Nashville Skyline

Recently, I was at a pub called Bosco's in Nashville's Hillsboro Village area with Neal Cappellino, a friend who is also a highly regarded engineer (Joan

Recently, I was at a pub called Bosco's in Nashville's Hillsboro Village area with Neal Cappellino, a friend who is also a highly regarded engineer (Joan Osborne, Mindy Smith, Vince Gill). We talked about the balance of our work and our personal lives, and it dawned on me I could probably fill a book with input from engineers, producers and others in the local industry on this topic.

Richard Dodd,pictured with his wife, Carolyn, feels home studios are detrimental to family life.

We devote so much energy to our studios, gear and productions to serve this potentially transcendent thing called music, yet it is so easy to neglect to nurture the very priceless human relationships and experiences that inspire some of the greatest music.

Ever since I first rolled into Nashville, I've heard people in the music industry say, “It's a great place to raise a family,” or, “The quality of life here is so much better than L.A. or New York.” I've also heard Nashville called “L.A. with religion,” but I can attest to the fact that Nashville is a great place to raise a family and enjoy a good quality of life. I also believe that no matter where you live, you're who you are, and in our line of work, it is just as easy to be consumed by the cave culture of studio life in Nashville as it is anywhere else.

“It seems to me that mainstream country really does understand the needs of personal life and family more than other genres,” says Cappellino. “Any time when I do mainstream country, I'm usually home at a reasonable hour, because most of the people are in the same situation and they respect it. Frank Rogers [Brad Paisley, Darryl Worley] is a producer I work with all the time. He's got two kids and he's got to get home, so he structures his day in a way so those gigs will honor that. Since he is the producer, he makes that call, which I appreciate.”

However, plenty of other sessions fall into the trap of being all-consuming. “We love music and we care, no matter what kind of music we are recording, and it's hard to let stuff go if you think it can be better,” Cappellino offers. “The sacrifice we make isn't always acknowledged, but we do it because we want to. It is almost a compulsion or obsession. Your clients will love you for it while you are there because this is their project and they want to burn the midnight oil. But we do this day in and day out, and something has to give, and often, if we aren't careful, it is our personal lives and our health.”

I called up a couple more friends whose opinions I respect on things personal and musical. Richard Dodd, a producer/engineer/mixer/masterer who has amassed a huge list of credits, including Tom Petty, the Traveling Wilburys, Clannad, the Dixie Chicks, Wilco and many more, is a devoted husband who, over the years, figured out a balance of home and work life that dignifies both.

“Separating work from personal life isn't easy,” he says. “They are so interrelated. The first 10 years of my career, I wasn't married; I was married to my work. When you are not married, it's easy. The next 10 years, I was married in my first marriage, but my work was much more important than the marital relationship, and ultimately [was as much] an influence on the ending of that marriage as anything else.

“This time I've got it right,” says Dodd, who's been married to his second wife, Carolyn, for 15 years. “I'm at a stage in my career where I do turn down work because it is the right thing to do. I don't go places because it is the right thing to stay with my family. Nowadays, it is becoming less and less necessary to travel because much of the work can come to us electronically.”

I mention that some engineers and producers try to solve the problem with home studios, but Dodd cautions, “Don't do it! Now you are in that other part of the house that you call the studio and you effectively have the doors locked and are a million miles away. Having a studio in your house is for lonely people or soon-to-be-lonely people.

“Engineers, producers and artists can create something out of nothing, and then the real thing comes along, like a child,” Dodd continues. “We then realize that we have done something incredible, but the child doesn't go off to mastering and get presented to the public and you make your money. It takes a lot of work to help that child be all it can be.

Memphis-based producer/artist and musician Jim Dickinson (Ry Cooder, The Replacements, Big Star, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and John Hiatt) has been married for 42 years to Mary Lindsay. I've always found their devotion and personal chemistry inspiring. Dickinson is proof that uncompromising commitment to music and to your family is not unattainable.

“When you're not at the studio,” Dickinson explains, “you've got to really not be at the studio. You can't let it follow you home. You've got to make the most of the time you do have. Privacy is crucial to me. In my own situation, I poured the money that I made during my periods of success into my family rather than into my career.

“My wife, Mary, is the first person in my life who accepted me the way I was. She wasn't trying to fix me. She didn't think I was broke, and I was. And she actually defended me to other people. Her half-brother was a musician and, in fact, he was one of my inspirations. She watched him stop doing it and go off into straight life. She told me one day, ‘I'm determined that's not going to happen to you.’ Now that is a special person. I couldn't have gotten nearly this far without her.”

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