Los Angeles, CA (July 20, 2021)—The Village Studios in L.A. has long been a haven for artists and producers, a home away from home for the likes of Robbie Robertson, John Mayer, John Alagía and the late Ed Cherney, who all set up shop at the facility over the years. In May, the Village added to that list with multiple award-winning producer and songwriter T Bone Burnett, his longtime engineer, Mike Piersante, and a third partner, musician, engineer and producer Zach Dawes, taking up residence in Studio Z.
The second-floor space was previously occupied by producer and composer Alagía and adjoins the Moroccan Room, a high-ceilinged space that was the original meeting room in the 1920s former Masonic Lodge—which, in the 1960s, served as the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation center—that houses the Village.
“T Bone was the reason we built the Moroccan Room. He was always coming through and saying, ‘You’re not using this space properly,’” says Jeff Greenberg, owner and CEO of the Village.
The Moroccan Room had been used for years for storage, says Burnett, well known for producing soundtracks for such films as Crazy Heart, Cold Mountain, Walk the Line and O Brother, Where Art Thou? Burnett’s Grammy-winning productions include albums with B.B. King, Tony Bennett and k.d. lang, and Alison Krauss and Robert Plant.
“As we started taking the stuff out, we noticed there was this extraordinary room in the midst of all of this, so we started planning to build a beautiful scoring stage, a large-scale live room like Abbey Road that can handle a symphony orchestra,” Burnett says.
“Recording equipment has gotten so small and the demands of the studio are quite different than they were when that was the only place you could go to record,” he adds. “It’s important to have a big live space with character and vibe, where you can play around one mic and blend and have it sound great.”
The Village, which opened in 1968, has long favored Neve mixing consoles. “Our relationship with Neve is huge,” Greenberg explains. “When I got to the Village in 1995, there was an SSL G in Studio A. Al Schmitt came to me and said, ‘You should have a Neve in here.’ Al found us an 8048; it’s still in A.” Studios B and D both house AMS Neve 88R desks.
Burnett and Piersante, who have frequently worked in Studio D, selected the manufacturer’s Genesys Black console for their new control room. AMS Neve reports that Studio Z’s new Genesys, with 64 faders and 48 analog channel strips combining 32 channels of vintage 1084 Neve EQ with 16 channels of contemporary 88R-style 4-band EQ, is one of the largest the company has built.
“It gives us the analog heritage of the Neves that we’re used to and moves us further into the 21st century with all the workstation control, upgraded equalization, signal paths, everything,” Piersante says. “This whole room is about good-sounding, old-school analog with a modern flair, to accommodate the workflows we’ve all grown into.”
“I do love Neves,” adds Burnett. “I worked for years at Ocean Way in Hollywood where we had those beautiful early Neves with class-A electronics. Things are improved by running through a good class-A console.”
Burnett and Piersante had been working out of a home-based studio in L.A.’s Brentwood neighborhood for the past 22 years. “The first record we did there was Sam Phillips’ Fan Dance, which is still one of my favorite albums,” says Burnett.
But with Burnett’s wife, screenwriter, producer and director Callie Khouri, committed to working on a project in Nashville, he relocated to their Tennessee home when the pandemic hit in early 2020. “If I’d stayed in Los Angeles, it was clear we weren’t going to see each other for a year,” he says.
In Nashville, he has continued to collaborate remotely with Piersante. “We’re doing a lot of things where Mike is mixing at the Village and I’m mixing the same tune, listening along at Blackbird or Sound Emporium [studios],” Burnett says, still in Nashville. “We’ve been doing a lot of remote work since last March using Audiomovers; I listen, and I may make a move, then Mike will copy it.”
Studio Z’s control room has been renovated under the direction of renowned acoustician George Augspurger. “Every square inch of the room was pretty much dictated by George with regard to acoustic treatment and design, with Mike, Zach and T Bone’s input,” Greenberg reports.
Studio manager Tina Morris, who consulted with Piersante on every aspect of the new room’s technical specification, has also overseen the implementation of a facility-wide analog tieline network.
“We have the ability to record on any control surface in any room from any other room at the Village,” says Greenberg, including the Moroccan Room, the Auditorium and Studios A, B, D, F and Z. “The room is wired for video, and we’re lining it up to accommodate any digital or analog format and recording medium.”
Monitoring is provided by a 5.1 Ocean Way Audio system—three freestanding HR3.5s across the front with HR4s handling the rear channels. “They’re glorious monitors,” says Piersante, who has added some of his own gear to the complement in Studio Z. The equipment list now includes pieces from Alan Smart, Altec, API, Empirical Labs, GML, Manley, Neve, Retro Instruments, Teletronix, Universal Audio and others.
Meanwhile, there are plans under way to expand the room’s capabilities for Dolby Atmos production. “We’ve been researching all of our existing spaces for the past few years to see how we could integrate a Dolby Atmos system into our rooms,” says Morris, noting that Studios D and Z are likely initial candidates.
Greenberg is thrilled to have new residents at the Village. “It’s a huge honor to have T Bone, Mike and Zach here,” he says. “It’s a complement to all the other great artists, adds to our community and makes it even more of an invitation to our entire business.”