When Cody Smith thinks of Sunday Drive, he thinks about a family tradition spanning over several generations. A tradition that he admits as a child he took for granted. Now Cody is showing his appreciation to that easy-going feeling of being in a car with loved ones with no real agenda at hand by naming his recording studio Sunday Drive Recordings.
Sunday Drive Recordings, located about halfway between Knoxville and Nashville in the Middle Tennessee city of Cookeville. The Studio opened it’s doors for business in February of 2011. The Studio itself is about 2700 square foot with multiple isolation rooms to fit the artist/bands needs. For example A room is 570 square foot with 10 foot ceilings large enough to accommodate full bands looking to recording with the effects of sounding live.
The location of this Studio not only is a jewel for musicians and songwriters residing in the Tennessee and Kentucky area, Sunday Drive Recordings offers a rural feel with urban experienced staff. The staff includes Jessie Wooten from Nashville, TN, focusing largely on the harder materials of metal and hard rock. Caleb Barnes from Smithville, TN has experience in the indie world of music as both a studio engineer and a musician with his own band Temperance Hall. Dave Smith from Chicago, Illinois has not only studio experience, but Dave has also worked in the live sound world. Then there is Cody Smith, owner and operator of Sunday Drive, whom you will also find behind and in front of the sound board. All four of these guys have a love for the music as not only engineers, but also as musicians. They understand artist's needs and will use their knowledge, skill, and experience to make your music breathe life and emotion.
Sunday Drive Recording is about old school standards of making great music without the overpriced studio time. You will find a mix of vintage instruments, modern technologies, and an ever growing collection of gear to produce a never understated sound. As Cody says, “Sunday Drive is supposed to be about the free wheeling explorative experience!”
I got the opportunity to go a little further in learning about Sunday Drive Recordings with an interview with owner Cody Smith. We talked about his love for music, the people that support him, and why he chose Cookeville.
Interview with Cody Smith owner of music recording studio Sunday Drive Recordings:
Question: How long have you been interested in making music?
Answer: Though I got a guitar at twelve, I really didn't get the real itch until my junior year of high school. I played a whole lot, and even though I was in bands, I didn't really see the potential for doing it on a professional level. So, I suppose about eight years would be about right.
Question: When did you know music would play a big part in your career?
Answer: The first time I got paid! I'm kidding, but only partially. When I transferred colleges, the band I was playing with was briefly signed to a label. I really banked on that, and when we were dropped, I found
myself scrambling to find another job to make up for the loss. I started doing session work and working as a hired tour musician, and I realized just how much it all meant to me to be making music. So I decided then and there to not do anything else.
Question: Where did you attend school and why did you choose that school?
Answer: I went to Lee University for my undergraduate, because the school had a great focus on biblical study, as well as a phenomenal jazz program. However, I went to SAE Institute a year and half ago, too. I decided to go to SAE because of the really great connections the school had, as well as the great collection of gear they had. Plus, anyone can tell how long they've done studio work on the pro level. Only a few have an accredited school to back them up.
Question: Can you imagine your life without music?
Answer: Not really at all. Showing people what Jesus has done in my life is priority number one, and though I'm not a gifted speaker or anything like that, I can make music speak for me. If I didn't have that, I don't know how well I could get my feelings and thoughts across otherwise.
Question: What songs can you currently not get enough of?
Answer: I found out--a little late--about 16 Horsepower last year while I was living in Nashville, and the album Secret South probably doesn't have a single bad song on it. Plus, it's one of the few unabashedly Christian albums that I really think avoids being contrived in anyway.
Question: Who are some artist/bands that inspire you the most?
Answer: Easily the Beatles, specifically Magical Mystery Tour, mean more to me musically than anything else. Bands and songwriters I fell in love with in high school and college like John Vanderslice, Wilco, Richard Swift, and Elliott Smith still mean the world to me as well. But as
far as writing to say exactly what you mean and still putting it out there in a really appealing way, I will always love Fugazi, mewithoutYou, and Neutral Milk Hotel.
Question: What made you invest in a recording studio in Cookeville TN?
