Blackbird Studios in Nashville, TN is one
of the world’s great recording spaces. The
name Blackbird pays homage to world’s
greatest band of all time: The Beatles. That
alone should tell you about the love of
music that the owners, John and Martina
McBride, manifest in their studio. Throw in
Grammy award-winning producer, equipment designer and inventor of the parametric EQ, George Massenburg, with his
over-the-top Studio C, and this complex
Blackbird consists of seven studios, along
with a separate rental department. I ask you,
where can you rent a Telefunken Ela M 270
serial #001 for $10,000.00 a day? There is
only one serial #001…
I spoke with Blackbird’s Studio Manager,
Mr. Scott Phillips about this little “jewel
in the heartland.”
What makes Blackbird unique in the
world of recording studios?
John McBride’s vision of Blackbird is pretty
much about one thing: audio. It starts there.
We don’t want clients to be limited by their
imagination. If you can dream it up, we want
to be able to say, “Yeah, let’s try that!” With
our collection of gear and vibe here, we
want to create an atmosphere that’s like no
other. A sort of “The Four Seasons meets
Moulin Rouge.” Some might think it’s a little
over-the-top, but not our clients. If you were
a painter, wouldn’t you want every color
imaginable? Well, that’s us, that’s Blackbird.
Which leads us to the number one reason
we are who we are: our staff is second to
none. Our gear and reputation get clients
in the door, but our staff brings them back
again and again. With a world of knowledge
from our Chief Engineer, Vance Powell, to
our amazing assistant engineers, our entire
staff is what makes Blackbird what it is.
Could you give us some architectural
details on Studio-C?
Studio C is the ultimate listening environment. The control room sounded so good
that we had to put the console and everything else in there on wheels so we could
move things out of the way and actually
track in there! Just like it used to be... all the
players in one main room, some with headphones, some not, totally vibing off each
other. With the addition of an SSL 9080XL
K-Series mixer, it’s a little more difficult to
track in there, but the SSL has been the
perfect piece to Studio C’s puzzle. Whether
you are doing 5. 1 or stereo mixing, Studio
C is unlike anything else out there. George
Massenburg is the only person insane
enough to think up this idea, and John
McBride is the only person insane enough
to build it. Its concept is ultimately “Massive
Diffusion:” 138,646 different lengths of
wood, no two of which are the same. The
room materials weigh roughly 40 tons.
What year was the 8078 in Studio A built?
Have there been any special modifications
done to it?
The Neve 8078 in studio A was built
somewhere in the early 1970s. It was first
installed at Motown’s Hitsville Studio in L.A.
Donald Fagen, of Steely Dan fame, owned
it then and we purchased it in 2002. We’ve
totally modernized the console, making it
one of the best sounding desks out there.
Vance Powell, our Chief Engineer, says that
one modification in particular is that the
console was reconfigured into a quasi-inline
desk, with the addition of a send-to-tape
fader on each channel.
Could you tell us a little about Mr.
McBride’s love for The Beatles?
For McBride, it all started with The Beatles.
You’ll find pictures and memorabilia all
around the studio. As you could have
guessed, “Blackbird,” a favorite song of his
and Martina’s, is where we get the name
for the studio. As he puts it, “The Beatles
just hit me in the DNA.” Got into his system and never got out. He has a huge, and
I mean huge collection of Beatle albums.
We have a line from the song “Blackbird”
sandblasted into Studio A’s tracking space.
He wanted to have a place where people
could look on the back of the album covers
and say, “Wow, that was done at Blackbird
too!” just like everyone used to, when they
thought of Abbey Road Studios.
Your collection of vintage mics, instru-
ments, amps and recording gear is
obscene! Is all of the gear available, either
for rent or within the studio time rate?
Everything in the studio is available; 1400
mics, 150 guitars, 35 drum kits, 40 guitar
amps, 45 snares, etc. With Studio A and
Studio B, everything is included with the
rate. The others have a good collection
of mics and gear, but have a lower price
point. If an artist wants additional gear, it’s
a half-price rental. We have a full-service
rental company renting out to Nashville and
all over the US. We do have lockout rates
for those other rooms that include everything just as Studio A and B, but as I said...
there’s more than enough included to make
a great sounding record!
Seriously, obscene doesn’t even start
to describe the unbelievable amount of
vintage (and modern) gear available at
Blackbird. You’ll come for the Fairchild
660, you’ll stay for the ’ 49 Gibson J200…
Albums/Projects include: Keith Urban,
Carrie Underwood, the White Stripes, The
Raconteurs, Brad Paisley, Bon Jovi, Garth
Brooks, Tim McGraw, The Red Hot Chili
Peppers, Dixie Chicks, Michelle Branch,
Sheryl Crow, Faith Hill, Dolly Parton,
Jewel, and of course, Martina McBride, to
name a few…