New York, NY (February 6, 2024)—It’s not every day that an insurance company embarks upon building a mobile recording studio, but for The General, it’s not as far a stretch as it might appear. In 2023, The General launched a new campaign called “The Break,” with a mission to reach drivers who need a break in life, as well as on their car insurance.
Part of that mission includes providing opportunities to up-and-coming artists in a place they spend a lot of time listening to music—their cars—and in July of last year, the company debuted The General Sound Studio, a mobile recording studio designed to support emerging musicians in pursuit of a professional music career.
Designed by Cinema Vehicles (North Hollywood, Calif.), The General Sound Studio was built inside a modified SUV. According to Shawn Grogan, Director of Experiential Vehicles at Cinema Vehicles, “The original design was to have the equipment across the car, facing the front seats, but we opted to put the gear on the driver’s side, giving us more space to fit everything while making it accessible to the engineer. We removed the rear seats, spare tire, and the storage compartments in the back and installed a sub floor, because the floor was not flat.
“We added carpet to match the existing carpet in the front of the vehicle, and installed a limo window between the front seats and rear doors,” he continues. “A hole was cut in the roof so we could install a standard roof-mount A/C unit to cool the vehicle. A minimum of a 5K generator or 30 amps of shore power is required to run all the equipment and A/C; without A/C, it can run on a standard 120V outlet using a 30-amp twist lock installed under the rear of the vehicle.”
A generous assortment of top-notch gear was integrated into the custom vehicle, including SSL UF8 DAW and UC1 plug-in controllers; a Mac Mini M2 loaded with Pro Tools, Logic, Reason and other software; Retro Instruments Sta-Level; Genelec 8320 monitors with a 7350 subwoofer; Audio- Technica ATH-M70x headphones; a Universal Audio Apollo X4 interface; a Mercury M76m Mk3 mic preamp; and a FLEA 47 tube microphone.
The “control room” is situated in the rear of the vehicle, and an artist sits in the front passenger seat to record a vocal, with an articulated boom supporting the FLEA 47. The limo window between the control area and the artist area ensures noise-free recording in the artist space.
TRACKING AND MIXING
In collaboration with Epic Records, The General chose nine rising stars—including Kid Culture, The Absolutely, Morgan Keller and CMT’s Next Woman of Country, Reyna Roberts—to travel to Nashville and record one of their songs in The General Sound Studio, Each artist received a two-hour session, a mixed and mastered track, and exclusive album artwork. Producer/engineer Hilton Wright II recorded Roberts in The General Sound Studio, tracking vocals for her single “One Way Street.”
“I used Reason 12 to record Reyna and all of the other artist’s vocals,” Wright explains. “I knew I’d have to comp vocals, and Reason has the most seamless vocal comping tool on the market. Plus, it’s been my DAW of choice for close to 20 years now. Reyna supplied a folder with .WAV files of the music and background vocal tracks, which we imported into Reason. Her vocal was recorded using the FLEA 47, which went into the Mercury M76m Mk3 preamp, then the Sta-Level compressor and into the UA Apollo x4.”
“It was an absolutely amazing experience,” adds Roberts, “and the awesome part is that it worked just like any recording studio. I sat in the passenger seat, monitored on headphones and sang the vocals while Hilton worked in the back. There was a partition but we could still see and speak to each other, so communication was very easy. The vehicle was parked on the site of American Songwriter (Nashville, Tenn.), and we had about two hours to record and edit the vocals. Outside noise wasn’t an issue; Cinema Vehicles did a great job of insulating the vehicle.”
“Giving a break to those who need it the most is at the core of who we are, and it’s a mission that has always extended beyond our insured drivers,” says Kale Sligh, VP of marketing at The General. “As a Nashville-based company, The Sound Studio brings this idea to life by supporting rising artists in pursuit of their big break in their music career in a major way. We can’t wait to share The Sound Studio—and everything that is produced within it—with all of our customers and music fans.”