One of the most fertile scenes in the South for interesting new pop and rock music is Murfreesboro, Tenn. Only half an hour south of Nashville, it is a small, vibrant music community, where I'm always struck by the amount of humor and playfulness bands exude in their music and performances. Most of the musicians in Murfreesboro record either in Brian Carter's wonderful analog Paradox Productions or in the excellent recording program and studios in Middle Tennessee State University, where student engineers have ample opportunity to learn their craft. Recently, three alums of MTSU's audio program decided to try their luck on Music Row.
Left to right: Jason Bullock, John Baldwin and Joe Baine Colvert of Lake Fever Productions
Lake Fever Productions was created by John Baldwin, Jason Bullock and Joe Baine Colvert, who say they felt there needed to be a place in Nashville that “got” the music and the scene of the Murfreesboro bands. Located between Ocean Way and House of David studios, in a space that was once a studio for Island Bound Publishing, Lake Fever is a place where buzz bands like How I Became the Bomb and The Features, as well as established artists like Silver Jews and Tomahawk, are now working.
Shortly after graduating from MTSU's Recording program, Bullock opened a personal studio. Colvert was playing in several bands (Girls and Boys, Sneaky Eaters, The Comfies and Elaine) but was keen on learning more about engineering. Baldwin was working at Georgetown Masters as a mastering engineer.
“When we were in Murfreesboro, we were always working on various projects and ideas, all in the same orbit,” Baldwin says. “But how we got together was almost a cosmic decision in that we each sought each other out to team up,” says Baldwin.
Bullock adds, “It was like all three of us independently had the same idea in just a week span and sought each other out.”
“For each of us, it was frustrating watching our friends who were creating music have unsatisfying experiences with other studios and labels,” says Baldwin. “We knew there must be some way we could help. All of our music friends from Murfreesboro had moved to Nashville.
“We took about two months to find the perfect location,” Baldwin continues. “We'd been looking at warehouses and industrial spaces, and were so pleased when we found a space that had once been a studio. It had everything we needed to get started, and we found it on Music Row.”
They started out with the gear they had between them and built out the space a little more to suit their vision. Then they began investing judiciously in more equipment, including a Trident console.
“Over the last few years, we've had some help, but for the most part the studio has paid for itself,” Baldwin notes. “We've now got over $100,000 of gear and feel like we're finally a ‘real’ studio. With the console and 32 channels of Lynx converters, it's really easy to configure any sort of setup. Our patchbay is point-to-point military parts I bought from NASA. The Trident is easy to modify and sounds great, and has improved our workflow. We've already added a custom monitor section to the console and are working on a custom discrete center section.”
At a time when more and more people are working solely in the box, the guys at Lake Fever prefer to use classic, time-proven gear. “This Trident console allows me to get to a point in reaching a satisfactory mix so much quicker where I can walk away happy,” says Bullock. “We cut the theme song for the ABC show Carpoolers with The Features a couple of months ago. They came into the studio late in the afternoon. We tracked the song and mixed it right there, and it was done. I could not have done that in the box as easily.”
In addition to the console, Bullock is also proud of the studio's “ever-expanding API rack,” a Pendulum compressor and Korby mics: “We've been using Korby microphones on nearly every session,” Bullock says. “The Korby FET is a better U87. We use it on drum overheads, acoustic guitar, piano and vocals. Korby's flagship microphone, the KAT System with interchangeable capsules, is the greatest tube microphone ever made. Besides being unbeatable for vocals, we use it on kick drums and bass cabinets, and drum rooms. We're also crazy about the Great River MAQ-2NV EQ. It's just a great-sounding equalizer that's designed intuitively, and that improves anything you throw it at, which is a tall order for an EQ.”
Gear aside, the three owners know that creating a comfortable and unpretentious setting in the studio is essential for real creativity to take place. “As cliché as it sounds, the vibe is really important to us,” say Bullock. “Sometimes we treat the space like our own personal dorm room. Making a record should be fun.”
“We're completely focused on helping our clients walk out with the record they wanted to make when they walked in,” Baldwin says, “whether it's just tackling the technical end of ideas that are already fleshed out or full-on production where we take a germ of an idea and turn it into a wall of sound. I feel very strongly as if there's still something to prove in pop and rock music, and I'm confident we can help get it there.”
Send Nashville news to