Answer: Truth? It was easier to get a loan than starting it in Chattanooga!But, really, if I think about it more, I know I needed to start here.There's nothing professional outside of Nashville for a couple hundredmiles in this area. I worked myself to death to make good recordings in my garage when I was younger because I knew I couldn't afford Nashville at the time. I think there's a wealth of songwriters and bands who really are worth working with even if they're not in Nashville. So, setting up in a hub like Cookeville lets me help people out from Kentucky and Tennessee without dealing with the problems of being in a bigger city
Question: What are your current goals when it comes to your studio and clients?
Answer: There's a studio in San Francisco called Tiny Telephone that charges aflat rate of $350 a day for what may very well be a million dollarroom. It's one of the very, very few studios that's offering super-high quality service for very low rates. That's all I wanted to acheive here. You get free tape, access to world class instruments hat have been picked just for this, and engineers that have worked--or even still work-- in Nashville, for $300 flat. I just want to provide excellence without a ridiculously inflated over-charge.
Question: What should artists know about working with you?
Answer: That I'm an artist, too. Anything that leaves the studio has to be top-notch, or I can't stomach it. I want people to sound their best. However, that isn't to say I'm a slave-driver. I'm just trying to get the best out of people, but I understand that making records is way harder than it should be sometimes. So in the end, I think I'm someone a songwriter or player can trust.
Question: What makes your studio standout from others?
Answer: In Cookeville, I'm definitely the only person who's going to understand the music, and have experience to make the sounds in the artist's head come through the speakers on playback. But in comparison to say, Nashville for instance, I'm definitely one of the few who still wants to do this for the greater good. I don't say that at all as a dig, though. Making money is good, and Nashville's great at it. But $800 for eight hours in a room with no tape and no engineer is far from helpful to a music business where people are already struggling just to recoup what they invest into playing shows.
Question:Who has been your greatest encouragement while chasing after this dream?
Answer: My mom and dad. My fiancé, Chelsea, was always there and I knew it,but my mom and dad were the ones who were there with me when I signed the loan papers and assured me that this was a good decision that would be blessed.
Question: Tell us a little about the other engineers you have brought into the studio.
Answer: Aside from me, there are three other regular house engineers. Jessie Wooten is from Nashville, and has worked on a whole lot of harder material. That's great because I'm not exactly well versed in the ways
of heavy rock and metal, and I'm willing to admit it! He comes from a super musical family, as his father Joseph plays keys for the Wooten Brothers and Steve Miller Band, and his uncles Reggie, Victor, and Roy "Futureman" Wooten are all over Nashville. Caleb Baines is from Smithville, Tennessee, and is just an all-around nice guy. We met at SAE, and he actually worked on a lot of sessions with Jessie. He also works on a lot of indie recordings, as well as with his own band Temperance Hall. Dave Smith is from Chicago, Illinois, and actually works more in live sound than any of us. However, he's a great, hard-working engineer who legitimately loves every kind of music you could imagine. All three of these guys, while having their strong suits, are just really knowledgeable engineers. They're musicians, so they understand what players need, too.
Question: I noticed that several of the instruments are from a different era(50's, 60's, 70's). Can you tell me about this vintage collection and how important of a role does this collection play in the sound that comes from Sunday Drive's Recordings?
Answer: I figured out pretty quickly that I like to play as many instrumentsas I can pick up, so I'm buying them all the time. I'm also a big gearnerd, so I buy and trade a lot to get classic instruments that wereused on some of my favorite records. I've got 50s and 60s Zildjian cymbals because I love Ringo just as much as I love Led Zepplin, just like I have a 70s Fender Vibro-Champ because I loved when Clapton played with George Harrison at Concert for Bangladesh. I've got Rickenbackers because of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and a '55 Telecaster for Don Rich, who was the guitar player for Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. All these instruments, even though they're things that someone famous liked, are really well made, classic instruments. A normal band probably spends enough money trying to play shows andrecord that they can't afford to buy those kinds of instruments, so when they come here they can play some of the finest instruments they may ever touch. So, by playing here on my instruments, they really remove a weak link in the signal chain to making great sounding records. I guess it adds a vintage sound, too, which doesn't hurt!