Professional recording services provided by Star Prairie studioAug. 6, 2007 was an important date for many musicians in and around Star Prairie. Two local musicians performed for the first time in what has come to be known as the Star Prairie Jam.
By: By Tom Lindfors, New Richmond News
Aug. 6, 2007 was an important date for many musicians in and around Star Prairie.
Two local musicians performed for the first time in what has come to be known as the Star Prairie Jam. Held every Thursday night at This Old Store, operated by proprietor Jerry Ledo and his better half Ruth Happe, the Jam has grown into a premier venue for both veteran players and talented amateurs.
It turns out, the Jam had more mojo than anyone could have predicted back in 2007.
Though he doesn’t play himself, Ledo’s background in music management led him to connect with Jam guitarist Todd Naylor and eventually with engineer Rick Vogelpohl. Naylor owned an 1800s vintage carriage house a few doors down from Ledo’s store, home of the Jam, and was planning on converting it into his painting studio.
As fate would have it, the Naylors and the Ledos had known each other loosely over the years even though Jerry and Todd had not been acquainted specifically. Their mutual passion for music hatched the idea to create a recording studio in the carriage house and Carriage House Studios was born. In August of 2009 the studio opened its doors and began recording mostly artists who had been discovered through the Jam.
To hear engineer Rick Vogelpohl tell it, it was a dream come true to discover there was a professional grade recording facility only four miles from his home in Star Prairie. In the course of checking out the Jam’s website, he came across the link for Carriage House Studios and fired off a resume.
Talking with Vogelpohl the next day, Ledo informed him of Naylor’s studio project. He also informed him that they had purchased all the necessary recording gear from a studio that was going out of business and that they had a national act coming in on the weekend. Naylor asked Vogelpohl is he could come in hook up the equipment and do the session.
“I’ll be right there,” was Vogelpohl’s response, and a match made in musical heaven was formed. Ledo’s Jam provided the talent, Naylor had the space and equipment and Vogelpohl had the knowledge and recording expertise.
The idyllic studio is situated 75 yards from the banks of the Apple River making it an attractive alternative to recording in an urban facility miles away in the Twin Cities. Downstairs houses audiophile Naylor’s vintage guitar collection, various amps, accoutrements of his painting studio, the mandatory all-hours refrigerator keeping cold beer and other beverages, and a pool table situated prominently in the center of the room. Noticeably missing are a bathroom and telephone, all the better to focus attention on the business at hand, recording music.
If you didn’t spend a few summers in a garage imitating Peter Townsend or Hendrix slamming a guitar, you’re not going to fully appreciate Vogelpohl’s musical roots. His longer-than-shoulder-length hair testifies to a childhood growing up around rock and roll.
Vogelpohl’s father taught him to play the guitar. His career started by playing with bands in and around Stillwater, Minn. and eventually the Twin Cities. The reality of making a living as a rock god wore thin after endless weekends. Along the way, however, Vogelpohl had begun purchasing the gear and acquiring the knowledge necessary to record his band’s sound.
“I never really wanted to be a sound guy,” he said. “What happened was, I bought all the equipment for my band and started doing sound for my band. Then all my friends’ bands started asking me to bring my stuff to run their bands. It kind of snow balled after that.”
He ended up enrolling in an audio production program at Hennepin Technical College emerging with a degree in 1994, followed by an internship at Track Record Studios in St. Paul, Minn. where he cut his teeth recording everything from country to blues including artists like Marilyn Sellers, Lamont Cranston, Big Walter Smith and Tiny Tim.
Vogelpohl explains how his education in analog recording has enhanced his skills when it comes employing today’s digital technologies.
“I learned how to physically splice tape,” he said. “By cutting it at an angle, the molecules in the magnetic tape actually bridge the splice realigning over time as the splice runs repeatedly over the tape head creating a smooth sound transition.”
In digital recording, that splice is accomplished by very precisely adding and subtracting anomalies represented visually in the sound wave on a computer screen.
“Kids coming out of school today are not familiar with the technique of splicing tape or the history of editing,” he said. “All they know is how to put beats together producing a sterile sound lacking a human imprint on the sound.”
On one particular afternoon, Chanteal Strand, a senior at New Richmond High School and member of the Kammerchor mixed choir, was making her recording debut at Carriage House. She lists Christina Aguilera and Adele as influences on her music. She said he musical mentor is her high school teacher, Andy Schroetter.
“He’s taught me everything,” she said. She further credits the music theory class she took this year with teaching her how to read notes on the scale, intervals and ear training.
Strand plans to complete her liberal arts degree at Chippewa Valley Technical College and then transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to get her degree in music education in preparation for a career as a music teacher.
But today it’s just her, a mic and her music as she begins work on a 17-song repertoire.
“I’m really nervous. I’ve never been told no or that sounds bad,” she said.
Within minutes Vogelpohl has Strand’s music tracks loaded into the computer and they begin work on Carrie Underwood’s hit “Before He Cheats.” They capture Chanteal’s voice.
As they sit together in the sound proof booth reviewing her first attempt, Vogelpohl gently begins the process of educating her to the nuances of making a professional recording. They talk about breathing and controlling volume from phrase to phrase, and the proximity of the microphone in relationship to how loud you sing.
Strand, a perfectionist in her own right, appears to be as dedicated as Vogelpohl to getting it right so she listens and learns.
“It’s part of my job to educate,” Vogelpohl explains following the session. He feels it’s often better to have rookies in the studio as opposed to veterans who are set in their ways and often not open to suggestions.
“It all depends on whether I think the artist is going to accept the advice in the first place. Chanteal was real open to any kind of criticism or influence. If an artist is not going to be open to hearing advice, I just keep my mouth shut,” he said. “There were some parts where a lot of people would have been frustrated last night. She just worked through it. I can tell she’d be good with students.”
A new service called Audio Archive located in the building immediately behind This Old Store at 301 Main Street in Star Prairie provides postproduction services for Carriage House, including duplicating and imprinting discs. It’s also available to the public providing technical services that allow families to transfer and preserve memories from out dated media like reel to reel, homemade movies, VHS tape, eight track tapes, cassettes, even beta to CD, DVD and hard drives.
The idea for the business started when Vogelpohl put on a reel-to-reel tape for a customer and start playing it.
“They heard their relative’s voice, and they just started crying,” he said. “That’s when it hit me. These are really important to them. This is gold.”
As part of a program inspired by the death of his father from Alzheimer’s, Vogelpohl’s been developing a program to help out Alzheimer’s patients in nursing homes by producing discs that contain videos or music familiar to the patient that triggers them out of their lost state.
“When my dad listened to his music, he would snap out of it and back into the moment. Studies have shown that familiar voices, music or video can reconnect patients to their family members,” he said.
In a related service, Vogelpohl works with churches and funeral homes taking a family’s memories in the forms of old photos, video and homemade movies, to which he adds music creating a slide show production for memorial services. Information about Audio Archive’s services can be found at This Old Store. You can also leave materials for Audio Archive at the counter with Jerry or Ruth.