Every week we post a new interview with someone about what software they use on their Mac, iPhone, or iPad. We do these interviews because not only are they fun, but a glimpse into what tools someone uses and how they use those tools can spark our imagination and give us an idea or insight into how we can do things better.
Who are you and what do you do?
Hey! My name’s Brandon Green. I’m a product manager by day and a songwriter/producer by night, and I’m living in mellow (but surprisingly fun) Salem, MA.
I spend my weekdays financially supporting myself at Wayfair, the leading e-commerce site for home goods, at which I manage an internal operations product. I’ve also got my hand in a few apps on the side, helping with product strategy and UX design. My work here includes an early social promotion app called Radiary and another one called AudioDrops (sorry, too early to say anything about this one!).
I’m also a classically-trained pianist and self taught bassist/guitarist and have been writing music since my early teens; I’ve also been working for various tech companies based in Boston and NYC for the last 5 years or so. I release music under an alias called Sophomores, and you can check out some of my newest tunes on my SoundCloud page. I also write a bit on Medium and recently started a blog about creative lifestyle with my girlfriend called Tone Deaf & Color Blind (I’m the latter, she’s the former).
What is your current setup?
For my day job, I have to use an ugly stock Dell PC desktop, but for everything else in my life, I rely on a 2013 Macbook Pro with Retina display running OS X El Capitan.
I absolutely love this thing’s power and elegance – the 256GB SSD in particular gives me an amazing amount of speed and elegance in doing anything from checking the news to running a 42-track Logic session. I’ve been using it more portably as of late, for commuting between Salem and Boston and getting out of the house on weekends. We have a nice amount of open space and nature in Salem, so I rely heavily on my Herschel backpack for keeping my baby safe when I leave the house.
My girlfriend and I got lucky with a huge two-floor apartment when we moved to Salem, so I was able to put together a little office/music studio on the top floor. In the studio, when I’m at my desk, I connect the MBP to an LG UM95 34” ultra-wide monitor which is great for big recording sessions or bigger Trello boards. Most of the furniture in this space is salvaged from previous apartments, but I like what I’ve done with the room for very little extra cash. I built a cheap standing desk out of Ikea parts (some of which have apparently been discontinued), and use this old Multiboard stand thing to give the Macbook Pro extra height when standing. (I can push it back conveniently when I want to sit down at a barstool.)
For more relaxed work, I’ve also got an old Ikea Karlstad loveseat in this room and a 3rd-gen Apple TV hooked up to the second UM95 HDMI input, so I can have background TV/music. For listening, I use a pair of Roland MA-15D monitor speakers, which I got for a really good deal a few years ago and they still sound fantastic to me. They sit on top of a pair of Pyle speaker stands. I use Sony MDR-7506 headphones for most of my night-time listening and recording.
For recording gear, I like to keep as simple and portable as possible. I record through an Apogee Duet (3rd gen), and I play piano/synths with a Novation Launchkey (61 keys). I like these items for their easy portability so I can keep my desk setup consistent with my live performance setup. Behind the Launchkey, I have a classic Shure SM-58 with a cheap pop filter for vocal recordings and quick live rehearsals. I play guitar out of a little ZT Lunchbox, and I play bass out of an old SWR LA-15 combo amp that I got back in high school (but it still sounds surprisingly warm for a combo amp).
I don’t have very impressive guitars, but I will note my 5-string Schecter Stiletto studio bass. I absolutely love this thing’s tone and response and will probably never get rid of it.
For storage, I have a 3 TB Seagate Expansion external hard drive for extra storage for old projects, and a separate 2 TB Time Capsule that also powers the Wi-Fi in our apartment. My recording projects have started to get bigger as I record more with guitars and less with synths, so the extra space for backups is welcome.
Elsewhere on my desk, I have a little elago m2 iPhone stand (which is surprisingly useful for impromptu Skype/Facetime calls). On the walls, I have a mix of cool prints and art from friends of mine (including a few of my girlfriend’s photographs and a giant piece from my old friend Tony Hollums). Finally, a fun little reminder of my foundations: a congratulatory plaque for the release of my old band’s only album.
