Originally Posted by FridgeBuzz
if TL:DR - how do I get better at stops and rests as a feel player.
You just have to be comfortable with the song and be able to feel it coming. That either comes with listening to the tune over and over and over again, or writing out the form to the measure and learning it like you would a regular chart - following along as you play and/or listen.
In regard to the rest of your post.. that's a crappy situation. Something has to be said for the fact that your fans are already familiar with the existing version, or changing too much may not have a desired effect. You say this guy is "local".. what is his experience? how successful were the other tracks he helped produce? Have this talk with your bandmates, but unless you explicitly given this guy production credit on the track, there's no reason you have to take his advice.
EDIT. just saw that you said he was the producer. so scratch all that rant.