Amidst all the record labels, publishers and studios that populate Nashville's Music Row, 615 Music is a highly successful anomaly that sets itself apart by creating and producing music that isn't dependent on hit radio and typical music biz dynamics. While others focus on landing cuts on the next country sensation's album, 615 creates music for many of the nation's high-profile network and cable shows.
615 Music's Randy Wachtler (left) and Arista recording artist Phil Vassar focus on a mix
photo: Alan Mayor
615 Music's client roster includes CBS, Fox, A&E, History Channel, Animal Planet, ABC Sports, Live With Regis & Kelly, PBS, Oxygen, CMT, Columbia TriStar, Warner Bros., HBO, Lifetime, Disney/Buena Vista, TNN and the Family Channel. Along the way, they've picked up numerous Emmy, Addy, Clio and Mobius Awards. It's safe to say that if you regularly watch television, you have heard music that was generated by 615 Music.
Located at 1030 16th Ave. South, 615's headquarters houses a sizable main studio with a large tracking room with a 7-foot Kawai grand piano and four isolation booths (up to six isos via tielines). The control room, which has an elevated producer area, is large enough to comfortably hold a room full of producers and closet producers. Gear includes a Pro Tools MIX3 DAW; Mackie HUI; Apogee AD-8000; two 888/24 I/Os; plug-ins by Focusrite, Bomb Factory, Waves and Lexicon; DDS-4 tape backup; Otari MTR-90; Millennia HV-3D 8-channel mic preamp; and a wide assortment of outboard compressors and reverbs.
615 Music's mastering and sound design suite features a SADiE Artemis 24/96 digital disc editing/mastering system (Version 4.2) with PORTiA digital video recorder, Mackie console and HR824 monitors, and 615's huge collection of music and sound libraries. All rooms have lock-to-picture capabilities, tielines to both mastering rooms and tielines to both recording studios.
Most recently, 615 Music created and produced the music for NBC's Today show; the company's “Live for Today” theme was chosen from more than 100 submitted, according to NBC officials. “NBC had a whole bunch of demos submitted and they pulled it down to their favorites,” says 615 owner Randy Wachtler. “When NBC senior VP Frank Radice called to tell us our song had been chosen, we were elated. I've worked with Frank many times over the years, and he's one of the most creative network executives I've ever worked with. He's a musician in his own right and has a real instinctive feel for music.
“We watch the show every morning, so we were familiar with the personalities and the tempo of the show, and we tried to weave that personality into our music,” Wachtler adds. “Live for Today” was written by Phil Vassar, Julie Vassar and Wachtler, and replaces the program's long-running “America's First Family” theme. Wachtler notes that the initial idea for the lyrical theme of “Live for Today” came from Frank Radice and Tom Tushea, an executive VP for Today. “It was their idea. They gave all the composers and production houses the title and said, ‘We want something that is contemporary, fresh and more of a song rather than a jingle, and we want it two-and-a-half minutes long, like a full-length song. Of course, they would want edits of that or cut-down versions of the same song, but that's the direction they gave everybody.”
A round for a good cause (from left): Norbert Putnam, Courtney White, Mix's Nashville editor Rick Clark, "Dr." Bil VornDick, Cliff Audretch, Andrew Mendelson, Robbie Clyne, Gene Eichelberger and "Nurse X"
photo: Rick Clark
Phil Vassar sang the theme, and 615's Aaron Gant engineered and mixed. “We did the whole thing on Pro Tools,” Gant states. “It's all live. Nothing's sequenced, and we didn't use any vocal tuning or ‘Beat Detect’ anything. I did include some little guitar licks from the original demo.”
Gant says that it's hard to watch TV without regularly spotting 615's music. “It's fun to go home and point out what we've done to my wife. I'll go, ‘Hey, I did that!’ Gant says. “No one knows what we do. We're secret, but just watch TV and you'll hear it.”
A few days after my visit with 615 Music, I find myself sitting in a golf cart writing this piece on my laptop at the Harpeth Hills course on an absolutely perfect day. A storm front blew through the night before and cleared out the air. In its place are beautifully dimensional clouds of many shades and a nice breeze keeping the air fresh and dry.
I don't get many chances to work like this, and for most of today, I've had too much fun to address this column's promised deadline. My rationale for taking my time — the 8th Annual Audio Masters golf tournament, which is put on by the Nashville AES Chapter.
My mates on the Mix magazine team this year were mastering wunderkind Andrew Mendelson of Georgetown Masters, super golf ace and publishing whiz Cliff Audretch of Windswept Music and esteemed producer, bassist and good-hearted raconteur Norbert Putnam. After sending my second shot skittering 30 feet off to the right, I realized I was along for comic relief.
The Audio Masters is the main funding source for the Nashville Engineer Relief Fund, which began eight years ago to help local engineers who have medical or other life crises. The AES' Nashville Chapter started the fund, but it now stands alone as its own nonprofit entity. Engineers may request funds and remain anonymous. The approvals are granted by a small committee, which serves as the board of NERF. The tournament usually raises in the neighborhood of $20,000 for engineers in Nashville — more than $150,000 to date.
Nic of Time Communications head Nicole Cochran and Pro Sound News editor Frank Wells and engineer Bil VornDick deserve major kudos for their selfless work on this event, as well as a number of others with NAPRS and the Nashville AES chapter. It's rare to find an event that is so much fun and truly matters.
Cochran points out, “It is important to note that studios both new [Karian] and old [Ocean Way] sponsored holes, and that sponsors came from as far away as Las Vegas [Brad Lunde from LasVegasProAudio] to support this tournament. Organizations like NAPRS and Nashville's new SPARS Chapter hosted holes, as well.”
The winning team for the 8th Annual Audio Masters Cup was Euphonix, with second place going to Universal South and third to Carl Tatz Design. Audretch won the Longest Drive on the Fairway competition, Larry Garris won Closest to the Hole and Longest Putt went to engineer/producer Gary Paczosa of the Blackbird team.
Rick Clark would like to thank MTSU's Courtney White, Taner Shores and Belmont's Scott Campbell for their help with this piece.