Where can we find your OS X wallpaper?
This is actually an image designed by my girlfriend, Alicia Valeri. We took a trip to LA two years ago and she took some great photos during a hike in Griffith Park, which resulted in this cool, hazy treatment.
What software do you use and for what do you use it?
Generally, I like sticking to Apple’s stock apps where I can (as to avoid clutter – I’m trying to embrace minimalism as a means to reduce distractions in my life). I embrace Apple Mail, Calendar, Safari, and Notes for their basic purposes.
On email, in particular: I’ve tried so many different email clients, but once I got to Inbox Zero for the first time, I was able to stick to it without the help of apps like Mailbox and Dispatch. Not having extra apps installed makes me happy and keeps my system cleaner.
Since I’m a product/project manager by day, I tend to get a bit more detailed when it comes to tasks and projects. I use 2Do for personal tasks & projects, and Trello for anything collaborative. I’ve found the visual, board-based interface of Trello is amazing for collaborating with others on music projects, the blog, and for roadmapping full-on apps, so it’s become a major player in my life’s work. (For what it’s worth, I use Trello via the Xccello standalone app with a custom icon.) For personal stuff, I love 2Do – I used stock Reminders for a long time due to Siri input, but then switched to 2Do once I realized I could keep that functionality with much more detail on my tasks.
Hmm, what else:
- Ulysses for writing long-form stuff (lyrics, product requirements, bigger brainstorms, blog posts, this interview, etc.)
- Apple Notes for simpler reference-like stuff; notes about my health, wish lists, gift ideas for friends, etc. (I absolutely love the Notes share extension in iOS / OS X.)
- Tweetbot to keep track of Twitter.
- Current to keep track of Facebook.
- Reeder 3 to keep track of news and writing that I care about. I get news via Feedly, and I save articles via Readability, all centralized in one beautiful app.
- Slack to communicate with the folks involved with a couple of work projects.
- Google Drive to sync everything and share files with others.
- Coda to maintain my couple of websites and talk to an S3 server.
- Copyfeed for passing text freely between my iDevices and my Mac.
- 1Password to manage my logins.
- f.lux to keep my eyesight intact.
- Time Machine for backing my stuff up every day.
- Amphetamine for keeping the MBP up late while I run large backups.
- Divvy when I’m not in fullscreen mode.
- Alfred to open everything up.
For audio, I rely on 3 apps primarily: Propellerhead’s Reason 8 for playing piano and sketching musical ideas, Logic Pro X for recording and producing tracks, and iTunes (yup) for listening to everything. As much as people hate on iTunes, I actually love that it covers virtually all my listening needs – from quickly importing and reviewing the tracks & demos I’m working on, to maintaining a fairly large music library, to auto-downloading new podcast episodes. With the Macbook Pro’s SSD, it’s surprisingly performant and low-profile on my Mac setup.
How would your ideal setup look and function?
Hardware-wise, I could probably do better in terms of the ergonomics of the desk itself. I’d love a slightly taller desk or a better solution for more height when standing because I don’t love the Multiboard thing.
Software-wise, I’d love for the new Apple Notes to allow for collaboration within notes, but this isn’t a deal breaker.
What iPhone do you have?
iPhone 6 Plus, 128GB, Silver. (I wanted a Space Gray one, but couldn’t get one without a huge wait last October, so I took the next best thing. Looking for Space Gray in my next upgrade.)
What apps do you use the most, and why?
In terms of sheer time, Apple Music and Podcasts. I’ve got tunes or new podcast episodes streaming out of my phone all day long. Comedy Bang Bang gets me through long stretches of tedious testing work at the day job.
In terms of apps, probably 2Do since I’m constantly checking what I need to be doing next. A close second and third would be Drafts and Reeder — I’m constantly jotting down little notes throughout the day that get sorted into various places (mostly Trello, 2Do and Notes), and I’ve got a bad habit of constantly checking for news updates. I’m proud to say that I’ve weened myself off social updates on my phone, but not quite blogs/news yet.
