In bluegrass music, most of the attention is usually focused on the musicians themselves – they are the ones in the spotlight, after all. However, sometimes we forget to think about the men and women behind the scenes who work hard to make musicians sound the best they can. Some of the most important roles come within the studio setting, which is where Bobby Starnes, a native of East Tennessee, has found himself spending more and more time lately.
Starnes is the owner of Hat Creek Recording Company, which recently opened a brand-new studio in a new location just outside of Jonesborough, TN. Some might recognize his name from his numerous songwriting credits on albums by artists such as Blue Highway, The Boxcars, Claire Lynch, Larry Sparks, and others. Several years ago, he built a small studio to record his own songs as demos. However, as word spread about the studio, he began recording projects for a number of local artists in the Tri-Cities area and the need to build a larger studio arose.
According to Starnes, Hat Creek Recording tries to offer musicians an individualized recording session that best suits them and their music. “We tried to pick a range of tools that would allow us to tailor the signal path to complement a wide array of instruments and microphones we might encounter on any given session,” he says. They also have what Starnes calls the “man cave,” a comfortable room with a pool table, television, and couches for musicians and guests to hang out in when not recording.
The studio also recently employed Jim Price, a master engineer who has worked with such prestigious artists as Doc Watson and Dr. Ralph Stanley. Fans of Blue Highway might recognize his work from the group’s past four projects. Starnes has nothing but praise for Price’s work. “He knows so much about ProTools and all the other software out there. He is so quick that he will actually save you money. By the time I ask him what he just did, he’s already done three other things.”
The first group to record in the new Hat Creek Studios was Blue Highway, who cut their most recent album, The Game, there. Starnes has also just finished recording a young fiddle player, Fiddlin’ Carson Peters, as well as the recent EP from Dave Yates, Cardboard in Her Shoes, and a number of tracks from an upcoming project by Trey Hensley and Rob Ickes.
For musicians who are planning on recording their first project, Starnes has several pieces of advice to offer. “Be as prepared as you can possibly be before you go in to the studio. Don’t wait to work on arrangements in the studio while the clock is ticking.” But, musicians shouldn’t try to rush. “If you need to redo that fiddle break then that is the time to redo it or you’ll have to live with it for the rest of your life.”
Once you do get in the studio, he says to relax and have fun. “Don’t get all worked up about going into the studio. Everyone there is there to help you. We are all on your side. I tell everyone to kick off your shoes, let your hair down, and make yourself at home.”
For more information on Hat Creek Recording Company, visit their website at www.hatcreekrecordingcompany.com.