It was a long time coming. Engineer Fred Paragano's Paragon Studios,a new, ground-up facility in Franklin, Tenn., just outside ofNashville, was the product of seven years of discussions, design andthe search for the perfect location.
“I tried to do this a bunch of times, and everything keptfalling through,” recalls Paragano, whose engineering and mixingrèsumè includes Amy Grant, Michael Crawford and Third Day.“Whether it was putting [a studio] in at home or going into anexisting space, nothing suited my needs. So when I found this property,I thought, ‘Let's do the ground-up thing.’
“I knew from the beginning that I wanted to work with RussBerger,” he continues. “I've admired his designs, and I hadbeen in contact with him for seven years, on and off. When we finallyfound this piece of property, he checked it out and said, ‘Fred,I couldn't think of a more perfect property.’”
The building was constructed in a wooded area about a mile from amain highway, offering privacy, but easy access and plenty of naturallight. Paragano, who has also been in the real estate business with hisfather, Larry, for some time, asked Berger for a design that would givehim leasable space, as well as studio space, so the completed structuregives 10,000 square feet to the studios and 12,000 square feet tofuture tenants. “I would like to attract media-relatedtenants,” Paragano explains. “It becomes a synergisticthing, where everybody feeds each other under the same roof and createsbusiness. For example, one tenant is Rob Graves, who leases aproduction suite in the studio portion. He is a producer, songwriterand session guitarist. We're always working side by side.”
The studio area consists of a large live room; a spacious centralmachine room that allows the studios to be patchable via audio cableand a multi-seat fiber-channel system provided by Studio NetworkSolutions; and two control rooms, both of which handle musicrecording/mixing or sound for picture. The commercial “A”room is equipped with an SSL 9080K XL console and Dynaudio M4+ 5.1monitoring; the “B” room, Paragano's personal productionspace, has the same monitoring system but centers around an expandedPro Tools|HD system. Acoustically and aesthetically, the control roomsare identical. “Front-wall surround monitoring is accurate acrossthe console and the producer's desk,” Berger says. “Thefinishes are warm and comfortable, the acoustics are inspiring, and theatmosphere is creative.” There is also a “C” room, asmall overdub, editorial and picture-editing suite currently in use byDreamhouse Media, a full-service film/video production company owned byDevin Pense.
The recording room shares many of the aesthetic and acousticfinishes chosen for the control rooms: Natural wood, stone, stainedconcrete, fabrics, glass and leather are used to effect variableacoustics and to create an appearance that is as warm as it is modern.Natural light floods the main space (26×32, with 21-foot ceilings)through 16-foot-high windows, some of which are floor-to-ceiling butcan be closed off by retractable acoustic panels. Two iso booths, oneof which houses a Yamaha grand piano, also have 16-foot ceilings.
“Fred has always wanted a big-sounding room to record drums,string sections, woodwinds and brass, and large vocal groups,”Berger says. “He now has one of the best-sounding live rooms I'veever heard: well-balanced, with a sweet, ambient decay.”
Obviously, a project of this magnitude and quality takes many handsto achieve, and Paragano and Berger are quick to recognize thecontributions of their colleagues. “My studio manager, AmyHendon, is amazing,” Paragano says. “And we had a lot ofhelp from Dave Malekpour of Professional Audio Design; they puttogether the main monitoring and some of the outboard gear. Rob Dennis'Rack 'n' Roll Audio provided equipment and cabling, and they weregreat. The wiring is all Monster Cable, and that was installed by WhiteNoise Technologies, which is owned by Jason White. Construction wasdone by J.E. Crain & Son, with supervision by David Curtze and JimBallard. These people were all so important.”
“I'm so proud of the people in our office that worked asprincipals on this project,” Berger says. “Blane Kelley,Robert Traub, Nichole Bradley Culak, Richard Schrag and JohnsonKnowles. I'm especially pleased with the way we are able to worktogether as a team.”
Since it opened last fall, Paragon has hosted sessions with MartinaMcBride, Brooks and Dunn, Dionne Warwick and others. Paragano's ownengineering projects have included multichannel DVD mix work forStephen Curtis Chapman, music for The Matrix video game and asurround demo for Microsoft's Mediaplayer 9.
“Fred is a nice guy and has a work ethic that is an example toall of us,” Berger observes. “It's been rewarding workingwith him on a project where we were called upon to use all of ourcapabilities and resources.”
Barbara Schultz is the senior associate editor ofMix.