TOWNSHIP OF SANDUSKY – Since opening his Ohio Recording Co. studio in 2015, Brennan Willis has welcomed hundreds of artists to Sandusky County.
None had squeezed a huge tour bus down the narrow aisle of the ORC off Ohio 19 until last week, when national alternative hip hop artist George Watsky arrived with his cast of traveling musicians.
A tight fit and a first, sure, but Watsky’s bus pulled it off.
He’s on tour, but Watsky doesn’t perform in 1,000 to 4,000-seat theaters because he had planned part of a 40-city tour that he launched last year and ultimately canceled due to COVID- 19.
Instead, Watsky has embarked on a nine-city recording studio tour across America where he is looking to complete part three of a series of albums he started in 2018.
“It’s been a reinvention of how my career looks,” Watsky said as he and Willis briefly walked out of the studio to talk about the performing artist’s visit and the obstacles COVID-19 has put in front of the performers. and producers.
Fremont and the ORC studio represented the fourth stop on Watsky’s studio lightning tour.
For three days last week, the San Francisco-based artist and several accompanying musicians worked on tracks at Willis’ studio.
Watsky also visited Terra State Community College to speak with the students. on his experiences in the music industry.
On the ORC website, there is a quote request form that performers fill out.
Willis said he got one from Watsky, which led to the artist’s visit.
“He had an explanation of what they were trying to do. And I thought it was really a great idea, that they were trying to make lemonade out of the circumstances,” Willis said, calling it “once in a lifetime project”. . “
The ORC owner and music producer called Watsky, heard his idea for a national recording studio tour, and decided it would be a perfect fit for Studio Fremont.
Ohio Recording Co. and Watsky face impacts of pandemic
Steady rain that brought several inches of precipitation to Fremont blanketed Watsky’s tour bus on Wednesday, as he and the other musicians worked in various rooms in the ORC studio.
Willis said it took a year to build the studio, with work starting in 2014 and the studio’s first recording sessions taking place 12 months later.
Producer and collaborator Kush Mody sat at ORC’s control panel and listened to a few tunes while Watsky played acoustic guitar on a nearby sofa.
Other musicians hung out in the studio’s writing station, where they could use a laptop, microphone, and interface to brainstorm and work on new ideas.
Hailing from San Francisco’s youth spoken poetry scene, Watsky has made a name for himself with his music, a collection of essays, and his work on COVID-19 relief efforts.
He said he set a Guinness Book of World Records in May 2020 for making the 33-hour longest freestyle rap.
By setting this record, Watsky raised around $ 140,000 for COVID-19 relief, with the money being distributed to jobless musicians affected by the pandemic.
With the cancellation of his tour in 2020, Watsky was unable to work for about 18 months.
He acknowledged that the pandemic had been professionally devastating, but noted that his fan base remained loyal and gave him no looking back when he was forced to cancel his tour.
As a recording studio owner and music producer, Willis has also felt the sting of the pandemic.
He described 2020 as “really tough” with musicians staying at home due to the venue being closed and security concerns.
“People like George weren’t traveling because their tours were canceled or tours became non-existent,” Willis said.
For Willis, that meant few local musicians with the money to visit ORC and cut demos.
The studio also relies on artists from outside the region to get off the road and record new music.
Watsky visits Terra State, talks to music students
Willis started as an instructor in Terra State’s music program in August.
Michael Czeczele, director of musical arts and technology at Terra State, said he had done snare sampling at Willis’ recording studio and knew him before his debut as an instructor.
“He recorded them in his collection of snare sounds,” Czeczele said.
Czeczele asked Willis to join the Terra State Music School.
Willis and Czeczele have teamed up on brought by Grammy-winning producer Austen Jux-Chandler to the Terra State campus in October.
On his website, Watsky said he has racked up more than 200 million views on YouTube, with appearances on HBO Def Poetry, Ellen, CNN, NPR, PBS and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton Mixtape”.
His collection of essays, “How to Spoil It All,” was a New York Times bestseller.
Czeczele said Watsky visited his professional seminar class in college and spoke with students about his music career.
He said Willis’ connection with Watsky drew the nationally recognized hip hop artist to Terra State to meet his students.
“He was very engaged with the students and answered several questions about starting a business in the music industry,” Czeczele said.
Willis said he hopes he can use his studio and business connections to bring more artists to Terra State.
Studio tour continues for Watsky
With the rain still falling hard outside, Watsky took a break around 5:30 p.m. while his fellow musicians continued their talks in Willis’ studio.
Watsky said the album draws on his experiences with fellow musicians and a central theme of collaboration in American society.
“We are in the time of this pandemic where we are asking humans to work together to solve this big problem,” he said.
His next stop after Fremont was Iowa, with Nashville coming further down the road.
Even though the number of COVID cases remains high, Willis said things started to improve commercially for him this spring, as more people get vaccinated and start going out more.
“It started to be different,” Willis said.
He relies on “x-factors” like Watsky to stop and record music.
And now he knows his driveway can accommodate the next tour bus that runs through town.
Twitter: @ DanielCarson7