Part Two of our series chronicling the production of our next Masters of Sound video and up and coming artist Rainey Qualley’s week leading up to her debut at the Grand Ole Opry takes a look at the behind the scenes work that goes into the production of a video.

We spent the day at the Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa Studio in Nashville. This studio, on the second floor of Zavitson Music Group’s headquarters in Nashville was Cowboy Jack Clement’s studio (and home) until just prior to his death in 2013. The building was struck by lightning in 2011 and suffered severe damage, but has since been rebuilt and restored. The artists Cowboy Jack wrote music for or recorded/produced include: Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Carl Perkins, Bobby Bare, Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cliff Richard, Charley Pride, Tom Jones, Hank Snow, Townes Van Zandt, Waylon Jennings and U2 (who approached him to work with them at Sun Studios in Memphis for Rattle & Hum. Clement had never heard of the band before starting to work with them).

To say the building oozes vibe and history is a bit of an understatement, and that feeling translates into whatever is created there – including the unconstructed mental wanderings of an itinerate audio blogger.

 

But First, We Wait  

Setting up a video shoot takes a long time. So you learn to wait. It’s no different when setting up a recording session for a song or an album. You wait. Lighting needs to be right, angles need to be right, audio needs to be right. You wait. In our current low-quality smartphone world, when you can take awesome videos of your kitty in an instant, all of this waiting seems unnecessary, until you step back and realize that differences in quality are often subtle – but you know quality when you see (or hear it).

Here’s some of the stuff that went on around us during the two hour load-in and set-up by the crew from Gear Seven: A pair of writers spent the entire time working on the chorus of the song they were writing (I have to hand it to them – I would’ve gone with the chorus like 45 minutes in); Rainey’s guitar player and main writing partner needed to get his guitar to a local luthier for repair; a staff of eight or so plugged away on laptops doing social media and arcane publishing things; I took pictures of all the Gold and Platinum albums hanging on the walls; thirty-eight tacos were eaten for lunch (not solely by me, I only had two).

To be hanging around in the midst of a busy and buzzing label and publishing company was a pretty cool eye-opener as to how much like every other business the music business is, even in today’s landscape of fractured audiences and minimized profits. There were no Nashville or Empire-style dramas to be found, just people working jobs like the rest of us. Okay, there was the landscaper who insisted on mowing the lawn right during one of the most interesting conversations we taped all day, and then there was roughly 2 minutes of dramatic heavy footsteps and door thumping – who knew people in the coolest industry in the world suffered from the same annoyances the rest of us schlubs in the Boring World suffer from during our daily pursuits?

 

 KEF R300 at work in the tracking room workstation at Cowboy Arms Hotel and Spa Recording Studio.

 KEF R300 at home on the main recording console.

Your intrepid blogger (far right) with Rainey Qualley. Look, it's a tough gig, but I do what I have to do to get you the story. Gear Seven's Kirk Slawek checks levels, far left.

Tomorrow: An inside look at what it takes to record a single song.

Jack Sharkey for KEF