Nestled in open, upscale residential area of Gallatin, north of Nashville, just a skip and a hop from Old Hickory Lake, Karian Studios is the love child of Karen and Ian D’Souza.
Relocating to Tennessee from the Northeast, the D’Souzas purchased an estate-sized property, and built behind the gates, from the ground up, both their home and the free-standing studio building. Karen, who serves as Karian’s general manager, says their goal was “to give back a little bit to the musicians of the world.”
Ian is a musician, as well as multi-platinum producer/engineer. He left the corporate music production world from a lofty perch, as A&R VP for the pre-merger BMG in New York. His resumé includes artists as diverse as Metallica and New Kids On The Block, and having helped spawn the Macarena craze. After traveling to studios all over the world, the couple had a clear vision of a facility that merged technology and comfort, as Karen says, to “give them a taste of the resort studio. There’s so few in the world today, not many people are exposed to it.”
The amenities first: The studio building is three stories. The middle, residential floor, houses a fully equipped kitchen, a beautiful main bedroom (with fine linens and hourly maid service), lounging areas, laundry facilities and a number of other touches designed to pamper and relax up to 10 overnight guests. Spa, chef and concierge services are available. On the grounds, there’s room to stroll, areas to sit and relax, and the D’Souzas keep horses in the back of the property that clients can ride, and a boat and jet ski on the nearby lake for water sport. Karen D’Souza says that they looked into building in more commercial areas, “but you just didn’t have the resort feel, you stepped out on to the sidewalk and saw cars passing you by and people there.” The Gallatin airport supports private aircraft, including the D’Souza’s, who remind that you can get from New York City to Gallatin in a time comparable to a New York commute (or even a cross-Nashville rush-hour trek). “People can fly in,” she says. “They don’t have to go downtown.” That service is outside of the room rate, of course.
The bottom floor of the Karian building houses the studio. The control room is spacious, roughly 20×30 feet, with an SSL 4072 E desk with G+ automation, 24 channels fitted with the early 4K “brown knob” EQs. Flanking a 50-inch HD monitor on the front wall are two sets of soffit mounted main monitors–Genelec 1036s and Dynaudio Acoustics M2s. Well-equipped outboard racks serve as the foundation for a producer’s desk, behind which sit four theater seats. A Digidesign Pro Tools HD3 rig, stuffed with plug-ins and soft synths, a RADAR II 192 kHz system and an Otari MTR-90 24-track 2-inch analog recorder are all standard to the studio.
Right of the engineer, through floor-to-ceiling glass, is the studio live room, a space with 20-foot ceilings, nearly 30×30 feet with a roughly triangular sound lock/booth cut out of one corner and a larger piano room in the opposing corner. There are two 10×9-foot iso rooms off the rear of the live space, both with 10-foot ceilings, one iso opening to the outside loading bay. Aviom’s cue system is employed, and the mic locker is well stocked. The third floor of the building houses an additional lounge, and a space earmarked to become a mastering room.
All of this is available at a highly aggressive rate, with introductory specials still in place–$600 a day for publishers and $700 a day for CMA (Country Music Association) members, with a base rate of $1,000 a day. At that rate, it’s no wonder that Karen boasts around 90 percent bookings, which she says is about right to allow for maintenance and upkeep. Clients have ranged from Carrie Underwood to L.A. act, Tantric, with most bookings coming from outside the Nashville market. Recently, artist/producer John Paul Jones flew in from London. Karian studio designer, Chris Huston, was once an engineer for Led Zeppelin. While Jones was inquiring about the studio, Karen says, “Once he found out that Chris, who had worked for him for so many years and had great set of ears, had designed the room, that just helped close the deal.”
Some in-house work for Karian comes from the D’Souzas’ new record label, Marian Records, with four pop acts signed to date. “First out of the box” is singer Ella, whose first project, Karen says, in its first four weeks, reached #1 as the most downloaded pop album.
“If you build it, they will come,” is a mantra with a mixed record of success. For the D’Souzas, their remarkably affordable dream studio perfectly fulfills the promise.
Studio Owners Karen and Ian D’Souza Console: SSL 4072 E/G+ Aw/TR Main Monitors: Genelec; Dynaudio (with matching sub) Nearfield Monitors: Absolute Zero; Event; Yamaha; Urei Recorders: Otari RADAR II, MTR-90; Digidesign Pro Tools HD3; MOTU Digital Performer; Alesis ADAT; Tascam DAT/cassette; Alesis Masterlink CDR; Sony 9090 VCR Processing/Pres: Focusrite; Neve; TubeTech; API; SPL; Summit; Lexicon; Universal Audio; GML; Urei; Empirical Labs; Drawmer; BSS; Avalon; Alesis; TC Electronic; Yamaha; Antares; Electrix; PreSonus; Apogee Microphones: AKG; Neumann; beyerdynamic; EV; Soundelux; Sony; Royer; Audio-Technica; Shure; Sennheiser; Octava; GT Plug-ins/Soft Synths: Propellerhead; Antares; Waves; Sony; Digidesign; Bombfactory; Line 6; Focusrite; Ableton; IK; Spectrasonics; Native Instruments Instruments: Falcone 6-foot grand piano; Korg; Alesis; Hammond (B-3 w/Leslie); Fender