If you have been following Henry Harbor lately, and I know you have, I have been writing about some of the amazing talent that is born and raised right here in our fair city.
I am talking about real honest-to-God superstars that live and play among us. Well, in this article, I want to introduce you to the places where our local stars create and record their music. I’m talking about the wealth of our local recording studios. Even I, a musician of many decades, didn’t realize the scope of the opportunities and resources that are offered locally.
Having played music most of my life, I didn’t realize exactly what a recording studio actually was or the services offered to its patrons. Of course, I’ve seen documentaries of famous rock stars smoking on couches in glass enclosed rooms listening to the playbacks of a session, and of course I recognize a mixing table with knobs and sliders and buttons aplenty, with the ubiquitous, studious-looking person sitting in front, tweaking every last switch and knob while music blares through speakers. But, I didn’t really know how it all worked until recently.
I am lucky enough to count a gentleman named Shawn Stroope as a close friend, mentor, and a damn fine bass player, among other things. He also happens to be the proprietor of Foxtrot Studios, located in the heart of downtown Shreveport on Texas Avenue right next to the Robinson Film Center. Shawn was gracious enough to invite me over to observe a session of one of his artists and to get a feel of exactly what a recording studio is and what it does.
Let me explain what a recording studio is and what it does for a musician.
First off, a recording studio is a tool for the musician to use to document the songs that he or she writes and performs. It is not intimidating in the least, which was a fear that I had to get over immediately. I was under the false impression that studios were filled with snobbery and condescension when it comes to the amateur musician (that’s me) but nothing could be further from the truth.
Secondly, a recording studio is a resource that the musician can use to expand ideas into songs. Wow! What a mind blowing experience that was: learning that as a musician, I don’t have to have a finished product polished and rehearsed and ready to play through with absolutely no mistakes on the first take.
Shawn invited me to a session of Jody K Kirkpatrick, who is best known as the lead singer and front man of the immensely popular local cover band, Bushrod Jenkins. They routinely play for hundreds of people in town, which is amazing, and they are also one of the most profitable working bands this city has ever seen, which is also amazing.
Jody was kind enough to explain to me the process of how he writes and how he has finally started recording his own songs at Foxtrot. In one instance, Jody had basically written a four chord bouncy, bluesy jam on guitar, BUT THAT WAS IT! No bridge, no chorus, no hook even, just a riff, as they call it, and he thought it could lead to something cool, but he hadn’t gotten any further with it than that. So, he calls Shawn, books a couple of hours of studio time, Shawn calls a couple of musicians that he knows to come down and see what they can come up with, and before you know it, with the help of Shawn, producer Steve Sullivan and the other players, now Jody had a finished song that was beyond anything he could have imagined on his own.
This song is on his soon-to-be-released album, an album that will outlive us all, literally a historical record of Jody K and his songwriting.
I had no idea that was what a true recording studio offered. I was so naïve in thinking that a musician or a band had to have a “finished” song or product to even be able to contact a studio that I discovered that I have counted myself short over all these years. If you play an instrument, no matter what discipline, you have made up an original song. Hell, even if you can only sing, you certainly have come up with an original song. Knowing that there are resources out there to help you take what is inside your head and turn it into an actual recording that your friends, family, and children can listen to and cherish forever (unless you’re into death metal, then you may want to wait until they are teenagers to let them hear what crazy twisted music mommy or daddy were into back in the day) is something amazing.
I was so incredibly wrong about what a recording studio was and what it did, and I am into this scene and have been a musician all of my adult life! So for any of you armchair quarterback guitar players or singer songwriters, let my ignorance be your illumination. These people and producers are here to help you make your dreams into reality.
Now, does that mean anyone can go into a studio and hum a tune and have a finished song come out of it…yes, actually it means exactly that, if you have a large enough budget. Foxtrot charges $70 per hour for their services. To put that in perspective, let’s say you’re in a band and you have 10 original songs written, or if you are in a cover band, 10 songs that your band really does well. If you can play those 10 songs over the course of 2 hours, without making a ton of mistakes and having to re-record a bunch of parts, you could come out with a cd or flash drive with a final mastered product for a few hundred dollars, or the price that a decent band charges for 1 show!
That is incredibly affordable and can yield such a huge return for many reasons. The first being that the casinos expect you to submit a recording if you want to play at the boats, and unless you want to set up and audition for every bar owner or manager to get them to book your band, having a polished professional recording can get your foot into any door and not just around Shreveport, but also abroad.
Secondly, if you are simply an individual who enjoys playing and writing music, but do not have a band at your disposal to hear your songs complete and like they would sound on the radio, then a studio can solve all of these problems. I encourage anyone that is musically inclined to not let the intimidation or fear keep you away from following your heart. These people are here to help and want nothing more than for you to become the next Carlie Rae Jepson or Psy (Google them, you won’t be disappointed), but you may hate me later!
Lastly, what’s cooler than answering the question of what have you been up to lately with, “Man, I have been up in the studio!”
Shawn Stroope grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana with the sounds of Gospel, Blues, and Jazz. At the age of 10, Shawn began picking up the guitar as well as other instruments. Within a year, he was performing at various local churches. At the age of 22, after doing local session work and playing various venues, he made the move to Nashville. There he began making the contacts that would lead to his success.
Currently, Shawn lives in Shreveport where he runs Foxtrot Studio. He is an A-list bassist at world-class Blade Studios. When he’s not producing records he is on the road with two time CMA Entertainer of the Year Neal McCoy and other artists. Within the last year, he has toured Europe with drummer Brady Blade (Bob Dylan, Emmy lou Harris, Dave Matthews) including a spot at the Glastonbury Festival in England, played the Grand Ole Opry twice, and in June of 2011, performed alongside Neal McCoy, Charlie Pride, Janie Fricke, and the Les Brown Orchestra for a PBS special to be aired on television and released on DVD and CD. Working with Neal has opened doors for Shawn to play bass with Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Josh Kelley, The Bellamy Brothers, and Martina McBride all within the last few months.