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SCOTT WOOD: BUILDING OAK RIDGE STUDIOS

SCOTT WOOD: BUILDING OAK RIDGE STUDIOS

Hello folky world! My name is Scott Wood, and I’m a 25 year old born and raised in Erskine, now residing in Bishopbriggs. I have a career in the Scottish music industry, and seem to have multiple busy jobs within. Currently, I tour on bagpipes and whistles with the band Skerryvore, manage and perform a lot of corporate work with the Drams Ceilidh Band, and my most recent venture is recording/mixing/mastering/producing from Oak Ridge Studios – my home recording studio! My attention span can be low, so I crave the contrast of all of these jobs, they each satisfy me in different ways, but I thought I would write this blog about my latest love and passion; my development in producing/recording music, and most recently, building a recording studio.

In 2015, I recorded the album ‘Upsurge’ with my good pals in the ‘Scott Wood Band’. This was one of my happiest times and I just loved everything about the whole process. I fell in love with making albums and it was very clear that was where my main interest lay. To mix the record, I flew out to Ann Arbor, Michigan to work with one of my musical heroes, Tyler Duncan (the olllam, Vulfpeck, Theo Katzman, Jeremy Kittel, May Erelwine and more). He is INSANE . . . and I mean INSANE. One of the most talented music producers in the world! Most people seem to be of the idea that you need to go to a big fancy studio for your album to sound great. Tyler’s studio is in the basement of his house and he gets some unbelievable sounds from that room. It was a fun week of watching and learning from Tyler. I arrived home inspired, and wanted to go down a similar career path.

At this time, I wasn’t hugely into audio work, I knew what I liked and didn’t and I loved comparing the different sounds of records. From gigging a lot I had dabbled in live sound, so I had amassed a decent amount of live mics and PA equipment. But my first proper attempt at recording was with my own band, recording like takes through my digital desk (acting as a tape machine) and making the final mixes on that board. It’s absolutely terrible when I listen back to them now of course, but I got such a buzz from doing it. We recorded a full live band in my parent’s living room where we would mainly rehearse.

The thing that I loved most about this was recording from my house. I loved the warm environment, the relaxed vibe between the musicians and having no pressure on constraints of time. This is what I loved about Tyler’s studio, and I felt there was nothing quite like this in Scotland.

This is when my addiction to buying high quality microphones started. I was living at home with my parents, so was fortunate enough to be able to invest my money into a ridiculous collection of microphones and gear. I would research and purchase very high- end equipment, even though I then didn’t fully understand their capabilities/worth at the time. I started to record more with my friends, just on our own music, and was learning from them about what they liked to hear from the sound of their own instruments.

My parents are gems. Everyone who recorded at my house loved them for the lunches they would prepare for us to eat everyday. My mum went out her way to make soup and cakes and everything else for all of the artists. They let me have a room in the house, to have constantly set up as a control room, and for every recording, I would trail cables thought the kitchen and into the living room, move the dining table out of the way to create a live room. I pinned acoustic panels to the roof and used free-standing panels to make a collapsible tight sounding area. I somehow managed to get incredible sounds from this room, and it taught me a great amount about how to treat a room acoustically and how to make the most of mic placements.

The absolutely amazing Hannah Rarity was the first artist to let me properly record her EP ‘Beginnings’, a record when looking back, I’m still very proud of for my first proper attempt at recording. She and her band are incredible and it really does help when you start recording people who are that good!

I worked with a lot of artists in this house, including: Project Smok, Assynt, Josie Duncan & Pablo Lafunente, Alyn Cosker, Hannah Rarity, Anxo Lorenzo, The Tannahill Project, Christy Scott, Skerryvore, Skipinnish & Eabhal.

Anxo Lorenzo was a magical childhood piping hero of mine (still is), and flew all the way from Spain to record with ME in my parent’s house! Crazy! He had heard my work with Project Smok from my awesome guitarist pal Pablo Lafunete who was in his band. Working on Anxo’s music was definitely a moment for me when I believed that I could make a career out of recording and decided I should give it a proper go.

By this time, I grew out of the living room studio and it was becoming a joking friction between my parents and I when I would deprive them of their living room for a week to record an album. Around this time, I got engaged to the beautiful woman and musician Mhairi Marwick, and we were looking for a house together for when we would become married. She is super supportive and really believes in my dreams, and agreed that we look for a house that could host a recording studio inside . . . I think she possibly is the best partner ever?

I wanted to build a studio that had that ‘home recording’ feeling which I love, but somewhere that also feels very professional as well, with high-end equipment and every detail catered for. I had a clear vision in my head of what I wanted and done a lot of research, and here’s a list of things I was looking for in my new studio:

  • Somewhere inspiring and with character
  • Somewhere that was close for people to get to in Glasgow (best city in the world)
  • Somewhere that I would enjoy spending long, long days
  • Somewhere that had space for musicians to relax when not playing
  • Somewhere that would have room for expansion
  • A control room without parallel walls
  • Somewhere that could be easily kept warm or cool for the musicians
  • Somewhere that had the flexibility to be completely light or completely dark.

