JOHN Merchant was writing for a magazine when he went out on a story that changed his life.
He visited the Bee Gees at their studio in South Beach, Miami, realised that was where he wanted to be, and started as an intern, progressing to assistant sound engineer, engineer and producer.
During the past 25 years, he has worked on more than 30 major label releases with the Bee Gees, not counting others with Barry Gibb.
His list of notable clients also includes Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Cliff Richard, Paul Anka, Celine Dion, Michael Buble, Ronan Keating, Lenny Kravitz, Toni Braxton, and R Kelly.
And, if all goes well, the Cheap Fakes.
Nashville-based Mr Merchant has been holed up at Barbara and Allan Pease's Heliport Sudios at Buderim since just after Christmas, working with the six-piece reggae-ska-funk fusion outfit on its third album - and loving it.
"Some things are intangible," he said. "There are some studios that are incredibly good technically, but are very cold.
"Technically, everything here is cool, but the atmosphere is incredibly warm and inviting."
The Queensland-based Cheap Fakes scored the Grammy-nominated engineer and producer by cheek.
Frontman Hayden Andrews heard Mr Merchant speak at a guest lecture in Brisbane last February, introduced himself and asked if he would be interested in listening to some of the band's music.
"Usually, when you get these, they're terrible," Mr Merchant said. "I took them home and listened to them and they were great."
The two began corresponding. Mr Merchant offered some advice, and Mr Andrews suggested he might like to produce the band's next album.
"Stuff like this only happens when you ask and you put yourself out there," Mr Andrews said.
The Bee Gees - "It was the first big project I had a chance to work on fresh out of school. It was cool."
Michael Jackson - "I was setting up a vocal for him and he started singing Man in the Mirror. It was like he was singing it to me."
Barbra Streisand - "She was wonderful - very bright, very motivated. She wanted it to be not great but spectacular."
Lenny Kravitz - "He's very bright and very charming and he has this gift where you're talking with him and you feel like you've been friends forever."