Nashville Skyline

I got a phone call from a good buddy of mine, Bill Lloyd. Lloyd is a fine songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist (primarily guitar) and father of

From left: Glenda Cones, Ocean Way Nashville studio manager; artist Jack Ingram; Scott Linday (Sirius Radio); Big Machine’s John Zarling

photo: Nicole Cochran

I got a phone call from a good buddy of mine, Bill Lloyd. Lloyd is a fine songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist (primarily guitar) and father of a wonderful son named Ryman — after the home of the Grand Ole Opry. I guess you can say his love of music and the roots of great music runs deep.

As a songwriter, Lloyd ( has placed some excellent compositions — most recently, Trisha Yearwood's latest single and a cut on the next Cheap Trick album, which he co-wrote with the band. He has also put out a number of strong power-pop records, including Set to Pop, for which I had the memorable experience of playing bass with Big Star drummer Jody Stephens.

Anyway, Lloyd and I were talking about Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown and his use of music, when someone informed him that, as we spoke, one of Nashville's most historic recording studio buildings was being leveled to make way for a car dealership parking lot. The building was not originally designed to house a studio, but for a number of years, it was the home of the United Methodist Television, Radio and Film Commission. The Methodists leased space to RCA, and this facility was the site of some of the most famous recordings in rock and country history, including Elvis Presley's “Heartbreak Hotel” and “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” and major recordings by Chet Atkins, the Everly Brothers, Hank Snow, Jim Reeves and others. Before RCA began recording at the McGavock Building in 1955, the label had been using several recording facilities downtown. As we were getting off the phone, Lloyd told me he was going to drive by the McGavock Pike address and get a piece of the building.

In spite of the demise of historic recording sites and recent studio sales, things are looking up in Music City. These days, many studio owners and managers have become creative about getting new clients; they realize that milking the traditional artist/label relationship alone will not sustain them.

Some of the other industry/community chatter right now concerns the new sign that went up on Masterfonics' outside awning, which reads, “What were we thinking!” This sign was ordered and hung by new owner Voss Entertainment, a relative newcomer to Nashville's audio circles. Voss bought the historic studio this past summer.

Last year, I wrote about the upheavals at Masterfonics (formerly Emerald) and shared the new owners' observations. It was clear these weren't the most seasoned folks in the business, but they had a lot of ambition and desire to make it work. Since then, Masterfonics' owners have suffered some travails, but they seem to have come out of the process as better students of the business. Even Ocean Way Nashville, which is respected worldwide and is responsible for bringing to Nashville projects for artists such as Three Doors Down, Matchbox Twenty and Bob Seger, is beginning to diversify.

Recently, the studio, owned by Belmont's Curb School of Music Business, partnered with Sirius Satellite Radio Network to produce acoustic showcases that will be broadcast on Sirius and recorded in Ocean Way's Studio A. From Nashville and Beyond did their most recent show to celebrate the release of Jack Ingram's new record on Big Machine Records. In front of many radio execs and Music Row types, Ingram performed an hour-long set and was interviewed by Sirius Radio personality Scott Lindey.

Just before Christmas, Secret Sound crept back onto the studio landscape. The studio, owned and operated by songwriter/producer Chas Sanford, was wildly popular in the '90s, but as of late has been used largely for Sanford's projects. The studio also underwent a complete equipment overhaul and added a five-star guest house. Secret Sound offers amenities such as spa service, chef service and some wonderful views on the huge country estate. A self-described “gear slut,” Sanford outfitted the studio with a ProControl mixing surface with 32 faders. It is complemented by a Pro Tools|HD Accel 7 card system with tons of outboard gear, as well as a coveted mic collection.

Paul Jankowski, an NFL agent and president of Access Pro — a sports and entertainment branding firm that represents Jo Dee Messina and Beyoncé, among others — recently visited the studio and guest house while scouting recording locations. “My clients have stayed in the nicest places around the world,” Jankowski says, “but the guest house provides a unique ambience you could only get from the welcome isolation and attention to detail it provides. They will enjoy the ability to relax in a creative atmosphere. The list of available services rivals any of the resorts we've stayed in, but with more of a personal touch.”

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