Chris Stapleton Explains How Recording in RCA Studio A Had an Effect on His Album
While recording his recently released debut solo album Traveller, Chris Stapleton spent some time in Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A. Stapleton was there during the time when the building’s fate was up in the air, and he says that the setting had a major impact on the new project.
“Every song that was played in there was affected by the fact that we were in there,” Stapleton tells Radio.com. “It’s like playing in the Ryman Auditorium: You can’t help but know that you’re in the Ryman when you play the Ryman.
“It can elevate you and frighten you at the same time,” he adds. “In this case, for me personally, I think the location elevated what we were doing.”
Recording in the historic studio brought out a special sound for Stapleton, especially since the size of the room was massive enough for the entire band to record together.
“Certainly the room has a sound, and if you don’t want that sound, you don’t need to be in that room. But yeah — we recorded with all of us in one room, because it’s large enough to do that, and we’re using the sound of the room,” he says. “… It’s all kind of a blur for me. I could tell you moments that happened within the course of doing it, but we were just having fun, which I think was the way the music should be played.
“We have a tendency in Nashville to put restrictions on it, with set times to start and finish. We tried to eliminate as much of that as we could, to make it just guys playing music and enjoying music. To make it feel like hanging out …” Stapleton continues. “It was kid in a candy store for everybody involved.”
The recording space may be known as classically Nashville, but many of country’s biggest outlaws — as well as artists from completely different genres — have put down tracks there, which fit Stapleton’s aesthetic well.
“You know, Waylon Jennings recorded in there, so it’s not necessarily a departure. Robby Turner played steel [guitar] on the record with me; he played with Waylon for 15 years. Mickey Raphael played harp on it; he’s played with Willie Nelson and still does to this day,” Stapleton says. “If you go in RCA A, you’ll realize that it’s not just a Nashville thing. It’s a studio that belongs to music. Songs like “I Will Always Love You” were recorded in there. It’s one of those studios that’s a piece of music history, not just Nashville history. Elvis [Presley] recorded in there. The list goes on and on and on if you research the place. It’s in Nashville, but it’s not just something that belongs to Nashville.”
That history was a hot topic of debate while the studio was under threat of demolition last year after being purchased by Bravo Development. Luckily, philanthropist Aubrey Preston stepped up in November to purchase the property and has a plan to preserve it. Stapleton ended up recording at RCA Studio A as a fluke, but the timing was perfect.
“At the time when I decided to record in there, it was a happy accident. We wanted to go record in Sound Recording A, which [producer Dave Cobb] and I both like a lot, but they weren’t available in the time slots that we had. So I asked what else he liked, and Dave mentioned RCA,” Stapleton says. “At the time, they were making plans to tear it down, so I said we should probably go do it just to say that we recorded in there. We thought at the time that we might be one of the last records that ever got made in there. Luckily, Aubrey stepped up and bought the place and is taking great pains to preserve it, turning it into the historical monument that it should be.
“I had never stepped foot in the room until the first day I recorded in there. There’s something in the walls there. You can feel things,” he continues. “They’ve got lyric sheets from Dolly Parton upstairs where she recorded “I Will Always Love You” and “Jolene” or something in the same day [laughs]. Just crazy stuff like that that is undeniable. You can’t manufacture that; it just has to exist.”
10 More Artists to Watch in 2015