Over spring break, Berklee students attended industry trips to L.A., Nashville, New York City, and Atlanta. Here, a participant in the recording studio track of the L.A. trip, Sam Stallings, recounts the week’s experience.
By Sam Stallings
Walking out of the sterile airport terminal and into the bustling 10:00 p.m. Los Angeles traffic scene was undeniably dreamlike. The air around me was dry yet hinted at the sea just past the skyscrapers and mountains. The clouds reflected the soft blue of the skyline, taking place of the stars. It was a sturdy 55 degrees at least – still everyone seemed bundled up as though they were headed to brave the Nor’easter in Boston I was so grateful to have just barely escaped.
This was not my first time visiting L.A., but it was my first time visiting anywhere with the intention of determining whether or not it was somewhere I could start a career. Yes, a week of visiting some of the world’s most influential recording studios would be a dream come true, but in the back of my mind lived a very quiet fear: “What if I hated living in L.A.?”
That fear went away fairly quickly. I split a rental car with friends. I had arguably over-packed. I had options and a sense of independence. The pit in my stomach turned to a familiar feeling of excitement. The daunting expanse of the city around me transformed into the allure of a challenge. Winding down Ventura Highway as the sun rose over the palm trees on the first morning felt quite literally like a scene from a movie, and that was before we had even gone on our first studio tour.
The Record Plant spoke of their literal silver platter standards of service and how it had brought in names ranging from Justin Bieber to John Lennon and Paul McCartney. EastWest Studios had more vintage microphones than I had ever seen and Frank Sinatra’s famed podium perfectly positioned as it has been for over fifty years. At Capitol Studios, getting into the building was a feat in itself; seeing the rooms that recorded the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and so many others was breathtaking. Both West Lake Studios and the Village had featured bathrooms (honestly two of my favorite parts), West Lake’s claim being the shower where Michael Jackson recorded his hand claps and the Village’s being Stevie Nick’s personalized bathroom for vocal warmups. United Recording Studios’ Studio A housed a glorious 72 input custom Focusrite Console built by the legendary Rupert Neve himself, only ten of which were made.
It is true, there is nothing like Los Angeles’ recording scene, but there is more to determining a potential place to settle than just falling in love with a studio. You have to determine your priorities in moving forward into a professional world. Thankfully, I think I lucked out here.
Sam Stallings hails from Santa Fe, New Mexico, is in her seventh semester at Berklee, and is a Music Production & Engineering major. In addition to making records, she enjoys writing and performing her own original music and can be found attempting headstands in unlikely locations, feverishly completing puzzles, and indulging her love of Mexican cuisine in her (relatively nonexistent) spare time.