MLB pitcher Jake Peavy has a reputation for fierce intensity on the mound. His competitiveness has helped to earn him a Cy Young Award and two World Series championships. But baseball isn’t Peavy’s only focus. He can get just as fired up about music as he does about throwing strikes.
“I feel like music really found me,” Peavy says. “I just had no choice. I came to the big leagues when I was just 20. I wasn’t old enough to go out and drink beer with my teammates, but I had this coach, Tim Flannery, who played guitar. He would take a bottle of wine and his guitar into a stairwell, and he sat and played his music. He was such a cool tie for me, because, being from Alabama, I had a deep love of traditional country music, and I grew up in church listening to gospel.
“Tim Flannery is from Kentucky and plays a lot of gospel, bluegrass and country stuff, but he’s California-raised and was also really into the Flying Burrito Brothers-type free spirits,” Peavy continues. “So when he’d had most of that bottle of wine, he’d go to putting that guitar down sometimes, and I’d pick it up and say, ‘Show me how to play “Pancho and Lefty,” or something. Next thing I knew, there was a Taylor guitar in my locker with a note from Tim saying, ‘Bring this with you on the next road trip.’”
When he wasn’t blowing away batters, Peavy dug deep into the blues in Chicago, rock ’n’ roll in Boston, and the Grateful Deadinspired jam-band scene in San Francisco, where—touring being one of the commonalities between sports and music—the Giants’ Director of Team Travel was Bret Alexander, a former Tour Travel Manager for U2.
Along the way, Peavy also founded the Jake Peavy Foundation, a nonprofit that has benefited veterans’ and childrens’ charities in the cities where Peavy has pitched.
Dauphin Street Sound assistant engineer Josh Daigrepont, at the SSL AWS948 in Studio B, the mix room, which features Dynaudio BM6MkIII monitors.
Now Peavy has invested all of his passion for music and for giving back—and a generous amount of his capital—in his hometown of Mobile, where he’s helping to bring about a cultural renaissance.
“I wanted to come back and put my foundation on the ground where I was from, “ Peavy says.
Peavy also knew that he wanted to energize the music scene in Mobile, a scene with a long and storied tradition, but he didn’t set out to open a studio. He conferred with his friend Ben Jernigan, a guitarist who was working a day job as an EMT when Peavy recruited him to help bring some cohesion to his philanthropic efforts and his love of music.
“We talked about a music venue, we talked about developing the foundation,” Jernigan recalls. “There were many arms of our potential plan, so Jake tasked me first with finding an office, and I ended up finding a defunct recording studio that used to be called Jada Entertainment.
“I could see that it had the square footage for a number of things that we had talked about doing,” Jernigan continues. “It was pretty barebones, but we decided to revive it as a working, creative space; the idea was to spearhead a scene with the studio as ground zero for that.”
“We were new to this game, though,” Peavy says. “So we went about putting together the most qualified team of like-minded people who are crazy talented. We wanted to do things the right way.”
Peavy’s right hand through all of this has been his brother, and business manager, Luke Peavy. “My family is everything to me,” Jake Peavy says. “My relationships are what I value the most, and I don’t have a better relationship in life than the one I have with my brother. It’s as comforting as anything I can imagine, knowing that during the baseball season Luke can manage things here.”
Jernigan and the Peavys began renovating the former Jada facility, starting with the lobby. “We wanted it to immediately feel like a place where you wanted to make music,” Jernigan says. “When you walk in, the first wall you see is made of rough-cut timbers that we pulled down from Southern Falls [Peavy’s 5,000-acre ranch/retreat in central Alabama]. Once we had that in place, everybody was celebrating, like ‘We have a lobby! It’s awesome here!’ But we still needed a functional studio.”
Two of the three mid-sized iso booths, the one next to the control room housing a prized B3.
Grammy-winning engineer Trina Shoemaker was called up to offer some personal recommendations for the studio equipment and workflow. As she explains, she never expected the studio to follow her suggestions to the letter. But before another year had passed, Peavy and his team—which by then included homegrown chief engineer Keylan Laxton—had assembled Shoemaker’s dream studio largely from her and Laxton’s recommendations, and from design plans provided by acoustician Gavin Haverstick.
Haverstick’s business is based in Indianapolis, and he was referred to Peavy by Sweetwater sales engineer Brendan Murphy. “It was really a lot of fun for me,” Haverstick says. “It’s always great when clients are willing to build custom treatments.”
Haverstick provided guidelines for acoustical clouds, and for the live room he recommended the curving, clear Flex48 Adaptive Treatment System panels that he had developed in collaboration with Acoustical Fulfillment.
“Flex48 has rubber built into a removable shield so it will curve easily,” Haverstick explains. “The panels have more low-frequency absorption when the shield is in place and scatters the mids to highs, but when the shield is removed it acts the way a traditional absorber would.
“Keylan told me that on sessions they will set up a drummer and have him play through 12 bars or so, then walk around the room and add a few of those shields until it sounds the way it’s supposed to; then they can mark that in their notes and they can always go back to that drum sound.”
Haverstick also provided the design and acoustics for the facility’s main addition, an SSL AWS948-based mix room with Dynaudio monitoring.
Chief engineer Laxton had worked at Jada previously, as well as operating a personal studio, so his experience with the facility and local artists have proven valuable.
