Industry Profile: Sweetwater Studios

I recently had the chance to catch up with Sweetwater Studios’ producer-engineer Shawn Dealey, one of the many talented engineers and musicians who make up the staff at the world-class recording complex located in Fort Wayne, IN. Shawn was able to tell me about his background and his work at Sweetwater Studios’ world class recording facility:

“I spent 15 years traveling on the road as a front-of-house engineer and studio owner operator when at home, I ended up doing live production work for Sweetwater in 2017. I was asked to join Sweetwater to help produce their live events and eventually joined the team as a producer and engineer for Sweetwater Studios.

“Sweetwater Studios operates as a stand-alone commercial recording studio in the center of the Sweetwater Sound complex. Here at Sweetwater Studios, an artist can enjoy one of the world’s largest pallets of sonic choices, allowing them to create music any way they want. The main goal at Sweetwater Studios is to create the most welcoming creative environment possible while providing world-class creative tools, all in a space where the artist feels free to create without distractions. We make sure we are always able to facilitate transparent sessions where the technology is not in the way of the creative process. 

“Sweetwater Studios has a full complement of creative professionals on staff to make sure the artist’s creative process is not impeded by the technology, allowing our artists to always have a great recording session and do their best creative work. We believe that whatever music you are working on, it helps to have the right equipment; and we are in a unique position to offer an incredible range of options because we are part of the Sweetwater family. I have a background as a drummer, and at Sweetwater Studios we have one of the largest selections of drums and accessories to choose from, so we can always [provide] a drum kit setup that fits the player for the exact musical style they are working on. 

“At Sweetwater Studios, we know every project is different. From the initial engagement, we try to learn about and observe the artist’s vision and get a clear picture of what they are trying to accomplish. A lot of projects we get start with chatting with an artist about their music and creative goals. At Sweetwater Studios, we are constantly participating and interacting with musicians and artists to find people to engage with who might not be aware of the full range of creative services we offer. 

“Sweetwater Studios was open for live-in-person sessions during most of the pandemic and we learned a lot about how to maintain safe sessions. We do some “mail in” or remote sessions; for example we recently did the drum tracking for Steve Hackett, of Genesis fame, who was in the U.K. while we tracked in Fort Wayne. The studio also creates music and content for Sweetwater’s marketing channels. That said, the main goal at Sweetwater Studios is to get people to come to Fort Wayne to enjoy recording live music and creating content here in the studio. We really want our clients to come to Fort Wayne to do some “in the room” recording.  We also get a lot of professional musicians coming here from Nashville so they can be immersed in the creative process without distractions. 

“Our clients also have the option to work up their tracks in their own project studios and then come to us to bring their artistic vision to reality. We get a lot of repeat business as many of our customers come back for sessions and are happy with Sweetwater Studios’ on-site full-service recording and production services.

“One of the ways we scout out new projects is we keep track of Midwest tours, and we stay in touch with artists and people we know who are on the road. We tend to get a lot of projects coming in through the attendees at recording workshops who want to come in and do a recording session after they spend time with us in a session. In our recording workshops, we go from soup to nuts on how to set up and manage a recording session and take our students through the entire recording process from concept to completion. 

“At Sweetwater Studios we also have access to great in-house musicians, along with some of the best first-call session musicians in the industry. While some of our customers send in their demo arrangement to work up basic tracks with our in-house session musicians, we always try to present the option for songwriters to enjoy the process of humans recording music together. We are always looking for ways to get real people to play on and record their basic tracks here in the studio. 

“In Studio A, we are super-proud of our Neve 5088 32 channel fully spec’ed out recording console. It is the centerpiece of the studio that ties the room together. With help from Jumperz Audio, we did the install and it turned out great. We recently posted a time lapse video of the installation. We stripped the board to the frame and commissioned the console ourselves, allowing our team to have a full understanding of every aspect of the console. It was a really satisfying experience to hook it up and turn it on for the first time. The Neve 5088 is the heart of Studio A and makes the whole atmosphere a lot more impressive.

Shawn Dealey, Producer-Engineer

“We recently refurbished Studio B into an all PMC, 9.4 Dolby Atmos room, which was completed in early April. We had our first large-scale project come in and we are now crossing the bridge into multi-channel content creation. We have Dante connections from Studio A to Studio B in place specifically to record for Dolby Atmos and we are learning how to facilitate a spatial audio workflow. Because of our close relationship with gear manufacturers such as Dolby, PMC, Hazelrigg Industries and Avid we can leverage the talents of some of the most creative people in the industry and turn our studio into one of the most cutting-edge test kitchens for tracking, mixing, and mastering spatial audio workflow in the industry. We have a unique ability to make Studio B a playground for creating multi-channel content.

“Studio C is set up for mixing and overdubbing. It’s designed to be a flexible space and we get a lot of producers and artists using the space to work up tracks or mix and master their projects. We keep vocal mics at the ready in both of the iso rooms.

“We strive to keep the workflow at our facility as streamlined as possible, and with three rooms, we maintain the exact same computer and software set-up with the same selection of plugins matched on each rig, making it easy to move sessions between studio A, B or C if needed. The software is consistent between each room, which adds to the overall flexibility of our facility.

“Sweetwater’s 250-capacity theater has multipurpose tie line into Studio A making it possible to track live concerts, host streaming events and more while recording real-time into studio A. The theater essentially becomes an extra space for tracking and recording live music.

“We are proud of Sweetwater Studios, and we really believe that once you experience what we have to offer, you will want to make your next record here! Rates vary depending on the project.” 

Contact Sweetwater Studios at 800-386-6134 or [email protected] for a personalized quote. Learn more at: sweetwaterstudios.com