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Living room live: Tiny Couch Productions gets intimate

Living room live: Tiny Couch Productions gets intimate

Company founder Bob Ralph, left, and audio engineer Jason Champion, right, sit on the "tiny couch" in their home studio. Tiny Couch Productions is a new media company that is highlighting Denton musicians through little live sessions. Paige Bruneman

Living room live: Tiny Couch Productions gets intimate
April 21
12:58 2018

Bob Ralph takes the “studio” out of  “studio apartment” a bit too literally.

Ralph, a longtime Denton local and live music enthusiast, is the founder of Tiny Couch Productions, a space where Denton musicians can do live performances.

Think NPR’s Tiny Desk Sessions, but a Denton version.

“I just love music,” Ralph said. “But I had absolutely no talent. My father was a concert violinist. My oldest daughter is an outstanding violinist, but my sister and I, it skipped a generation. I’ve always enjoyed it, and I’ve always been fascinated by the recording process.”

The sessions are all filmed in his living room, complete with black makeshift curtains, studio lights, the tiny black couch and Ralph’s pullout bed pushed up against the wall. 

“In the venues, you’re at the mercy of the lighting or the sound guys,” Ralph said. “What was motivating was people who [take] cell phone videos but the sound [quality] was awful. I thought there needed to be something between a cell phone video and a professional music video.”

Since its inception, Tiny Couch Productions has served solely as a way to showcase the creativity and spirit of local artists in true DIY fashion.

“I’ve never had anybody come in here and slouch,” Ralph said. “The passion [and] the amount of work they put in [is what some] people don’t realize. They’ve [practiced] thousands of hours to get to the level they’re at. Just to be able to support that is very rewarding.”

For Ralph, the passion of the artists is what keeps the videos running.

“You know someone is doing something they love when they’re willing to convert their living space into their work area,” songwriter Matt Grigsby said. “He joked the last time I was there that soon he was going to have to give up his bed.”

Before it was 940’s, Ralph co-owned Banter, a bistro near the Denton Square on West Oak Street which also operated as an art gallery and a live music venue. As an avid music lover, Ralph rubbed elbows with jazz musicians, local bands and poets who frequented the stage.

“I ran the music side of it, and during that time, I met an awful lot of wonderful artists and musicians who came across our stage,” Ralph said. “I just fell in love with it.”

But shortly after, Banter closed its doors for good.

“When we sold Banter, I really missed that experience because I would run sound for three or four nights a week, and all of sudden I wasn’t,” Ralph said.

To make up for the void, Ralph began following artists and musicians to film their shows around town. Ralph would then send the footage to for use between segments. It was the summer of 2016, and he was a middle school science teacher at the North Texas Collegiate Academy. It was a project he had the time for.

As the break winded down, Ralph prepared to pack away the summer gig. But it wasn’t that easy.

“Last summer we videoed 42 or 43 artists, and I told everybody at the end of the summer, ‘OK, I’m done because school’s back, I can’t do it,’” Ralph said. “But the phones started running again.”

Tiny couch, big reach

Ralph said the start to Tiny Couch Productions was quite simple.

“I got an old banter chair, and I still had a lot of the microphones, cables and mixing boards from the old Banter days,” Ralph said. “I used a Sony two-track recorder into a mixer because all I had was a voice and a guitar. It was literally bare bones. I was trying to get just above the cellphone quality.”

Maintaining the production hasn’t always been sweet music though, as there were bumps in the road that have since been smoothed out. His computer used to take three hours to render a song, but his son has since helped to render one in just a few minutes now.

Recently, he enlisted the help of Zero Buffalo founder and songwriter Jason Champion to help with audio.

“It’s constantly evolving, constantly getting better,” Ralph said. “Jason and I started trying some studio mics to see how we may be able to utilize it in this space, so we’re always pushing the boundaries a bit.”

Ralph said he never says “no” to recording with an artist. Whoever contacts him and whoever he wants on Tiny Couch Productions’ YouTube channel will all work.

“He genuinely enjoys all the music that comes through his living room,” Grigsby said. “He’s the one doing the music community a service but he counts himself as lucky. He’s just that kind of guy.”

For Champion, Tiny Couch is the perfect opportunity to help up-and-coming talent who want to make making it on the scene a reality.

“Both Bob and I have been involved in Denton’s music scene at least since the early ’90s,” Champion said. “If we just feel like we helped the music community grow in some ways, maybe some young artist [can] have a chance to get their music out there and get exposure, then I think we feel like we’ve succeeded.”

As he nears the end of his time as a teacher, Ralph said he is looking forward to the future of Tiny Couch Productions.

“This is my last semester in the classroom,” Ralph said. “I’m going to retire and take this wherever it goes and have fun.”

Featured Image: Company founder Bob Ralph, left, and audio engineer Jason Champion, right, sit on the “tiny couch” in their home studio. Tiny Couch Productions is a new media company that is highlighting Denton musicians through little live sessions.  Paige Bruneman

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Amy Roh

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