“It’s been a blessing working with [Jake and Trina],” Laxton says. “I’ve learned from both of them. Trina has a great understanding and a great truth about her. There are no blurred lines. If something doesn’t feel right to her, she’ll let you know. It’s like something Jake said to me before we even met her that really rang true. We were talking more along the lines of baseball, and he said, ‘Keylan, you’re only going to be as great as the people you surround yourself with, and you’re only going to be as great as the people you’re learning from.’
“And then I met Trina, and suddenly I have a mentor who has won Grammys. When she comes around, I am always full of questions, and she will have computer questions for me. We have a mutual love and respect for each other, and I think we work great together.”
Jake Peavy Productions director of new business, Mackenzie Harrell, in the lobby of Dauphin Street Sound, in front of the rough-hewn wall made of wood brought in from Jake Peavy’s Southern Falls ranch.
Now that Dauphin Street Sound is up and running, the Peavys and their team have progressed with other plans that fit their vision of a revitalized downtown Mobile arts district: They’ve purchased an entire city block, where they’ve already developed a “social club”/rehearsal space, and a band house with convenient accommodations is in the works.
Meanwhile, Haverstick is helping to design a second tracking room, and in keeping with the the business is paying it forward by mentoring college-student interns. They have also joined with local Boys and Girls clubs to offer music and audio education to youngsters.
“We’re taking our time to piece all of this together,” Peavy says, “to give people an experience and do it in Mobile, in this 300-year-old city that has such rich tradition, history and culture.”
Trina Shoemaker on Dauphin Street
Engineer/producer Trina Shoemaker, at the API 1608 with her own pair of Genelec 8351 SAM monitors.
Three-time Grammy-winner Trina Shoemaker has no illusions, and offers none, about the music business. Despite her unassailably beautiful body of work and star-studded resume (Blues Traveler, Sheryl Crow, Queens of the Stone Age, Iggy Pop, etc.), she has been through down times and a hurricane. Yet she remains a hopeless gear geek and music lover.
These days, Shoemaker is happy to lend her endorsement to her new favorite monitors, the Genelec 8351s, which she’s installed in her personal studio, and she seems to have found an ideal home away from home at Dauphin Street Sound, just 30 minutes from her front door.
How did you get involved with Jake Peavy and the studio?
I only learned after the fact that Jake and these guys were working to help create a music scene here in the truest sense—an authentic renaissance of music and art in downtown Mobile. But first, I got a call from Ben [Jernigan], and he said, “Can you come down and look at this space, as a producer on the level you work, and let us know what it would take to make this a place you would book.”
So I came down and put together a type of proposal. It was fun for me because it could be a dream room. Anything you want. At first I was like, “That’s kind of bullshit. Who are you guys?” But they paid me a day rate, and I went for it and turned it in… and they went and bought it all, and they did the install, and then they called me.
I was blown away. I had no idea there was any backing. I thought they would see my list and go, “Oh, okay, that’s a million dollars, we’re not studio owners.” But I got a call from Luke [Peavy] about me coming to the studio with my 32 years of knowledge and my name, because that’s really all I have. I didn’t make an enormous amount of money making records. I made enough to stay in the middle class, but the point is, I really do this, and I really do love a great tracking room and I don’t want to travel all the time.
So I checked it out, and what I found there were these really young, smart people who were determined to make it matter, to make it real. At this point in my life, I need stability. I need to know that I don’t have to travel all the time. I can be here for my family, but I can still make records. And so I partnered with them.
What is your role in the studio?
When I say I partnered, in no way did I come up with any capital. I still have my own mix room at home, and all my capital goes into that little—that sad little space compared to this [Laughs). I mean, I partnered with my name and my expertise.
And it works great. I just got done mixing [albums for] Josh Ritter and Secret Sisters, and I’m able to stretch out in this room because they met that bar. They said we will do what you think is right to make this real. To give it a great feel and a sound, and there cannot be anything unethical or inauthentic about it. I said, “If it has my name, it’s got to be right,” and they rose to that—superseded it, in fact, on many levels.
What were some of those big things that you asked for in terms of gear and workflow?
It was an in-depth list, but basically it was to acquire a gear inventory that could compete with Sunset Sound or The Clubhouse up in New York. The best gear, things people spend years collecting. Stuff you can fall in love with and always fix—not replace but always repair.
It certainly sounds like they met your needs.
They met the bar. They said, we will do what you think is the right thing to make this real. And I said the only thing that makes this real is, it sounds great, records get made here, and people talk about it; people need to know that it’s got a great feel, and it’s happening here, in Mobile.
I know that my name gives this place credibility. I know that people know who I am and what I do, but this business is never about you and your Grammys. It’s about the people who really want to do this for a living and will make the sacrifices to do it. This is people’s lives. We bleed for this.
So it’s important that people also know that this is not just a cool place for old gear geeks. It’s truly a place for young people to come to get their start, and to flourish.
Studio A: Tracking and Mixing
Console: API 32-Channel 1608 with Automation
Monitors: Barefoot Sound Micromain 27 Gen 2
Selected Outboard: Neve 1073DPX, Shadow Hills Quad and Dual Vandergraph, GAMA with Iron Mod, Retro Instruments 2A-3, Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor, UA LA2A, Bricasti System 2
Studio B: The Mix Room
Console: SSL AWS924
Monitors: Dynaudio BM6MkIII
Selected Outboard: UA 1176LN, Avalon VT737SP, Focusrite ISA 430, API 3124
The Mic Cabinet
RCA 77DX, Coles 4038 Stereo Pair, EV RE20, AKG D12 and D112, Shure SM7B, AEA R92, Neumann TLM103 matched pair, Sennheiser MD421 MkII and e906, and many others