Blackbird Studio Page 2

Rock The Block
Since then it has expanded into a complex housing nine separate studios and takes up almost an entire city block. Studio A is the original, boasting Beatles-inspired decor and a customised Neve 8078 console that was originally built for Motown (LA) and later sold to Donald Fagen of Steely Dan. John McBride acquired it in 2002 and restored it with the help of Geoff Tanner, one of the console's original builders at the Neve factory.


Martina McBride pictured in 2003. The singer co-founded Blackbird Studio with husband John

Studio A also features 11 different recording areas, including a variable chamber with a scalable ceiling for customised reverb time. The large tracking room has adjustable flutter-free panels for added reverb control.

Rhythm Sticks
Studio B is mostly used for light tracking, overdubs, mixing and editing. It has a 48-channel API Legacy console, a live room and a small live chamber. Studio C, meanwhile, has an open floorplan and focuses on sound diffusion, it being walled by 138,646 individual sticks of formaldehyde-free MDF wood. No two pieces of wood are the same size or length and Blackbird reckons the walls contain more than 100,000lbs of the stuff. Within this space you'll find the technology to record 9.1.6 Dolby Atmos and immersive sound in the form of Sony 360 Reality Audio.


In April 2008 Kings Of Leon recorded Only By The Night at Blackbird with producers Jacquire King and Angelo Petraglia. It went to No 1 in the UK

Of the rest, Studio D has to be the standout. It houses seven recording spaces, the main room featuring dark walnut floors, staggered stone diffusion walls, and interchangeable flutter-free panels. There's also a large live chamber, a 96-channel API Legacy console (apparently the largest ever built), vintage brown leather couches and walls covered in a deep red velvet. Studio F is a Dolby Atmos immersive mixing suite.


The main room in Studio D with its red velvet walls and 96-channel API Legacy console

The artists who have recorded, mixed or what-have-you at Blackbird Studio include The Smashing Pumpkins, Willie Nelson, Kings Of Leon, Dolly Parton, Ed Sheeran, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Jack White and The White Stripes, Miley Cyrus, Snoop Dogg, Pearl Jam, Neil Young, Adele, Alabama Shakes, Beck and Buddy Guy. Which is not too shabby a list by anyone's reckoning.


Gear racks with EQ units, compressors, a Digidesign 192 I/O recording interface, and Avid HD I/O master clock

One of Blackbird's further claims to fame is its extensive microphone collection, which includes an ultra-rare stereo Telefunken 251 and a Telefunken 201/1. Equipment aside, Blackbird is also renowned for its training Academy where students can enrol to get hands-on knowledge of how a studio works. The Academy also offers courses in live audio engineering.

'We take a lot of interns', says John, 'and generally they've been part of a programme. But I was shocked to discover that most of these kids did not have any idea of how to really make a record and it bothered me. Not to mention that they probably owe 100 grand for the tuition they'd received, which just adds insult to injury.


Used solely by the Blackbird Academy, Studio I is a hybrid desktop recording, mixing and mastering environment

'You can bitch about things or do something about it and I much prefer to do something, so I thought the only way to remedy the situation was to try and do it ourselves. And so, starting in the fall of 2013, we formed the Blackbird Academy... Our mantra is the greatest education in the shortest amount of time for the least amount of money possible.


Taylor Swift recorded parts of her albums Fearless, Speak Now and Red at Blackbird

'It's now become one of the most important parts of my life, mentoring younger people, or even older people… the art of recording cannot be lost. I don't care how digital we get, the placement of the mic, the balance of what you've recorded, there are standards that have to be recognised and that's part of music's magic and emotion.'


Billy Corgan (second from left) pictured with The Smashing Pumpkins in 2012

Inside Edition
The courses last for six months and are now augmented by another enterprise called Inside Blackbird, which hosts instructional videos featuring both studio technicians and famous musicians. For more information on how to subscribe to Inside Blackbird go to

If you click onto the intro video for Inside Blackbird on YouTube, it ends with these words: '32,000 plus albums created… 200 plus hours of video… 90 plus Grammys won… one legendary studio…' You can't really say fairer than that.

Key Recording Timeline


The Dixie Chicks check in to lay down Taking The Long Way with producer Rick Rubin at the controls

Alabama Shakes record Sound & Color and win a Grammy for its unique blend of rock, soul and blues

More Grammy Awards, this time for Chris Stapleton and his debut album Traveller, recorded at Blackbird

Blackbird regular Buddy Guy works with producer Tom Hambridge to record The Blues Is Alive And Well

Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins works on his solo album Cotillions, aided by engineer Howard Willing

Raise The Roof by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss is produced by T Bone Burnett and mixed by Mike Piersante