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Music Production

Wherefore, Art House America?

NASHVILLE, TN—Art House America, a non-profit/collection of studios in Nashville, has returned, following a massive refurbishing.

NASHVILLE, TN—Art House America, a non-profit/collection of studios in Nashville, has returned, following a massive refurbishing. The site recently underwent changes after Grammy Award-winning record producer, performer, songwriter and facility co-founder Charlie Peacock took a position at Lipscomb University and moved out. As a result, the studios are now under new management and have been completely reequipped in the wake of some cosmetic upgrades to the walls, floors and lighting.

Peacock and his wife, Andi Ashworth, established Art House America as a 501(c)3 non-profit to “cultivate creative community for the common good” in 1991. The multiroom studios were subsequently built out in an extension to the 100-year-old former church in the Bellevue neighborhood of Nashville. Peacock, who signed Switchfoot to his Re:think label, is well known for his involvement with such hits as Amy Grant’s “Every Heartbeat” and the Civil Wars’ gold-certified, Grammy-winning debut album, Barton Hollow, as well as Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move.”

No longer Peacock’s personal domain, the studios are now a commercial venture, reports Ciel Eckard-Lee. He began working with Peacock several years ago, after graduating from Nashville’s Blackbird Academy, and has been appointed operations manager at Art House. Peacock was appointed artist in residence, director of contemporary music and industry outreach, at Lipscomb in 2015, handing over leadership of the facilities to Australian singer-songwriter Nathan Tasker and his wife.

“Charlie took all of his gear out when he moved to Lipscomb, so pretty much everything on the premises is new. It was a crazy experience. We sourced everything through GC Pro; I think we’re their favorite customer,” says Eckard-Lee, singling out the retailer’s Nashvillebased account manager Greg Glaser for particular praise. “It’s fun when you take a U-Haul to go get gear. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.”

The studio’s haul included a new 16-channel Avid S6 desk for the big A control room, which is designed to accommodate large groups. “I think we’re one of two rooms in Nashville with the S6. What I like is that it’s very tactile. Even when you’re tracking, it feels like a console—you’ve got your sends at the top and the faders feel real. You can adjust the reverb return like you would on a console. When you’re tracking, it’s very, very fast, too, because you can ‘record arm’ and ‘input monitor’ directly from the surface,” he says.

Both the A and B rooms feature Avid Pro Tools 12.5. “We have Logic Pro X and Ableton Live Suite. We want to be able to accommodate whatever workflow comes in. Logic and Pro Tools have EuCon, so they talk to the S6,” says Eckard-Lee.

The smaller B room is centered on an iMac with a UA Apollo interface and 6176 channel strip. “That’s it for outboard, and we have a bunch of soft synths for writing, programming and tracking.”

The two main rooms feature newly installed monitors from ADAM Audio: S3X-H near/mid-fields in the A room 7and smaller A7X nearfields in B. “I’m a huge fan of ADAM monitors,” says Eckard-Lee, noting that the German manufacturer’s U.S. sales office is in Nashville. “We got together with Adam Sheppard, ADAM Audio’s south and central regional sales and marketing manager, and tested a bunch of monitors in our main control room. These are the speakers that we settled on.”

Recording and mixing engineer Richie Biggs, who began working with Peacock as a Pro Tools operator on his label’s first Switchfoot record, is also on staff. Biggs just mixed a record by Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott that has just received two Grammy nominations, reports Eckard-Lee. “He won a Grammy with the Civil Wars. He also worked with Ricky Scaggs a lot.”

Biggs has his own small mix room and changes out his monitors “on a weekly basis,” says Eckard-Lee. “He was using the S3X-Hs last week and he had some smaller ADAMs in for a while. And Charlie is on ADAMs as well now,” he adds.

Eckard-Lee continues, “I feel like the imaging is fantastic with the S3XHs, and I really like the clarity in the top end. It never feels harsh. I can listen at loud volumes and really enjoy it, throughout the whole production process. But I do feel that it’s accurate. When Richie and I are working, when we’re tracking, we’re always able to achieve something that will translate out of the room well.”

He and Biggs both mix in the box, says Eckard-Lee, but purchased plenty of outboard gear, including Burl, Maag and Lindell mic preamps. The mic locker includes a Peluso 2251 for vocals, Peacock’s Sony C800 and some Neumann KM184 small diaphragm condensers. “We use Rode mics a lot; we have their new NTR ribbon mics, which are amazing,” he says.

Compression options include Retro Sta-Level, Alta Moda Hippo and Elysia Xpressor units. “We get a lot of good s7tuff going in and after that, we’re all digital and in the box. We are looking at some vintage pieces,” he adds, to replace some of Peacock’s choice gear.

The team started refurbishing the Art House America studios in April 2016. “We opened our doors to select projects in September. Now, as we’re getting rolling, we’re hoping that 2017 will be very busy.”

Art House America

ADAM Audio