Concert series? Heck, he was just giving some friends a space to play some songs and make a few bucks while they were in town.
But in a town where musicians often complain there are not enough places where people can hear music – really hear it, without the clanking of glasses and chatter of bar or restaurant customers – Kitchen Sink Studio has become the new kid on the block.
Actually, setting up a concert space was part of the plan, but not the first priority, when Manson and business partner Tim Schmoyer (who recently relocated from Boston to Santa Fe) bought the former Stepbridge Studios about a year and a half ago. Located just off Guadalupe Street on the edge of downtown Santa Fe, the studio was too good to pass up, said Manson, who previously ran Kitchen Sink from a converted adobe house in Chupadero.
(Adobe brick, by the way, is actually a nice surface for a recording studio wall, according to Manson, because its porous and irregular surface absorbs some of the sound and keeps it from reflecting back too much.)
When he first moved to New Mexico in 1992, Manson said, “I worked at this place a lot.” In its early days, Stepbridge probably was the only recording studio for miles around, so it was the place to go for his own projects – Manson said he has been a musician since he was 6 years old and started getting paid for it when he was 15.
“It was at risk of being torn down to build another set of condos,” he said. “And this is a really great space.”
Now Manson is working to bring both local and visiting musicians into that space, perhaps once or twice a month, breaking out the chairs (the fire marshal allows 49) for visitors to sit in the same room where the musicians record their works. So, as you might expect, the acoustics are great.
Most recently, the studio hosted Crystal Bowersox, a singer-songwriter writer from Nashville and a runner-up in the ninth season of “American Idol.” It also marked the first attempt to get a live concert recording at the studio – an official one, where various takes from rehearsals and the two concerts will be picked out to produce the best version of them all.
In these days of digital streaming of music and musicians with the capacity to make their own recordings on the computer, the live concert record provided another avenue for the studio to provide a service and make a living, Manson said. “I’m now in the process of mixing 55 songs,” he said in mid-December of the various takes.
“It’s a really cool idea,” he continued. “The revenue from the concert pays the musicians … . It’s a really interesting business model. It’s like instant crowdfunding. It’s its own little ecosystem.”
Besides making recordings with musicians in the studio, Manson said he also does post-production work for people who make their own recordings and even has music sent to him from around the world for him to help polish into a finished product. “Last month, I mixed an album that I didn’t record for an Italian singer-songwriter,” he said, noting that he lived in Italy from 2003-06 and continues to collaborate with people there. He also is working with “some guys in Pakistan.”
Kitchen Sink Studio is collaborating with both the Santa Fe Performance Exchange and Southwest Roots Music to bring in shows. The latter organization is behind the next concert, 7 p.m. Saturday, when Rosie Flores will play.
Manson said she was coming through town and was looking for a gig, and heard about him through mutual friends.
“I’ve been aware of her for decades. She by all accounts is a really charismatic performer and a great guitar player,” he said. Although hailed as a queen of rockabilly, Manson said, “she’s had a very varied career and is a very gifted songwriter… . Her list of collaborators is like a Who’s Who of rock and roll.”
Previous concerts at the site have included a group of songwriters, including Manson himself, in September; and Blake & Groves and Zickey and the Condor in November. In March, Peter Mulvey, a singer-songwriter from Boston, will be featured.
“We’ll have something in February, as well,” Manson said, adding, “I believe in just letting things take shape.”