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Mix Regional News: Nashville


After cutting lacquers for three years, Welcome to 1979 studio owner Chris Mara decided to expand the recording studio and vinyl mastering facility to include its natural, logical next step: the addition of an electroplating facility.

According to Mara, the 4,000-square-foot facility is the first new construction of its kind in 40 years. It’s also the second facility not owned by a record-pressing plant, and the only one with on-site lacquer cutting. This addition is now part of the Welcome to 1979 Industries family, encompassing 10,000 square feet for the recording studio, vinyl mastering, and now electroplating. “It’s always been crucial that lacquers get to the electroplating stage as quickly as possible to retain quality and avoid issues borne from dust, et cetera,” Mara says. “This will allow us to cut a lacquer and minutes later have it into the electroplating stage.”

Meanwhile, the recording studio received some upgrades: Mara added a matched pair of Flea 49s, recapped the audio electronics and relapped the heads of its Mara MCI 2-inch 24-track, and added 20 API mic pre’s to its MCI 428 console. The original mic pre’s are still on each channel, allowing the engineer to switch between the MCI and API instantaneously.

The vinyl mastering facility has been busy, as well: Recently, they cut the vinyl masters for the following projects: Wynonna Judd, Wynonna & The Big Noise; Bonnie Raitt, Dig Deep; Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Banjo Banjo; and Luther Dickinson, Blues & Ballads.

In recording session news, Pam Tillis worked with engineer Ed Seay and producer Jimmy Ritchie (a special session because studio owner/engineer Mara was the assistant on Tillis’ 1998 album, Every Time); Elle Macho worked with engineer Ryan Hewitt; Frank Foster worked with engineer Mara; Aberdeen Green worked with producer/engineer duo Paul Worley and Nick Worley; The New Mastersounds worked with engineer Mara; and Anastasia worked with engineer/producer F. Reid Shippen.

Jamie Tate at Rukkus Room


Jamie Tate, owner/engineer of The Rukkus Room, started his audio career in the mid-’90s, when he wired a studio and wound up being that studio’s house engineer. Tate had built a solid reputation for himself over the course of seven years there. But that studio’s owner, Jerry Abbott, decided to close the facility to spend more time with his family after his son, Dimebag Darrell (guitarist/songwriter for Pantera), was tragically killed onstage.

After the studio closed, Tate needed to find a new place to work. “I had attended a session with a friend to see Metallica’s drummer Lars Ulrich record a few months earlier at the building that eventually became The Rukkus Room,” Tate says. “I was impressed by the building, and I decided that it was where I wanted to house my recording business. I truly love this studio. It’s one of the reasons I’m doing the best work of my career.” The studio had been operating continuously since 1981; Tate bought the space in 2004, and The Rukkus Room was born.

The studio was in pristine condition for recording when Tate acquired it, as it had been expertly designed to mic/electronics guru Gene Lawson’s specifications. “The roof alone is three feet of poured concrete!” Tate exclaims. “When we have tornado warnings, people come from all around town to wait it out with us because it’s like a bunker.”

The Rukkus Room is 8,000 square feet, with three control rooms: Studio A is for tracking and mixing, and consists of a large live room, piano room and five isolation booths; Studio B is for recording vocals and overdubbing; and Studio C is a newly constructed room designed for building and mixing tracks.  

Pro Tools is used in all of the studios, and RADARs are available. In Studio A, Tate has the Otari Concept Elite 96 console; Studio B houses an Avid D-Command expanded console; and Studio C has the Icon D-Control 32. There are Genelec 8050s in all rooms (plus various alternate monitors). Tate says there are plenty of great vintage analog compressors from which to choose.

“We’re not just Pro Tools technicians,” Tate says. “We’re a world-class team of engineers and producers. I do the best headphone mixes you’ll ever hear, topped only by the sound of the finished product. Everything that comes out of my studio, no matter who the artist is or what their budget is, sounds like a major-record-label-quality record.”

Currently, Tate is engineering a remix/deluxe edition reissue project involving Emmylou Harris, George Jones and Johnny Cash.

Grace Rische at Fry Pharmacy Recording. Photo: Kaley Fluke


Fry Pharmacy Recording has moved into a “new old” space—one that is significantly larger than its previous incarnation. According to owner Scott McEwen, the old space was a control/tracking all-in-one area. “That style was cool for little while, but for the last few years, I’ve been realizing the negative aspects of recording in a one-room studio,” he says.

The new Fry Pharmacy has a separate control room, larger tracking area, and some options for isolation. “The sound is in the air between the musicians, and therefore I track 90 percent of every record live,” McEwen says. The studio location, in East Nashville, is within walking distance, of restaurants, coffee shops and bars with live music.

Recently, McEwen has been engineering a Nicole Atkins album, and Jim Sclavunos from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Tom Blankenship from My Morning Jacket have been tracking with Atkins, as well. Talented sisters Lillie Mae (from Jack White’s band), Grace and Scarlett Rische are currently recording at Fry Pharmacy.

McEwen is an analog-centric engineer who records on an Ampex MM1200, 2-inch 16-track and “thanks the recording gods” every time he listens to the EQ on his vintage Sphere console (which was custom-made for the Grand Ole Opry back in the 1970s).

The Tracking Room’s spacious control room is anchored by an 80-input SSL 9000J analog console. The view between the Hidley-Kinoshita main monitors is into Iso 4 across the main recording hall.


Built in the mid-‘90s to fill what was then a void of large tracking spaces on famed Music Row, The Tracking Room remains the largest recording space in Nashville. The stand-alone, 6,500 square-foot, single-studio facility was designed by renowned acoustician Tom Hidley, with a no-compromise construction mandate to provide the ultimate in control-room acoustics combined with flexible and expansive acoustic spaces. A recent update of infrastructure and equipment, including additions to the inventory of gear and software options, ensures the facility’s position on the top tier of studios worldwide.

The Tracking Room is owned and managed as part of the Morris family of entertainment enterprises, renowned for its sound, lighting and integration prowess and led by industry veteran David Haskell. “We are proud to maintain and build upon the heritage of The Tracking Room,” says Haskell. “This unique space, our clients and the music being recorded here deserve nothing less than the best, and that’s just what the spaces, the design, the gear and our staff deliver.”

The Tracking Room’s main studio room spans some 70 feet of open floor space, 25 to 40 feet in width. One hundred feet along the studio space are divided into five generous isolation rooms. These spaces include: the Stone Room (slate floors, rock walls and a sloped hard plaster ceiling—highly reverberant and often used for percussion); an iso conceived for electric guitars with a walk-in amp locker designed to provide natural compression; two large general-purpose isos with bass relief traps, one wood wall (that can be damped with a curtain) and one soft wall; and the Yamaha C7-equipped piano room—all hardwood, tuned for a natural, piano-friendly tone and also featuring curtains for damping. Room-within-a-room construction was used throughout, with floating concrete floors (each iso a separate pour, with two isolated pours in the main hall). The result is a remarkably quiet recording environment with numerous permutations for achieving unique sonic signatures.

The mic locker is amply equipped with a range of classic and contemporary microphones. Equally appealing to visiting engineers is the broad array of mic preamps and outboard processing gear, again ranging from classic to contemporary. An 80-input SSL 9000J SuperAnalogue console anchors the control room. An LCR configuration of Hidley/Kinoshita monitors with a stunning piano black finish adorn the front wall, with an independent earth foundation. Surround production is supported with Dynaudio rear monitors. An array of near-field monitor options are also available.—Frank Wells