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Studio Showcase: Island No More: Bikini Atoll Leaves LA for Nashville Community

What is now Bikini Atoll Studios lured its owner, audio engineer Grant Goddard, from his former home of Los Angeles to the creative environment he always wanted, nestled in the rolling hills between Nashville Metro and Franklin.

What is now Bikini Atoll Studios lured its owner, audio engineer Grant Goddard, from his former home of Los Angeles to the creative environment he always wanted, nestled in the rolling hills between Nashville Metro and Franklin.

The control room at Bikini Atoll, featuring an API 1608 analog mixer and a Focal Twin 6 Be/ Sub 6 three-way monitoring system. “I was really looking for a change,” he recalls after initial visits to Music City. “The network of talent in Nashville excited me. The vibe of the city, how it attracted talented people from all over the world to pursue music, was really appealing to me. It still has a smalltown vibe, too, which, to me, is a better scene than LA—a huge city with little pockets of things here and there. In LA, it was really hard to tap into new talent, which is what I’m focused on working on these days.”

The location between pastoral communities and urban convenience creates the right vibe for the kind of music Goddard specializes in, as a producer/engineer as well as a studio owner. “I’m near the Green Hills area, still with a Brentwood address,” he explains, referencing classic 60s and 70s blues and rock-influenced as well as singer/songwriter-based Americana styles as his specialties. “It’s close to town—10 minutes from Nashville and 10 minutes from Franklin—but still an isolated feel, peaceful, and natural. And the clubs around here feature really good rock bands. I’ll ask them, ‘What are you doing for recording?’ and they’ll reply, ‘Well, we really haven’t done a lot.’ There’s so many here that are motivated but looking for the opportunity. There are a lot of people in the area running studios out of their home, bedroom or closet, but not enough good places offering better-quality spaces and gear that aren’t the huge monster studios on Music Row or in Berry Hill. My place is in the middle; it’s cozy and I can really help and encourage these artists.”

Built in a former residential space, Bikini Atoll is a 2,000-squarefoot facility with three main tracking spaces, including a large performance room, vocal booth and amp isolation room, plus a full lounge and kitchen. After some searching, Goddard considers himself lucky to have come across the space. “I was looking around for something I could build out without spending too much, something that was already acoustically treated to some degree,” he explains. “I was looking with real estate people, on Craigslist, everywhere. But I stumbled onto some people that had a huge home with the space already built out.”

With the facility sorted, the next step was to choose a worthy centerpiece for his studio. Goddard soon settled on the API 1608 analog mixer for several reasons. “I wanted something that was going to be high-quality, recognizable as such, and something I wouldn’t outgrow,” he offers. “You can start with the 16 channel, as I did, then expand to 32, 48, or however many channels you may eventually need. In going with the API, I knew I wouldn’t get to the point where I’d need to sell it and upgrade. It won’t ever go out of style. It doesn’t have software to go obsolete. I can keep adding modules to it. It can be a centerpiece to what I’m doing for a long time. And, it’s still recognized as a big investment, though, which lends to studio credibility.”

Goddard explains that he also found a monitoring solution on the same level as his API desk—a Focal Twin 6 Be and Sub 6 three-way system. “In the past, I’ve tried lots of different monitors, tweaking my mixes on a lot of different sources because it would sound different everywhere—studio speakers, car speakers, headphones,” he recalls. “I felt like other monitors I’ve tried were all over the place. With these Focals, I’m not working as hard. What I hear from them is pretty true to what I hear when monitoring on other sources outside of my mixing room. They’re not cheap, but they didn’t break me, either.”

Having worked in LA with the likes of Mos Def, Fergie, Slash, Smashing Pumpkins and Kid Cudi, among others, Goddard now offers his services to a Middle Tennessee scene burgeoning with new music far flung from Nashville’s bread-and-butter pop Country styles.

“I have a really good room now,” Goddard concludes as he emphasizes the need for investment in a great environment with solid gear. “It’s important to remember that you get what you pay for.”

Bikini Atoll Studios