|Redhouse Recording is the brainchild of veteran Kelowna musician Barry Mathers of the band Dirt Road Opera and The Cruzeros. The studio occupies several rooms In his house and houses a combination of high-tech and vintage recording gear in a relaxed work environment.|
A cosy bungalow, painted red naturally, is home to Redhouse Recording. The studio is owned by Barry Mathers, songwriter, Dirt Road Opera vocalist/guitarist and former Cruzero frontman.
Inside, in a few cozy converted and sound-proofed rooms, besides the usual array of drums, guitars, stands and microphones are a stack of electronic devices, along with a mixing board that routes everything into a computer.
From the outside, it's hard to tell, but most days, Mathers is hard at work inside, trying to capture musical magic in a bottle, as it were.
"It's half studio and half house," he said. "It's my home and I've turned half of it into a recording studio."
While many big commercial studios, especially those in Vancouver, have indeed recorded some huge commercial albums, they also come with a large price tag, making them unaffordable for many up-and-coming artists.
Many musicians have taken to recording in environments like Redhouse, where there's less pressure and they can relax and concentrate on their music.
But even with a laid-back atmosphere, a recording studio is more than just a collection of electronic equipment and Mathers is uniquely positioned to get the most out of the gear at Redhouse Recording.
The Abbotsford native has been a musician for about as long as he can remember.
"I've been playing professionally since 14," he said. "I got a snare drum when I was five."
Moving to the South Okanagan at the age of seven, Mathers pursued music and got his start in the recording field in the late '70s,when he got his hands on a four-track reel-to-reel machine that recorded onto quarter inch tape.
Switching to guitar and vocals, he later formed what would become the Cruzeros in 1983 with multi-instrumentalist Curtis Tulman. After 26 years together, three albums, seven videos, a SOCAN award for song of the year, as well as a Juno nomination, Mathers has worked with some of the best in the business and accumulated a wealth of experience in the studio.
He was also a partner for a time, along with Tulman and others, in a 4,000-square-foot studio in Kelowna, which recorded bands, jingles and "anything that came through the door, basically."
"It was trial by error," Mathers joked.
But there's been a big change in the last decade or more in the music industry in general and the way music is recorded is no different.
The days of a singer or band toiling away in the basement or garage and recording poor-quality demo tapes with hopes of catching the attention of a large record company are pretty much gone. Besides, the Internet has opened up the possibility of getting music out there without a big corporation involved.
The advent of computer software and studio equipment capable of recording unlimited tracks of music and capable of applying the most advanced aural effects and even fixing up things like off-pitch notes in a vocal performance means there are now alternatives to the huge, expensive studios that previously ruled.
It's even possible to record high-quality music on a laptop at the kitchen table - a big change from only 10 or 15 years ago.
"Back in the old days, you actually had to cut tape to make edits," said Mathers.
To do the same thing now, he needs only click his computer mouse and it's done, as many times as he needs to. And file sharing means if he needs to record a drum track, say, the drummer doesn't even have to be in the studio. In fact, the musician doesn't even have to be in Kelowna.
Mathers points out the example of aspiring local country singer Shane Paul.
"He's doing songs one at a time and working with a studio in Nashville," said Mathers, meaning the vocal tracks are recorded at Redhouse and the rest of the music in Tennessee.
Of course no matter the technology, you still need to know what to do with it and have the ears to know what's good. Mathers track record speaks for itself and over the years he's been in some of the biggest studios in Vancouver and elsewhere.
He also has a collection of vintage gear alongside the latest electronic tools of the trade.
"You can't just go buy a computer and start recording," he said. "For a professional result, you still need outboard gear and you need a lot of microphones, but most importantly, you need to know what you're doing.
"There are like, 10 microphones on the drums alone," he said. "And I probably have ate least 15 or 20 different mics."
These days, besides working with Paul and producing his own latest band, roots/alt country five-piece Dirt Road Opera, Mathers is busy producing and engineering songs and albums for several other promising artists.
He's midway through an album for the Fort St. John duo of vocalists Lindsay Pratt and Naomi Shore known as Twin Peaks.
He's also working with aspiring Kelowna singer Heidi Letiec, recently completed some work with guitar virtuoso Greg Bennett, which was mixed by "a member of Yes in Los Angeles,," as well as an upcoming Fred Eaglesmith tribute album with Kelowna singer Chris Butlin.
Although Redhouse Recording is where he spends most of his time, Mathers is also able to pack up and go where he's needed.
"If people can't come to me, I can go to them," he said.