Feature

How Steve Dawson is keeping his Henhouse Studio hopping during COVID

Photo by Leigh Righton.

Juno-winning Nashville-based Canadian musician and producer Steve Dawson is teaming up with musicians Gary Craig and Jeremy Holmes and helping artists create music through a socially-distanced service called the Henhouse Express – a remote version of Steve’s Henhouse Studio.

For musicians, COVID-19 has taken away the sensation of performing live and recording music in studios. Live virtual performances are replacing concerts and connecting artists to fans, and now the Henhouse Express is filling in for the missing recording time that artists have lost.

Steve Dawson performs “Hollow Tree Gap”

The Henhouse Express gives artists the opportunity to record songs remotely with three accomplished musicians who bring experience and skill to their music. Artists begin by recording themselves on a click track, then sending that to the Henhouse – first to Gary, who adds drums, then to Jeremy, who lays down the bass, and lastly to Steve, who works in guitar and then mixes the song. Artists are involved in Zoom meetings at the start of the process to discuss the types of sounds they’re looking for and the directions they want to go in. Then they need to be prepared to step back for a week and let the guys work their magic. Artists can find more details on the process on the Henhouse Express website.

Steve launched the Henhouse Express, he said, because he was facing the same problems as the rest of the industry, as businesses and social gatherings were paused due to COVID-19. His tours and live shows were cancelled, and upcoming productions were put on hold. So, Steve asked himself, “What am I going do?” he said. “Am I going to wait for this all to clear up, or am I going to get this figured out?”  This period of reflection lead to the Henhouse Express.

‘they really make it manageable’

With a special introductory rate of $500 per song, it’s accessible for both veterans and those new to the experience to record with the Henhouse team.

“For people who aren’t as experienced, like me, you know they really make it manageable,” said Heather Read of the band Peach and Quiet of the group’s experience working with the remote Henhouse.

“It’s in manageable chunks, and it’s by complete uber professionals who know exactly how to handle it, and they’re so cohesive because they worked as a unit…[Y]ou’re in such good hands.”

Peach and Quiet started with one song, and after falling in love with the process, results, and crew, they completed an album, titled Just Beyond The Shine, which is set to release in January 2021 – suggesting that, while the process is optimized to do one song at a time for artists, it works well enough to keep them going back for more.

Country singer Chris Ryan and his co-writer/producer, Chris Kirby, recently released the song “I Ain’t Mad,” which was also recorded using the Henhouse Express, and Chris said it was a positive experience

‘It’s worth more than the cost of the service’

“These days, they’re not the only ones doing stuff remotely, but they’re the only group that I know of that’s offering this,” he said, “and I’ll say for sure, it’s worth more than the cost of the service ? a lot more.”

Having a cohesive group like Steve, Gary and Jeremy allows artists to produce music that fosters emotions, comfort, and connections for everyone facing isolation and uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chris added.

For artists who don’t already have producers for their songs or records, Steve has found a way to get them the support they need.

“[W]e’ve also been able to develop the available technology to still do complete production work for artists that want to make full records,” he said.

While it is a more involved process than what the Henhouse Express offers – and, therefore, more costly – Steve has found new ways to work as a producer in real-time with artists to help them shape their projects.

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