/Mississippi’s homegrown recording studios

Mississippi’s homegrown recording studios

Dick Waterman, a blues enthusiast, once traveled to Mississippi in order to find out about the music of influential blues musicians who had fallen into disrepute. The renaissance period in the 1960s and 1970s saw the rise of Delta bluesman Son House and Skip James of Bentonia, as well as the recording and performing across the U.S.A and Europe. Some artists, however, such as Leo “Bud” Welch from Calhoun County were not discovered at all. Matt Patton, coowner of Dial Back Sound Water Valley, says that “you haven’t seen a unknown blues artist out of the hillcountry in a while.” “That was just out-of-left field that he came,” says Matt Patton, co-owner of Dial Back Sound in Water Valley. Welch came to Dial Back to record I Don’t Prefer No Blues [Big Legal Mishap, 2015], a raw album of hill country blues. Patton recalls playing backing Welch’s “Girl in the Holler” along with Bronson Tew, Jimbo Mathus, and Andrew Bryant when he suddenly came alive. Patton, who plays bass in Drive-By Truckers, recalls that it was when the groove and vibe hit him that he leapt up from his chair. He began to dance in the room and howl and holler into microphones. It was raw and organic. Recording studios such as Dial Back Sound are vital in documenting the sounds of Mississippi and its artists. There have been recordings by Jackson’s country-rockers Young Valley and Spencer Thomas, as well as the indie rock band Water Liars. Artists have traveled from Seattle to Los Angeles, and even the Czech Republic in order to capture what inspired Welch. Patton states that it’s not as important to know the science or the theory, but the feeling. Shell Enns from Crown Studios in Jackson can share this sentiment. He wanted to combat the oppressive environments at other studios, which is why he opened his Fondren studio five years ago. He says, “I like the low pressure, ‘take off your shoes'” vibe. “If a song doesn’t work, make a cup o’ coffee and return in 30 minutes to try again. He is just really relaxed.” His methods have been successful so far. Enns was a hip-hop leader whose first major sound gigs included mixing Mystikal in Vicksburg and Rick Ross at Mississippi Coliseum. He quickly made friends with Dear Silas, Jackson’s artist. The hit song “Skrr Skrr”, which Enns recorded at Crown has been streamed over 4.2 million times on Spotify. Enns tells me that the first time he met him, they sat on a patio and discussed the vision for The Last Cherry Blossom. This album was Silas’s breakthrough and earned him a deal at RCA Records. “Early on I didn’t really know much about his music but I could see that he had that fire in him and that level of musicality that I wanted to bring to this project.” Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today Report For America Enns moved from Michigan to Jackson six years back with his wife. Jackson has a vibrant music scene, low cost of living, and is ideal for supporting a strong local music scene. He now has a group of talented backing musicians that come in to record sessions for artists of all genres. He says, “In the same week we may do a gospel, rock, pop, and a singer/songwriter record.” We are all over the place. But I love each session.” Enns and his spouse fully supported the Fondren community. The studio’s mission is also to document the art made there. They live just a few blocks from Crown and are neighbors to many of their clients. “So often we’ll go outside or just walk and bump into people who come in to do session work at Crown. The vast majority of artists I work with are from Fondren,” says Casey Combest, a Jackson-based musician and producer who noticed a widening gap between different levels of the music industry. He says that he noticed a middle class of musicians emerging. This means that in a small market like Mississippi, one could do music full-time while still being unheard of in L.A. and New York. It took Combest five years to develop his idea, which he kept a small business until he was confident it would succeed. He’s been able to help with records of artists like Sam Mooney, a Brookhaven resident whose song “Find My Way”, reached No. #1 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter Chart. Combest says, “We want artists and bands to launch and grow meaningful musical careers.” Combest says, “We work hard to help people locate that spot where their songs are both authentic and unique to them, while still being relevant to current and global market trends.” Blue Sky Podcasting is now operated separately from the music studio. He says that he now has 15 companies that he helps with their podcasts. “Half are located in Mississippi, and the other half are international or national companies,” Combest said. He is now back to what inspired him to start his business. He says that podcasts were the catalyst for his first venture 10 years ago. I used to listen to a lot of podcasts, and one of them was about entrepreneurship. Looking back, I saw that entrepreneurship was something I had always cared about in some way or another. But, when you’re just a kid selling baseball cards and doing other things like that, it’s not entrepreneurship. My MBA was my podcasts. It taught me a lot about leadership and business, as well as how to grow a business. It has always held a special place within my heart.” Mississippi recording studios are located outside high-pressure, high overhead music markets like Nashville and Los Angeles. This allows producers and musicians to freely explore their craft without being scrutinized. Artists have the freedom to pursue their artistic goals and find collaborators to improve their music. Combest states, “In five years, I would be sad if either of these things is not happening.” “But at the end, I want make sure I’m helping anyone I’m working for, whether that’s a brand, a company or a musician. It’s more about making it better for me.”