The Second Life of Nashville’s Studio 19

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Recently demolished to make way for a parking lot, this historic Nashville studio has risen from the ashes in a new location, arguably better than ever.

The old location of Studio 19 on Nashville's fabled "Music Row" (pictured here) was bulldozed this summer to make way for a parking lot. But a new Studio 19 has risen from the ashes in an area that is sprouting with newer studios.

The old location of Studio 19 on Nashville’s fabled “Music Row” (pictured here) was torn down this summer. Now, a new Studio 19 has risen from the ashes.

Nashville’s iconic Studio 19 first opened its doors as “Music City Recorders” in the early 1960s. Artists from across genres, from Ringo Starr, to Jimi Hendrix, Garth Brooks to Dolly Parton, George Clinton to Alan Jackson cut major recordings there.

Despite its rich history, preservation efforts were unsuccessful in preventing the studio’s demolition in June of this year. Up until that point, Studio 19 had been the longest-operating recording facility in Nashville. The building that had housed this historic studio changed hands, and it was bulldozed to make way for a parking lot.

Put away the tissue folks: Though its original home was destroyed, Studio 19 is up and rocking in a new locale. We caught up with long time Studio 19 engineer Kyle Hershman to gather his perspective on this challenging transition, and to take a tour of the new spot.

Hershman, age 28, began his career at Studio 19 when owner Larry Rodgers saw his potential as an intern. Shortly after being made a member of the staff, Hershman began engineering many of the studio’s sessions himself. Some of his first big projects were for country greats like Ronnis Milsap and Lynn Anderson.

After many bountiful years at Studio 19, Hershman was in shock as he learned the news of the studio’s fate: “It felt like I was hit with divorce papers,” he says.

“I worked there for 9 years and it was my home. I knew that room better than anything…it was sad to know it was destined to become a parking lot. But they say Nashville has to grow.”

Studio 19’s original structure isn’t the only casualty to result from Nashville’s growing population. The wave of major construction and development projects in the city has led developers to focus on enterprises with greater profit margins, and as a result, has led to a decline in heritage recording facilities.

Despite the difficulty of leaving the old home, morale is high at the new space: “When clients walk into the room they’re blown away,” Hershman says.

A refreshing retreat from the hustle and bustle of music row, Studio 19’s new venue is located just outside of Nashville proper, within the Sound Kitchen‘s studio complex.

“This room is fantastic. It’s off the beaten path so when we’re working with a band, we can really dig in with no outside distractions.”

Hershman is loving the new digs, but he will always have a soft spot for that studio-turned-parking lot that he used to call home.

“I miss the smell. I know that’s weird, but all that old pecky cypress wood from the 60’s. That old wood had a really unique smell. I also miss the sound of that live room. It was the best drum room in Nashville.”

The old Studio 19 live room, pictured here, was built for an era that demanded big tracking spaces for large ensembles cutting live. The new Studio 19 adapts to more modern production methods by scaling down on the size of the live room slightly and adding more areas for isolation, while scaling up on the size of the control room.

Studio 19’s old live room, pictured here, was built for an era that demanded big tracking spaces for large ensembles cutting live. The new Studio 19 adapts to more modern production methods by scaling down on the size and open plan of the live room slightly, while scaling up on the size of the control room.

Never fear, the lamenting didn’t last long. A beautiful new space with an ample gear list was the perfect distraction.

The new control room is home to a hefty Neve VR72. The VR is an intimidating beast, and yes, the ways in which to create a feedback loop are endless. Sitting atop the console are a single pair of old Yamaha N10’s. These are Hershman’s go-to near fields when tracking:

“I cut my teeth on the NS10s and still to this day request them at any studio I work at. I’m just so used to them, though it usually makes the assistant roll their eyes.”

The Neve VR at Studio 19

The Neve VR72 at Studio 19 marks an upgrade from the old Trident 90. The old Trident currently sits in storage, potentially awaiting a new life in a new “B” room in the future.

In addition to a nice big console, the resurrected Studio 19 also features an impressive assortment of vintage outboard gear and instruments, including: (4) 1176s, (2) LA3As, an LA2A, Lang PQ2, Neve 33609, a Summit compressor and EQ, Focusrite Reds, Tubetechs, a handful of old DBX VU compressors, Studer 827, Pro Tools HD3 system, One Gorgeous Yamaha C7, as well as a vintage Hammond B3, and two lava lamps.

Racks of Gear at Studio 19

Some things remain unchanged. Impressive racks of classic outboard gear at Studio 19.

When it comes to Hershman’s engineering philosophy, less is more. “I like organic, real sounding recordings,” he says. “I refuse to use drum replacer and would rather get the snare to sound better than replace it.”

He considers himself more of a tracking engineer than a mixer or knob fiddler: “My clients really love my raw and organic sounding drum sounds. I try to use very minimal EQ and if something doesn’t sound right, I’m more quick to move a mic a little than to turn the EQ on.”

Over the years, Hershman has spent time in the studio with many noteworthy artists, but only one has made him starstruck. “One of my favorite bands growing up was the indie band “The Juliana Theory” and I got to work on the lead singer, Brett Detar’s, most recent solo album. When I met him, my fandom definitely came out a little.”

When asked to disclose the damages for a day in the studio, Hershman was adamant that he wanted to make sure that any artist has an opportunity to go record at Studio 19 and make a real recording. “No one’s getting rich off this, but we love what we do so we like to keep it as low as possible”. Day rates begin at $500 for a 10 hour day.

Jasper LeMaster is a staff engineer at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville, TN.

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