We thankfully managed to purchase a detached bungalow in Bishopbriggs that is just exactly all of the above. It was the 3rd house we viewed, and we still can’t believe how blessed we are to be able to live and work in such an amazing house.

A big draw to the house was the pre existing wooden loft conversion. It was perfect for a large control room and was out of the way enough to separate work and normal life; something that I feel is strongly important. One of the bedrooms downstairs was perfect for a live room as well, so we decided to go ahead with turning that into a room that would deal with the bulk of the recording.

Studios are EXPENSIVE to build. I really didn’t anticipate just how much it would be. I ended up slightly over budget, and that was with keeping most of the work within the family. My dad is one of these super-handy dads, and he had just retired at the time we moved house and was very keen to help us build the studio. This saved me thousands of pounds in doing so which I am so appreciative for. He was teaching me tricks as we were going along, and from a man who didn’t know how to put on a wash at the start of the year, I laid all the flooring in the studio plus many other things I thought I could never do!

I won’t bore you with all the details of what we done with the build, but I thought I’d make a quick list of the main points for each room:

CONTROL ROOM:

  • Structural change to the control room to expand it by 3.5m in width
  • Hatch to downstairs installed
  • 3 layers of soundproofing put in the floor so no noise can be heard downstairs
  • New flooring laid down
  • Electrics totally rewired and custom designed to my setup
  • Van Damme Blue Series Audio Cabling and Cat5e Networking
  • Dakin Aircon Cooling and Heating System installed (Silent)
  • Acoustic Panels custom designed and fitted around the room
  • Interior Design and Lighting

LIVE ROOM:

  • New flooring laid down and room redecorated
  • Secondary glazing installed for further soundproofing
  • Audio and Cat 5e cabling ran from the control and mounted on wall
  • Acoustic design and panels custom made and installed
  • Interior design and Lighting

Acoustic design is always a bit of a guess, but the sounds I have been getting in my new studio are incredible, so I am so happy with my guesswork. I’m working way faster, with a much clearer vision of my audio destination and feeling in total control of every production choice.

In terms of where I want to head with all of this, I really want to be producing more records. I listen to new albums every single day and I feel I am most creative when working alongside other people. My production style seems to work best with being able to oversee the whole process, from pre-production rehearsals and demos, right up until mixing and mastering (although I do prefer someone else to master if I have done everything else for a second opinion).

‘Oak Ridge Studios’ has only been on the go for around 3 months and the vibe that has been created between the musicians and myself has been so special every single time. I want it to be a creative hub for Scottish Music, whether traditional or completely innovative. I’m a people person, and really want to create a strong community of musicians that love working together and will help to support and encourage each other making albums. I’m looking forward to the future of the studio and have already started working on some really amazing work already.

Here’s one of the latest tracks from Project Smok that I produced, recorded & mixed:

To finish off, I thought I’d leave 5 Tips for Musicians Making an Album:

  1. GET A PRODUCER
    Having a good producer to oversee the whole project will make your album 10 times better. Having someone who understands how to create sounds/moods is a massive bonus, not just someone who is a good musician necessarily. It’s also all about someone who can deal well with managing different personalities when it comes to the pressured environment of the studio.
  1. DON’T BE SCARED TO BE DIFFERENT
    Don’t be scared to make your album different from live show. To be honest, it really doesn’t matter. Make the best sounding album you can! Being able to recreate it live is just a bonus.
  2. DON’T SKIMP ON ANY ASPECT OF IT
    A great sounding album is so, so important. It’s your business card and your main brand product to sell for years to come. From the sound of it, to the look and everything in-between.
  3. KEEP YOUR DOWNTIME FREE
    If you’re recording in the daytime, be sure to relax in the evenings. Do something other than music so you can be fresh for the next day. You could be playing for up to 6 hours in a day, so you need to go in with a clear frame of mind.
  4. PRACTISE INTENSELY BEFOREHAND
    A great performance is super important. Practise tonnes before you go in to record, and more specifically, practise with a metronome if the music suits that feel. Tuning and timing are very over looked aspects in practise, but cause the biggest problems when it comes to recording. If you’re on it, you’ll also save yourself a lot of money if you’re nailing your parts in the first take!

Thanks for taking the time to make it this far! Building this studio has definitely been the best thing I’ve done in my career, but who knows, maybe I will look back in years to come and write a blog called ‘Don’t build a recording studio in your house with your wife’ . . .

Send me an email at scott@scottwoodmusic.com if you’d like to get a chat about working with me at Oak Ridge Studios or if you have any other questions at all!