In his years as an engineer in Nashville, Scott Hendricks says he spent thousands of hours in studios that, aesthetically speaking, were little better than dungeons. Today, 21 years after his arrival in town, Hendricks has become a preeminent producer (with credits including Restless Heart, Alan Jackson, Faith Hill, Brooks & Dunn, John Michael Montgomery, Trace Adkins, Leroy Parnell and Suzy Bogguss), major label chief (first for Capitol's Nashville division, now for Virgin's) and owner of the lovely Arrowhead Studio.
The studio is on Hendricks' 100-acre spread in Leipers Fork (outside of Nashville) in a building adjacent to his home, on what was formerly the site of a two-car garage. He'd originally planned to refit the garage, but in pursuit of his vision Hendricks ended up tearing down this structure, and (with the design help of Steve Durr) building Arrowhead from the ground up. "I wanted to be able to be in an atmosphere that was overwhelmingly creative," Hendricks says, "so I opted for an emphasis on aesthetics. It's really a different kind of design than most studios: It looks like a chalet you'd see in Colorado-23-foot ceiling with big log beams. The entire back of the studio is glass. You can look in the front window and see all the way through the control room and the studio and out to the pool-a beautiful view."
Hendricks says there are treatments that can be used to keep reflections down for tracking and mixing (including ones that pull down over the windows) but explains that the space is ideal for the work that's done there. "This is a place that was built really for me," he says. "It's not for commercial bookings at all. Writers for my publishing company (Big Tractor Music) use it to cut demos, occasionally close friends of mine use it, and I use it for my record projects. I really specifically wanted to make it more of an overdub room, possibly evolving into a mix room, where if you had to track, you could. And we've done all three. [The building includes a piano room, a lounge, kitchen and maintenance room, all wired for recording.] But primarily I will come into Nashville and cut tracks at a studio that's designed specifically for tracking in the way that I typically do-more live, more players. I will then move my project out to Arrowhead to do the overdub process, which for me is roughly 60 percent of the time spent on making a record."
And working at Arrowhead, Hendricks feels, is time well spent. "It's just a real joy to work in a place that is filled with natural light and that's in natural surroundings," he says. "And artists aren't like guitars; you can't just change the strings and start all new. They get tired, emotionally and physically, and they need a break. This is a great place just to hang out when you're breaking. You can ride a horse, hike or take a swim; you can fish, go golfing, cook out, whatever. It's so conducive to creativity." Hendricks works on all his productions at Arrowhead, including, most recently, Restless Heart and new Virgin artists Julie Reeves and Jerry Kilgore.
The studio is equipped with 48 tracks of Otari RADAR and a pair of Mackie D8Bs (totaling 144 channels). When overdubbing, Hendricks uses the Mackies mostly for monitoring (through Tannoy 215 mains or an array of near-fields), preferring to go to tape through the studio's mic pre's (including models by Telefunken, Neve, API, GML and Trident). The setup serves both Hendricks and Big Tractor's writers well. "There are lots of different projects in and out of here," Hendricks says, "and with the D8Bs the writers have instant recall. They cut on RADAR and mix right there on it." Also on hand are a Pro Tools 24 rig, loads of outboard and an array of mics, including Neumann and Audio-Technica pieces (the mic that Hendricks uses the most is a heavily modified AKG C-12).
In addition to creative inspiration, having his own studio gives Hendricks the opportunity to spend more time with his family. "The hours that we put in when we make records are pretty long," he says. "My private cabin is only a breezeway away, so my daughter can just walk in and help me record."