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Mockingbird Sound Recording Studio helps artists follow their personal goals

Mockingbird Sound Recording Studio helps artists follow their personal goals

Sound engineers Jason Rochester (left), Kelly Upshaw (middle) and Alex Hastings (right) in one of the recording rooms at Mockingbird Sound Recording Studio. The studio opened in Denton in 2016 and has quickly gained a large clientele of local artists. Paige Bruneman

Mockingbird Sound Recording Studio helps artists follow their personal goals
May 02
20:42 2018

Guitars, drums, pianos and even tambourines line the wall as everything has its place in organized chaos — a musician’s dream.

Mockingbird Sound Recording Studio found itself at home in Denton just two years ago.

Some of the minds behind the studio are sounds engineers Alex Hastings, Kelly Upshaw and Jason Rochester.

“We’ve all been musicians in Denton for a long time,” Rochester said. “When we started, we made it in the idea that it was going to be geared towards local musicians and affordable.”

Though they just passed the two year mark of running Mockingbird, the three are no strangers to the music scene in Denton.

All three have been playing in bands most of their lives and are each in a variety of bands both together and separately such as The Hope Chest, Diesel Beat, The Demigs and the Fresh Ghost.

“The spirit of this place is that we are all in this together and we are going to benefit mutually together and work hard together,” Upshaw said.

In 2015, Mockingbird Sound Recording Studio was just an idea.

Hasting’s band, The Demigs, formerly recorded in Shady Lane studio. Rochester said the studio was a fun place to practice and was utilized for as long as it could be, but they soon knew it was time to move locations to a more professional studio.

“It was a building that had been built inside of another building,” Rochester said. “It was like one big bay, and they built a studio inside of it. It was nice, but it was more so a garage than a commercial recording studio.”

In June 2015, Matthew Morin, the drummer of the Demigs, found an accessible space that accommodated their visions. Morin owned the property of the area that would soon be converted into Mockingbird Sound Recording Studio.

After months of rebuilding, they were ready to move in May 2015.

Recording equipment sits on shelves at Mockingbird Sound Recording Studio. The studio opened in Denton in 2016 and has quickly gained a large clientele of local artists. Paige Bruneman

But it wasn’t until March 2016 that Mockingbird Sound Studio opened to the public. Hastings said they took their time adjusting to the space while gathering and moving equipment into their new studio.

“It was an opportunity to come together and do more than we could’ve done on our own,” Upshaw said. “There were mixed emotions too, I remember feeling some apprehension among us when I broached the idea of an equal partnership.”

In March 2016, the music festival 35 Denton gave Mockingbird its first spotlight. The festival sponsored them by letting artists come into the studio which resulted in 16 different artists ranging from a young kids band to rap.

The festival also gave the studio an opportunity to record artists of various genres while gaining more public visibility. Rochester said that because of the rich music culture in Denton, finding clients has not been a problem.

One of those clients is folk singer Blake Vaughn. He recorded his debut album, “I cannot relate to a thing but the wind,” at the studio. While Vaughn is primarily a solo artist, he embraced Upshaw on drums and Hastings on guitar for several songs.

“Alex came to a show of mine at Midway Craft House,” Vaughn said. “He was a friend of a friend, [so] he introduced himself at that show.”

The album was eventually recorded live without much editing.

Hastings said Vaughn is dynamic in his performance and often improvises while recording to change the music up.

“It would feel inauthentic to me to break it down and try to perfect it,” Hastings said. “I feel that if we did that we would lose what makes Blake great.”

Though Vaughn remains modest of his own work, he isn’t hesitant to mention Hasting’s role in helping create his debut album.

“I feel like more of an author than a musician — the music just works to support the words,” Vaughn said. “Bands are more of a sound thing and not really a story thing. He did what he needed to do to capture the feeling and it’s not drenched in post-production.”

The Big Beat

On top of being musicians with lengthy pedigrees, Rochester, Hastings and Upshaw are all seasoned sound engineers. They’ve been in multiple bands, recording studios and also work at their performance venue, Big Beat.

Upshaw is the production manager of Big Beat in Irving, Texas at the Toyota music factory where he designed and installed all the systems for the venue.

Compared to some of the fast-paced workings of the music business, Upshaw said working in the studio can be quiet, focused and free from distraction.

“It’s stressful sometimes, but even the worst days and dealing with the worst artists if better than having to go out and work for somebody else,” Rochester said.

The future of the studio is ever changing. Hastings said that while they would enjoy upgrading, they wouldn’t be upset staying in the space they have now.

“We would love to eventually build a new studio — a bigger place,” Hastings said. “We love it here, and just to build and sustain, have the place in five years and be recording music that we like? Fantastic.”

Upshaw said that no matter what the job entails, he gets to do what he loves in a studio he is satisfied with.

“Even a really bad day in the studio is better than a good day doing something else,” Upshaw said. “There’s definitely a sense of gratitude when we get to come to work and do something that we love.”

Rochester graduated from UNT in 2010 with a degree in music theory with a concentration in trumpet and music history. Upshaw graduated in 2004, majoring in philosophy, history and English literature. Hastings attended UNT for radio, television and film but decided he preferred pursing music in his own way.

“I felt like if I had to do music for school it would lose its magic,” Hastings said. “Not the knowledge, but I’m not a very competitive person, and I wouldn’t thrive in that atmosphere.”

Rochester said the education he received has helped him in his job today and has found satisfaction in choosing music over engineering.

“Being at UNT, you better like music,” Rochester said. “You can’t just halfway like it.”

Upshaw, Hastings and Rochester said they are excited to keep working with up and coming North Texas artists to help them discover the sound they are satisfied with.

“Some people will go to studios to find a certain sound,” Hastings said. “I feel like here we are focused on finding what the artist wants to do and try to present that authentically in a comfortable atmosphere.”

Featured Image: From left tor right, sound engineers Jason Rochester, Kelly Upshaw and Alex Hastings in one of the recording rooms at Mockingbird Sound Recording Studio. The studio opened in Denton in 2016 and has quickly gained a large clientele of local artists. Paige Bruneman

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Anna Orr

Anna Orr

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