SOUTHFIELD—For two area musicians, Christmas has come early this year and they want to share the wealth.
Plugging in their new professional sound board with 24 rows of knobs and buttons that they bought on eBay, Todd Mack and William Curtiss were grinning like children playing with a new Christmas toy. The two were all smiles because their brand new board is the same model type used by Steely Dan’s sound crew, propelling them to a new level of professionalism they’ve been hoping to achieve.
The two partners run Off the Beat-n-Track, a century-old barn renovated into a recording studio, and have been steadily upgrading since the studio’s opening in May and will host an interactive open house on Dec. 8 from 1-5 p.m.
Mack, a professional musician who moved from New Orleans to Southfield three years ago, has turned his dream workspace into a haven for local and national recording musicians.
“I did a lot of work on the road - I didn’t want to be on the road 200 days a year any more. I wanted a usable space just for music,” he said.
Behind the bright red door, a bank of computer screens, speakers and the new sound board dominate the control room. A larger room, a tight isolated mike room, and a utility room all wait behind the soundproof glass to be used by full rock bands or by simple acoustic guitarists.
The recording studio is located on Norfolk Road, where Mack lives with his family and where he’s turned the old barn and storage sheds into a cozy, carpeted studio with tapestries covering the ceilings and rock posters on the walls.
Curtiss, an Egremont native who works as the musical technician of the duo, met Mack after responding to his advertisement in the newspaper for a bassist. The two played, lost touch for a year, and reunited while Curtiss was working a sound board at a show in Millerton, NY. Mack and Curtiss’s musical talent and recording knowledge were a perfect match for his own production background in the musical business, so they collaborated on a demo CD as the folk-band Big Blue Holler, and have been business partners ever since.
“We spent three months just drawing the plans and nine months constructing the space before our opening in May, and we’re still far from finished,” Mack said.
The two have combined their technical and musical know-how, as well as their instruments and recording equipment, into a soundproof recording space with digital recording capabilities.
Groups from the a cappella gospel sounds of The Gospel Truth, to local rockers Feud Knot and Traction and book narrations for Ackamarackus by Julius Lester, have already recorded at off the Beat-n-Track studios.
“We’re trying to bring in bands from outside the region as well—being in the sticks is going to be in our favor when we market to bands in Boston and New York as a getaway,” he said. Coming from the cities, it’s a real change, it’s a space to decompress from the urban stress.“
Mack said he wants to eventually create a space to house bands in his home as a package deal, so they can work at their own pace and get the sounds they’re looking for—a musical bed and breakfast.
As part of their promotional activities and desire to get involved in the community, Off the Beat-n-Track has created a mobile studio for schools, parties and church groups to record their own work.
The new studio will host an open house and a live recording opportunity for novice to professional musicians to record a free one or two-song track to take home on cd, on Dec. 8 from 1-5 p.m. at 176 Norfolk Road in Southfield.