by David Higgs
photos by Keith Emerling
Todd Mack of Southfield, Massachusetts and his partner Will Curtiss of Egremont, have teamed up to form a new recording venue, Off the Beat-N-Track, and are focusing on many music genres and spoken word recordings. They are intent on creating a kind of B&B for the oft-derided singer-songwriters of America and the world. This newly established haven for original music and musicians, couple with a mobile recording unit, will zero in on new music locally, nationally, and internationally.
Recording engineer Curtiss, 22, and record producer Mack, 37, both accomplished musicians have great "ears" for engineering and editing music. They know the real deal and have their fingers on the pulse of American music today. Off the Beat-N-Track, their brand new recording facility, located in the tiny hamlet of Southfield on Norfolk Road, is loaded with the newest and best recording equipment, both stationary and mobile. The studio boasts 21st-century amenities.
The state-of-the-art studio and the dynamic duo of Mack and Curtiss are already off to a flying start with many contact in the music industry and the world of musicians on and off the road. The studio, 750 soundproof square feet, is in a converted barn with two tracking rooms, an isolation booth for vocals, and a large control room.
A lot of work had to be done to convert the place, including shoring up floors and ceilings. but it was a labor of love to turn into its present state. For convenience, there is no need to leave during a session because there is a full kitchen and eating area inside the building- all very conducive to creativity. Mack and Curtiss provide digital and analog recording along with digital editing and CD burning on site. Cd mastering and duplication in-house with no listed minimums is a big attraction, especially for those just getting their feet wet in the industry.
"We have lots of quality gear, mikes, outboard, and more," says music-savvy Todd.
Low introductory rates and even block rates are available and music consulting, probably the most difficult thing to find in the business, is also available. Service like this can't be beat.
"We opened this studio in May ," says Mack "and we are still doing mobile recording. One of our coups was recording the work of Julius Lester, a Newberry-award-winner who writes novels for kids. We did a spoken word recording with him. Lester was a folk music artist on Vanguard records. He does original fables, folklore style."
Locally, the young pair of entrepreneurs have recorded the ever-popular Rick Tivens, formerly the manager of the Old Egremont inn on Route 23 near Catamount Ski resort, guitarist Steve Ide, (who has done extensive work with Arlo Guthrie), Billy Voiers, and bassist Ram Miles. The studio records Alan Feltman. They also work for a gospel choir called the North American Martyrs hailing from Lanesboro. The studio is very eclectic and Mack and Curtiss want to hear from more people of different disciplines. Mack and Curtiss believe in "networking" to get musicians rolling.
We engineered Gospel Truth's recording. They are an a cappella ensemble," says Todd. We also did a recording for a guy who sings Shakespeare," Mack says, a little amazed. "Our mission is not to specialize in any one style, but to be versed in them all," Mack admits he likes "straight ahead" rock, too, but keeps "an open door and an open mind" when it comes to his recording and producing artistry. Mack and Curtiss both perform with their own group, and with other groups, including Mack and his work with Big Blue Holler, for whom the studio produced a demo CD and are currently working on the big CD. Mack has many years under his belt of playing the circuit with connections from Asheville and Boone, North Carolina venues to Nashville, Memphis, and Atlanta. he primarily worked with the Griswolds and is friends with the Snake Oil Medicine Show and Acoustic Syndicate, two hot new groups from the Carolinas. Todd has worked with a plethora of groups, many of which are producing new CDs right now.
Big Blue Holler with Todd Mack on guitar and vocals, Tom Buck on mandolin and banjo, Tom Ragusa on drums, Dave Carson on guitar, and Will Curtiss on bass have been working together for several years now.
Currently though, Mack has devoted more of his time to his family which includes his wife Carrie and his two children John and Caroline. "I'm a stay-at-home Dad," Mack says proudly.
Mack says the Beatles first influenced him. His older brother introduced him to led Zeppelin.
"All my friends were listening to Donnie and Marie at the time," Mack laughs, "And the Jackson Five."
Off the Beat-n-Track offers a lot of "retro" equipment. They have vintage 1969 amps, 60s and 70s guitars such as the Gibson Falcon, and other equipment for that vintage sound. They even boast an M-145 Hammond organ.
"We want artists, especially singer-songwriters to come here and stay for a while. They can live right here for a week or so and work in the studio," Mack says. "We are building up a data base to get them working and recording."
Mack spent many years on the road. He tells rock and roll tales about living out of suitcase "six weeks at a time. It was ridiculous. I needed a break. I had to shift from touring to recording," Mack says.
His supportive family has helped Todd to make the great leap from performing five days a week and months on the road. Now he says he enjoys getting up early in the morning and is leading a more normal life. When and if the road beckons once again, Todd says he will go out there with more support and organization. Todd says he spent too much time promoting his work, releasing his CDs, booking, and other functions along with performing and writing music.
All that work was in addition to writing and playing. It amazes me." Being a "singer-songwriter" is no piece of cake, Todd says. "It's tough. Traveling alone. Weeks alone or with my manager. Camping everywhere. Touring in my VW camper. Sometimes there were six people in one sleazy motel room. At this economic level, it wasn't big money. It was a lot of fun, but I had to stay with strangers, sometimes that I had met in a bar. I was stupid. But I have a lot of good stories. There is no life like the road, but there is a price to pay." Even life in the bustling musical city of Atlanta became no fun, because of life on the road.
"I had no social life and missed out on a lot," Todd says. But still, there are no regrets.
"People have a misconception about life on the road."
Will, Todd's partner and the studio's recording engineer may have had a more stationary life so far, but he has inherited the genes of great musicians. His father, Bill Curtiss had a popular band back in the 60s, The Universal Set, and Will's grandfather, Big Bill Curtiss played country in a big way before that. Sadly, Big Bill passed away in October, so his music will no longer be heard, and he will be missed by his friends and family.
Off the Beat-N-Track is located on Norfolk Road in Southfield, MA. For more information call Todd Mack at 413-229-9939 or toll free at 866-588-6800, or email muddycreek@mindspring.