Once upon a time... Beginnings of "Studio Mama" and "The Muse"
The pandemic has given us all time to reflect. Some of us were gifted more time than others. Some have wallowed, some have pole-vaulted. I've been splitting my time between the two, using feelings of nostalgia to feed forward motion. This week, by husband's band The Wood Brothers announced a re-release of their vinyl album The Muse, which is what set me on the Studio Mama path. Here's the full-Monty:
Oliver and I packed up our Atlanta household (2 kids, 3 bedrooms, and a barn/studio full of storage and music gear) and moved to Nashville in July 2012. It was a real leap of faith. I didn't have a job or any idea of childcare for the littlest of us. We'd researched local middle schools and found a rental house on Craig's List in the neighborhood close by, so the older boy at least had an autumnal agenda. We moved into the 2-bedroom house SIGHT UNSEEN. (it's funny, because we wrote down the address incorrectly, then were surprised when we pulled up and it didn't look like the pictures! We got it right after a few minutes of confusion...). Unpacking, we realized what the ad meant by "small closets." Basically, we ended up looking at ALL OF OUR STUFF EVERY DAY. There was NO storage and nowhere to escape for any sort of privacy. But it was summertime and me and the kids had a new city to explore while Oliver was on tour and I was searching for a job.
Looking for a job in a small(er) town is a bit of a feat. I have great office management and organizational experience with letters of recommendation. I'm a fast and accurate typist. I'm bubbly and easy to get along with, while still holding my boundaries and accepting various levels of accountability. I'm good on the phone. Long-story-short, I'm a great office worker bee. And after 6 weeks of searching for a job, I was still coming up empty handed. Having exhausted every resource I could drum up, I finally sent my resume to my friend, Zac Brown, in hopes that he'd pass it along to anyone he knew looking for "a kick ass admin."
Turns out HE needed one.
For his newly acquired and renovated recording studio, Southern Ground Nashville.
Located just 7 minutes from my new home.
It seemed too good to be true. I waffled, trying to decide if working for a friend was a good idea. Weighing out whether working with/near my husband, who was on Zac's Southern Ground label then, was going to feel good. The studio director at the time was Matt Mangano, now bassist for Zac Brown Band. He and I interviewed each other and decided that it would be a great fit and I started my new job mid-August, 2012.
I bought my own desk (on the company card) from a local thrift dealer and got out the Murphy's Oil Soap to bring it back to life. I figured creative ways to get the fax/copier off the floor and found great lateral files to house the historic tracking documents which were left behind by previous owners and tenants. Our awesome construction team made everything match the vibe of the space which was described to me as "industrial-meets-rustic cabin." I was charged with purchasing furniture and framing artwork, making the ancient phone system work for us, creating an invoicing system, choosing pin-up pics and pews, and making sure the Craft Services area and the in-counter keg tap were ready to go at all times.
In March 2013, the time came for The Wood Brothers to track an album. Knowing the extended hours of a recording session, it only made sense for my sister-in-law and I to make use of the full-kitchen to visit with our husbands and share "home-cooked" meals at the dinner break. Cooking from scratch on-site saved money on the recording budget versus the expense of ordering to-go from restaurants. It also allowed the band to eat menus based on their own dietary choices with higher quality ingredients than would be available as take-out. Just like at home, we picked local, organic ingredients and served up meals which nourished the musicians' bodies and fed their creative spirits instead of putting them into a sludgy state of mind for the rest of the evening. At the close of the session, Matt came to me and said, "Can we do this on EVERY session?" And so it began.
That May, Zac visited the studio to host a day of meetings and interviews. Upon hearing what we'd been doing for the artists who were recording there, Zac hugged my neck and said, "This Studio needed a Mama!" Henceforth, my title at Southern Ground Nashville was "Studio Mama."
The release of The Wood Brother's album The Muse was timed to line up with the Americana Music Festival and Conference, held annually here in Nashville, TN. Southern Ground Nashville had the pleasure of hosting the release party by invitation to conference attendees, journalists, and close friends. The guest list was bit daunting, and confirmed at 80 people. That's too much work for this gal to do single-handedly! We'd made friends with the good folks at Porter Road Butcher and knew they were big fans of the band. I called on them to put the special touches on the day and enlisted some help from the mighty Jesse Goldstein.
It was an afternoon to remember!! The studio was jumping, CRAWLING with people. The food was incredible, the performance remarkable. We even got a write-up by Adam Gold in the Nashville Scene:
"...The more people ate, though, the more the atmosphere loosened up. Catered by Rebecca "Studio Mama" Wood and Porter Road Butcher, the dishes tended to consist of down-home, unpretentious ingredients. Only they combined flavors and locally sourced goods in ways that made the familiar seem new and the unfamiliar seem inviting..."
Of the thousands of hours I spent in that building, pouring my heart into each one of them, I found that it all boiled down to this, from the very beginning: Bringing people together through music and food, in an unpretentious way, holding space for artists at every level to be comfortable enough to get into the creative spirit and be moved by The Muse.
Be on the lookout for Studio Mama menus from The Muse sessions!!
This week's Studio Mama Menu is available to order for Wednesday delivery and will hold nicely to serve for your holiday meal.