Heartland harvest

Big Bin Studios is in western Michigan, in what used to be a big farming community. When I was a kid, the soybean and corn fields seemed to stretch to the horizon. We raised pigs on our family farm until I was 14, but my real interest was music. As a kid, I sang in churches and nursing homes. I studied audio engineering and music technology in Ireland, and when I returned in 2007, I needed a professional space to record my music and mix music for local bands. I turned an empty grain bin into my sound studio.

1. Indoor transformation

My dad runs a machinist business out of the barn, and has great design skills. He and I and a few friends fabricated a circular stairway for the bin, hung ropes to serve as a banister, and added a second floor. We built two rooms to use as sound booths on the first floor for recording music, and I do the mixing on the second floor.

Division of labor

I’ve always supplemented my music income. At 14, I started my computer repair business, and I also have my hand in real estate. There are two desks on one side of the second floor. One is for administrative work, and I use the second as a technical station for computer repairs. Steel shelves hold computer troubleshooting tools, parts and supplies.

2. Creative haven

On the other half of this floor, I write songs and do mixing and recording at a third desk. I also have a keyboard there. This is where the creative work gets done.

Final product

In the hallway are some framed CDs of local bands’ music that I recorded and mixed. One of these days I’ll add CDs of my own music. I write songs and play in local clubs, and I also busk overseas for a couple months every year, wherever the road takes me.

Capital equipment

Some of my recording equipment comes from the Sorcerer Sound Recording Studios in New York, where Norah Jones recorded much of her album “Come Away With Me.” When they closed more than 10 years ago, I was able to buy my vintage preamplifier and some mixing equipment at their online sale.

Prized possessions

Any professional guitarist has a small stable of acoustic and electrical guitars. If an artist walks in with a broken or low-quality guitar, it’s easy for me to grab one of mine and lend it to them. You can’t record the sound from a bad guitar and expect a good result. My favorite electric guitar is a Fender Stratocaster, and my favorite acoustic guitar is an old Alvarez. The Alvarez belonged to my mother, who passed away last year. It sounds good, and I like the feel of it.

Five-finger discount

When I was attending school in Ireland, I saw this poster on the wall of a bar and liked it so much I lifted it. I have no excuse. It commemorates the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup, a horse race in the town near my school.

In the mood

I keep lighters around because I like to light candles when artists are working and when I’m mixing music. I like scents from nature, like evergreen. They’re not for cigarettes; I don’t allow smoking in the studio.

3. Joyful noise

When I record groups, the drummer plays in one sound booth and the singers and other musicians perform in the second so the drums aren’t overwhelming. The rectangular window between the rooms allows them to pick up on each other’s visual cues. There’s a camera downstairs and a monitor upstairs so I can see what everyone is doing while I’m engineering. I would have liked to have everything downstairs, but there wasn’t enough room.

Traveling man

When I was busking in London last year, I used the Oyster card for buses and the Tube. I keep it where I can see it because it feeds my wanderlust.

In absentia

When I’m overseas, a part-time employee back here uses my signature stamp to deposit checks or pay bills.

Mystery box

I own a little round wooden container that has been with me since I started my computer repair business. I have no idea where it came from. I can’t be the only one with something like this. I keep paper clips in it.

4. Letting the light in

Where the grain used to enter at the top of the bin, there’s glass now. It’s like a sunroof. I attached mirrors on the walls just beneath it to catch the sunlight and push it to the second floor. I did it partly on scaffolding and partly on a ladder and must have been a sight.