Water Music recording studios in Hoboken churns out hits by Beyonce, Shakira, others

I toured Water Music recording studios in Hoboken with The Jersey Journal’s videographer Adam Holsten earlier this month and it was totally awesome. If I ever cut an album, I’d love to do it there.

See the article as it appeared on NJ.com.

Water Music brings big names to Hoboken

The control room, where the magic happens, at Water Music Recording Studios. (Adam Holsten/The Jersey Journal)

Next time you’re on Madison Street in Hoboken, keep your eyes peeled for Water Music Recording Studios.

Studio Manager Rob Grenoble described the studio’s rise to prominence.

“My band, CRIES, was trying to get a major label record deal. We didn’t have a good recording, nor any money to afford one. My keyboard player, Robert Miller, talked us into building a humble, private studio.”

Steve Fallon, the founder of Maxwell’s, heard about the studio and asked them to record a solo album with Chris Stamey with The dB’s.

“Chris’ record went on to be very successful and the phone started ringing,” said Grenoble.

Water Music, which has been in the Mile Square City since 1992, has since churned out records by the likes of Dispatch, Bayside, The Feelies, Shakira, Beyonce and Cyndi Lauper.

Sound engineer Sean Kelly, whose first session at the studio was with R. Kelly, said working at Water Music for the past three years has been “unbelievable.”

“I love it. It’s tons of fun…Our job is to get mics up and get great sounds out of artists,” he said.

Grenoble said that Water Music stands out because it is a residential recording studio.

“Most of our artists stay here while they record. They fly in from all over the world, enjoy Hoboken’s restaurants and nightlife and visit Manhattan,” said Grenoble. “Friendships and bonds are formed on many levels.”

He also said the studio’s garden is a popular spot.

“Artists like to sit in the studio’s garden…This is especially true when the project is doing overdubs or mixing because the whole band isn’t needed,” he said, adding that “Cyndi Lauper used to ask for a candlelit table for dinner in the garden every night.”

Kelly agreed that the studio is a positive environment.

“It’s really organic. It feels like home and you become a family. You get to know each other really well.”

Grenoble noted that sometimes, staying in close-quarters leads to the “cross-fertilization of projects.”

“Artists meet other artists in the complex,” he said. “Jennifer Lampert’s Music Camp, in which kids write and record songs, was in our North Room studio. They ended up singing background vocals on the Madison Rising record being recording in the Big Room.”

Grenoble said the studio crew loves fostering young artists.

“We record both superstars and cutting edge talent on a daily basis. We invest in new talent and help them get started,” he said. “Many of the big acts that we’ve recorded weren’t big when they got here.”

He said many of the musicians who come to the studio fall in love with the Mile Square City.

“The photo on the back cover of the CD by Australia’s multi-platinum band, The Living End, which won a Grammy in Australia, shows the band sitting on a bench late at night in the PATH train. It’s a great photo and it communicates how much Hoboken was part of their experience.

“Artists love the food, the clubs and the quick commute to Manhattan. That’s why they come back again and again.”

For more information, visit WaterMusic.net.

Check out our video tour of the studios, featuring an interview with sound engineer Sean Kelly.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

An interview with Water Music studio manager Rob Grenoble.

Summer Dawn Hortillosa: Hi, Rob. You said there was an interesting story about Sean and his high school counselor. What is it?

Rob Grenoble: Hi, Summer! Sean must have been a wise guy in high school. When it came time to consult with his guidance counselor regarding college, Sean and his mother went to the meeting. The counselor looked his mother and said, “We don’t think Sean should apply to college.”

He’s one of the smartest people we’ve ever had at Water Music. So much for the American educational system. His first session at Water Music was R. Kelly.

SDH: So why did you choose to set up in Hoboken?

RG: We came to Hoboken as artists looking for cheap rent and loft buildings. We found both so we stayed. I am not from New Jersey originally so I have no ax to grind. I love New Jersey. I think it’s a great State and I love Hoboken.