I mainly keep in touch with people via 3 applications: Messages/iMessage (for friends/family), Hangouts (also for close friends & colleagues), and Slack (for work projects). I keep the Phone app in my dock mostly for emergencies and frequent contacts (read: girlfriend), but it’s certainly not the most common means of communication I use.
I also spend a lot of my daily commutes reading via both iBooks and the aforementioned Reeder, both of which look great on the giant 6 Plus screen (and sort of rendered my iPad unnecessary for daily use). I use Readability’s share extension to easily save articles for later, which then pop up instantly in Reeder. I have a big Entertainment folder of other apps for occasional fun (Hulu, Netflix, Product Hunt, Medium, etc.) I sometimes use WordPress and Coda for iOS to quickly check on my websites, fix bugs, or review occasional comments.
I occasionally tinker with music on my iPhone, too. I usually use the Voice Memos app to quickly take down song ideas & melodies for later. I also experiment a bit on the go using Loopy, Garageband, DM1 and Propellerheads’ Figure. I also have started to play around with Periscope to live-broadcast piano jams.
I’ve started to embrace the iPhone as a means of keeping myself healthy and sane. I love Sleep Cycle as an alarm clock and sleep monitor. I love Steps as a basic pedometer and reminder to stay active. I’ve been looking for a more in-depth dashboard/insights app, but haven’t picked one yet. Alicia and I are foodies, and we use OpenTable regularly to plan dates.
For more boring daily stuff, I’m constantly checking my finances with Mint, keeping track of Prime purchases with the Amazon app, and scanning receipts in an attempt at paperless-ness with Scanner Pro. I rely on Copyfeed to share text across my devices and 1Password both for accessing my accounts and two-factor authentication (hoping for a 2-factor authentication shortcut or Today widget sometime!!!). I also use stock Mail, Calendar, Safari, and Notes for daily email, appointments, web browsing, and basic note storage.
Which app could you not live without?
This is kind of a stupid answer, but Apple Music. Being able to both tap into my giant music library, plus all the other music out there in the world, is astonishing and truly keeps me sane. I could fall back to pen and paper for all else if I had to, but Music provides a constant source of energy, fun, catharsis, or just background noise when I need it.
Which iPad do you have?
iPad Air 2, 64GB, Space Gray.
How are you using your iPad on a daily basis?
I’ve been struggling to find a use for my iPad that would render it constantly in use, but I’m starting to be okay with this. I bought it a short while ago in an attempt to be even more portable (inspired by this MacStories post), but after realizing how much I truly loved my iPhone 6 Plus on the go and how reliant I am on OS X for work and music, I’ve sort of relegated the iPad to a shared content machine for my girlfriend and me. This isn’t a bad thing at all – it’s just not quite the daily driver I was hoping it would be.
I’ve also been using it to tinker with music ideas, and I’ve been hoping to try and leverage it more in live performance as a synthesizer/live looper.
What apps do you use the most, and why?
My iPad app usage is pretty similar to my iPhone app usage, generally, which is part of my struggle here. Content-wise, I’m spending a lot of time using Reeder, Tweetbot, Netflix, Hulu, Podcasts and Apple Music. I also use Trello a decent amount on the iPad for the aforementioned work boards I maintain. I absolutely love Drafts and Ulysses on the iPad as well, on the rare occasion that I find myself wanting to write with the iPad in tow.
As I mentioned, I also like to tinker with music ideas on the iPad. All my music apps are spread out on my 2nd homescreen. I’ve been most frequently playing with Loopy HD, the DM1 drum machine, Novation’s Launchpad app, and this really cool Fugue Machine app which takes a simple melody and layers it in various ways automatically. (All these apps are usually run through Audiobus.)
Which app could you not live without?
I think I could live without an iPad entirely if I really wanted to, but I’m probably most reliant on Trello in this context. The iPad provides a great interface to quickly review a board and drag things around.
There are more Sweet Setup interviews right here.