Key players in the Front Stage at Sound Stage renovation process were (l-r): Warren Rhoades (technical design
and install), Jerry Darks (construction), producer/engineer Chuck Ainlay, BRE COO Gordon Kerr, Sound Stage
GM Nick Autry and Markeata Daniels (interior design).
NASHVILLE, TN—Black River Entertainment,Stage hosted a tour of the new facilities and roundtable discussion of the process that saw Front Stage closed in November and reopened around Memorial Day, first hosting a Miranda Lambert tracking session with perennial Sound Stage Back Stage resident and engineer Chuck Ainlay at the SSL 9000K for the project. which purchased the Music Row mainstay, Sound Stage Studios, last year, has completed its renovation of the facility’s anchor room, Front Stage. During Summer NAMM, Sound
Ainlay and longtime Sound Stage maintenance engineer and former manager Warren Rhoades (who still runs his consulting, equipment manufacturing and repair service business from the building) brought history and experience to the project, and interior designer Marketa Daniels for aesthetics that complement the acoustic and “vibe” design goals (like the main tracking space’s stacked stone diffusion wall), all working with the late Bill Hatcher (electrician), Jerry Darks and Mike LeBlanc to implement the designs.
Darks referred to Rhoades as “Mr. Change Order,” reflecting that the project design evolved during the process. Rhoades comments, “If we didn’t like it, we changed it,” and lauded Black River management for its commitment to the highest standards. Black River COO Gordon Kerr described the process as a “collective vision,” emphasizing three priorities—a “healthy respect for the past,” acknowledging the legacy of a facility that has produced over 500 chart-topping hits, an “understanding of the present” that includes both the changes in business practices and technology, and a “vision for the future.”
The “airplane wing”-shaped, adjustable ceiling panels give engineers a wide range of acoustic options in Front Stage’s main tracking room.One tangible innovation in the process was a system of three individual groupings of “airplane wing”-shaped ceiling panels under motorized control to create variable reverberation characteristics in conjunction with ceiling absorption above the panels. Ainlay reports that the system was very effective during the Lambert sessions, and that they changed the orientation of louvers song to song. Ainlay adds, “I ended up using no reverb at all” during mixing.
In the control room, the rear wall was moved back eight feet, opening up the low end for the new ATC main monitor system. The additional space also “makes it a real comfortable room,” says Ainlay, allowing a full session of players to assemble in the control room for playback. Cat-7 cabling was strung alongside of the traditional audio infrastructure, available for future uses, such as enabling video streaming during tracking sessions.
Kerr says that Black River is “committed to excellence,” and he believes that if you “make good music, they’ll come.” Further, Sound Stage, as a facility open to projects outside of their own artist’s productions, seeks to “partner with the community” of audio professionals. Sound Stage general manager Nick Autry says the project has maintained and improved upon the legendary facility’s vibe.
Black River Entertainment