Cape Cod is known as an upscale tourist destination for the Northeast, packed with beaches and maritime history, but live music and recording studios? Not so much. That’s changing, however, thanks to the June debut of The Music Room in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts. An 88-seat venue for the musically discerning, it is fielding artists like The Immediate Family, Roomful of Blues, Peter Asher, Ari Hest, Billy Gilman, Jon Butcher, Popa Chubby, Richard Lloyd, Midge Ure, Blood Sweat & Tears and more in its first six months.
“It’s an art gallery, a listening room…I don’t want to say it’s one-stop shopping, but there’s a lot of great creative elements here,” says Grammy-winning producer/blues guitarist Paul Nelson. One of three partners in the place, Nelson headlines occasionally (like August 20 this month), but his main role at the Music Room is to produce artists in the backstage recording studio.
While that might bring to mind visions of a dusty DAW laptop at stageside, Studio A, located on the other side of the stage’s back wall, is actually a well-appointed control room with two iso booths. Using the venue as a live room, Studio A offers a choice of Pro Tools, Logic Pro and Studio One DAWs; studio monitors like Focal Trio11 BEs and PreSonus Eris E3.5s, along with traditional Yamaha NS10s; preamps from Focusrite, Universal Audio, Avalon, Warm Audio and dbx; outboard processing from Klark-Teknik, Rupert Neve Designs and others; and all the usual suspects when it comes to mics—Neumann, AKG, Sennheiser, EV, Audio- Technica, Shure, Aston, Røde and more.
“It’s not like the studios that I’m used to, with a mixing board as long as a tour bus, but we can do just as much as damage,” jokes Nelson. “It’s a great place—I brought in friends of mine from NBC and SNL to design the studio’s acoustics. It’s surrounded by wood from 1709.”
The same acoustical team also developed the venue’s main room to provide an optimal listening experience for the audience while also ensuring that neighbors aren’t inundated by concerts every night. In addition to a front entrance built to lessen SPLs spilling on to the street, says Nelson, “We have double-thick walls with a layer of acoustic tiles and soundproofing so that no one can hear anything outside. That also makes it a pleasure to hear any style of music in here—it’s like sitting inside a speaker.”
Creating that live sound experience is a house system based around a Soundcraft SI Impact 32-channel desk at FOH and Midas M32 at monitors, feeding a house PA of four JBL AE4612s loudspeakers, bolstered by a pair of JBL Marquis Double-15” subs. The 20×12-foot stage is often adorned with a variety of house floor monitors—QSC CP12s, Turbosound TFX122s and SoundBridge 3112WLs—but IEMs can be accommodated as well.
When the Music Room threw open its doors in mid-June, it was the culmination of a long-gestating dream. Former musicians turned real-estate pros Scott Cornella and Brian Serpone had always planned to open a venue in the region; when Nelson—who won a 2014 Best Blues Album Grammy for playing on and producing Johnny Winter’s final album, Step Back—joined as a third partner, the trio took the plunge and signed a lease in December, 2019, just months before COVID-19 hit. “The pandemic didn’t slow us down,” says Nelson, who notes it gave them time to fully develop the venue’s offerings. Ironically, locals are now discovering the Music Room just as Nelson, who typically plays 150- 180 shows a year, is back on the road, talking up the venue/studio to every artist he meets. It’s working, too, as G Love and others have already recorded there.
While Cape Cod has numerous outdoor venues, the Music Room is unique to the region in that it’s indoors and will offer live performances five nights a week year-round. So far, the community has been supportive, coming in to catch a show, browse the adjacent art gallery, grab a bite or just eyeball memorabilia on display like late Boston singer Brad Delp’s personal 1873 Chickering concert grand piano.
“The Music Room is sold out every night,” says Nelson with a mix of pride and amazement. “There was a hunger for music on Cape Cod, so this was like a beacon—and it’s been very successful.”