SDH: How do the artists respond to or interact with Hoboken when they come here?

RG: I think Hoboken has a major impact on the thousands of artists who have come here from around the world. The photo on the back cover of the CD by Australia’s multi-platinum band, The Living End, which won a Grammy in Australia, shows the band sitting on a bench late at night in the PATH train. It’s a great photo and it communicates how much Hoboken was part of their experience. Artists love the food. They love the clubs. They love the quick commute to Manhattan. That’s why they come back again and again.

SDH: What about the band you have in the studio right now? Do they like it?

RG: This week we’re recording Civil Twilight from South Africa. They stop in the middle of every afternoon and have lunch in a Hoboken restaurant. It’s their way of decompressing before they work all night.

People may not know this but the NYC area has lovely weather. We have many warm, sunny days. Artists like to sit in the studio’s garden and because we have so much good weather, they’re out in the garden frequently. This is especially true when the project is doing overdubs or mixing because the whole band isn’t needed. Cyndi Lauper used to ask for a candlelit table for dinner in the garden every night. She’s the greatest!

SDH: So how did the studio get started, anyway?

RG: My band, CRIES, was trying to get a major label record deal. We had the band and the songs but we didn’t have a good recording, nor any money to afford one. My keyboard player, Robert Miller, talked us into building a humble, private studio. We must have mentioned it to Steve Fallon, owner and founder of Maxwell’s (the music club in Hoboken) as well as Coyote Records, because he asked us to record a solo album with Chris Stamey from the dB’s. I was very reluctant to get into recording other artists but Steve prevailed.

There was no sheet rock on the walls when Chris Stamey started recording with producer Scott Litt (who went on to produce REM as well as Indigo Girls, Incubus and Nirvana). We also didn’t have any equipment yet either. We borrowed a 4-track tape recorder from a friend and used our live PA board as a console. The tape machine fell out of the back of a pickup truck when we were returning it. Chris’ record went on to be very successful and the phone started ringing.

SDH: That’s awesome! So what makes Water Music different from other studios out there?

RG: This is a great question with many answers. One reason that Water Music is different is because it is residential. Most of our artists stay here while they record. They fly in from all over the world, enjoy Hoboken’s restaurants and nightlife and visit Manhattan. Because of the residential component, friendships and bonds are formed on many levels, not just those found in a typical work environment.

A second reason is that there is a lot of cross-fertilization of projects. Jennifer Lampert’s Music Camp, in which kids write and record songs, was in our North Room studio. They ended up singing background vocals on the Madison Rising record being recorded in the Big Room. That happens frequently because artists meet other artists in the complex. The studio’s garden also serves as a place for local artists to gather as well as visiting artists so there is a welcoming social scene that doesn’t exist at most studios.

Another reason Water Music is different is that we are essentially a throw back to the days of analog recording. We have a great deal of old, analog equipment and instruments that are not found in most studios. Our recording console is from 1978. Our guitar amplifiers are from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Our Hammond organ is from the 1940’s.

Water Music is also different is because we record both superstars and cutting edge talent on a daily basis. Studios generally position themselves at the top of the economic ladder so that they can make the most money. We record many superstars but we also invest in new talent and help them get started. Many of the big acts that we’ve recorded weren’t big when they got here.

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About Summer Dawn Hortillosa

Summer Dawn Hortillosa is a journalist specializing in arts and entertainment. Among other things, she is also an award-winning playwright, director, singer-songwriter and actress. Her work has been seen in The Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal and other publications.
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2 Responses to Water Music recording studios in Hoboken churns out hits by Beyonce, Shakira, others

  1. Nicole says:

    Great article and interview. Well written.
    I miss going on interviews. There’s such a feeling of accomplishment after a good, information-packed interview. There’s an even better feeling once the article is written and edited.

    A residential recording studio – awesome. Rob Grenoble seems to really enjoy his job. I’d say he’s a lucky and talented man.

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