the Year, which was “Golden Hour” by Kacey Musgraves, and so Steve, along with colleagues who’d worked on the album together, took the stage with Musgraves during their surreal moment, to receive the award. This is his second time nomininated as a mastering engineer and first time as Grammy winner. He and Greg Calbi are co-credited as mastering engineers on the album, and worked on it together. Over the years Steve has worked on countless Grammy-nominated and Grammy-winning albums.
    “Too numerous to keep count,” as he says.
    “Just this year alone, Greg and I worked on 18 Grammy-nominated album projects in various categories. although the mastering engineer or producer only receives a nomination in certain categories... such as Album of The Year, Record of The Year, best engineered recording...”
    Steve has lived in Sparta for 15 years and is a mastering engineer at Sterling Sound in Edgewater, NJ, where he has worked for more than 20 years. He was previously Grammy-nominated in 2014 for Best Historical Album. “Golden Hour” also won the Country Music Award’s (CMA) Album of the Year in 2018.
    “I’ve always been hooked on music,” Steve said. “Ever since I was just a kid, I would always be playing my mother’s records: Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson. I was mesmerized. I would listen to anything she would put on.”
    His fascination with music grew over the years, and he developed his own talent and taste in music genres.
    “I always knew I wanted to be involved in music,” he said. “And I thought, what can I do, to do this as a job? Maybe I could be a journalist, or work in a record store?”
    But then he heard an FM radio advertisement that changed his trajectory.
    “I heard this ad on the radio for the Institute of Audio Research,” he said. “I was like 22 at the time. I remember thinking, ‘That’s it! I’ll sign up for that.”
    Eventually, it lead to an internship, job placements, and then working as mastering engineer at PolyGram Records for 4 years. Later, Steve applied to mastering studios in New York, which led to a job working alongside Greg Calbi.
    “We mastered all these albums together....the reason I got the job is because Greg is so in demand that he needs a guy to do all the spillover work.”
    At Sterling Sound, Steve divides his time between collaborating with Greg on his projects and developing his own clientele.
    Calbi, said Steve has innate talent for detail in the music industry.
    “Steve started working with me in 1996, so it’s been 23 years of working together,” Calbi said. “He started with me as an assistant engineer. I recognized early on that he had very golden ears and very, very sensitive ears. He’s a mastering engineer partner with me now.”
    He also realized Steve could give invaluable feedback before returning materials to the client.
    “There’s a personal vision that it comes to, when we’re doing a mix,” Calbi said. “It’s a matter of what and how a client wants to see in their mix. We both hear things in that similar, abstract way.”
    What was it like for Steve to find out that he was nominated for a second time? Since the news came a year and a half after making the album, it was “a little bit of a surprise and unexpected,” he said. “But it’s a really good album. The Grammy voters deemed that it was the best one out of the records that were nominated.”
    The arrival on the red carpet, the waiting, and even the atmosphere backstage after the win, all seemed “very, very hectic,” but fun.
    “I felt like a star for a moment,” he said, laughing. “I remember a colleague at work said, ‘Remember, your five minutes of fame is just about up.’”
    The envelope, the announcement, then Fallone was up on stage in a wonderful, but surreal moment.
    “I had friends calling me out of the blue, saying, ‘Oh, my God, I saw you,’”
    In fact, the day after the Grammy Awards, a photo of Steve, his colleagues, and Musgraves accepting the award on stage, landed on the front page of the Arts section of the NY Times.
    He’s grateful for the win, but also aware that his long hours in the music business can be tough on loved ones.
    Steve’s wife is Sonia Fallone. She has owned the hair salon on Main Street in Sparta, Hair Glow, for about eight years, though the Salon is moving to 25 Sparta Ave. within the next few weeks. His oldest daughter, Nicole, majors in Visual Arts and Technology at Stevens Institute of Technology, and she’s considering music marketing. His daughter, Ashley, is majoring in Biology, with a focus on Ecology, at Rutgers.
    “We’re really proud of him,” Nicole said. “He’s been working long hours for years in the music business, so it’s really nice to see him getting some credit out there.”
    How did the accomplished mastering engineer end up in Sparta? He and his wife were looking for good public schools for their two girls, who were in first and fourth-grade when the Fallones moved to Sparta 15 years ago. Steve loves his family, loves where he lives, and loves his occupation.
    “It’s the best job in the world for me,” he said. “The only downside is it often means very, very long hours; the only part of the job that’s kind of a bummer. How many times I’ve come home literally at 8 o’clock in the morning. I guess that’s the way it is in show biz. Seems like a glamorous job, but really it’s a lot of hard work, late nights, and long hours sometimes.”