Evergroove is one of those rare gems – a “retreat studio” that is also a high quality recording environment. Owners Brad and Jenny Smalling have been working on this dream for over a decade. And since they recently volunteered some free studio time for the Denver Original Music Initiative’s very first recording contest, I asked them a few questions about how they got here and what’s driving them.
Q: So, how did you get here? 🙂 When did you first come out to Colorado?
Jenny: I spent high school and college summers up in the mountains, so I already loved Colorado. In the late 90s we were looking for the next place to follow on the dot.com boom, and Denver looked promising.
I landed a job the first week of 1999 and moved to Boulder. We had moved from a very rural area in Northern Cali though, so a few years later we found a good urban/rural hybrid in Evergreen.
Brad: Jenny has summed it up nicely but one thing that was a deciding factor in moving to Colorado she has unintentionally omitted. Yes, for a while we were going where jobs took us…but the move to Colorado was a decision based on *where* do *we* want to live. Where would make us happy? That was a turning point in our lives because we made a decision based on our happiness and desires and goals versus money and the job market. That was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
Q: When was Evergroove built?
Jenny: Brad is better with the exact dates, but it took many years. It took a great deal of research and forethought ahead of time to make sure we got the best bang for our buck, abilities, and location.
Brad: We started building Evergroove in Spring 2003 and finished Sept. 2006. We had originally hoped that we’d be done in one year but building a studio, properly, takes money and we didn’t want to have a business loan on our shoulders. So we built slowly which made it a little easier to afford because it spread out the demand on our finances.
Q: You’ve added solar power…when did you do that and is it 100% sustainable now? Has it been running smoothly for you?
Jenny: We have been running nearly hiccup-free on our panels since 2008. When we first installed them, we actually had a credit in June/July! Since then, we have gotten much busier, so we use everything they provide, and then have to take some off the grid
We oversized the inverter to double the array once the price of panels comes down within our budget. Occasionally the system wants some personal attention (for example after a power outage, since we are grid-tied) but otherwise we forget they are there until summer when the inverter hums very happily every day!
Brad (laughs): I don’t remember a credit, but then that proves I don’t run the books. Jenny summed this up nicely too except I’m not sure what she means by giving the system attention after a power outage. To my knowledge there isn’t anything that needs to be done when that happens. She’s right though that the system runs, and runs well, with little to no attention or maintenance. It just works!
Q: Jenny, what’s your role at the studio?
Jenny: Since I work another full-time job (with telecommuting and flex hours, thank goodness!) I am only partially engaged with the studio. I keep up with what is going on, discuss spending and billing, take care of all the back-office and financial/legal stuff.
Q: And Brad, you are the technical side, right? How about scheduling?
Brad: Yes, Jenny handles the financial and legal stuff and I tackle all the technical details of the studio. There’s some of the business side that I handle such as invoicing but a lot of that is mostly her. I definitely handle scheduling but only because I am in the studio each day and know exactly what is going on with each artist and where they are in their projects.
Our schedule is incredibly dynamic and it’s not something that a basic calendaring program can keep up with 🙂 I may also bring new ideas to the table such as improvements to the facility or new gear acquisitions. As for what we each do best I think our strongest point isn’t that someone does one thing better but that we work hard to talk about and make decisions together. We’re definitely a team.
Jenny: I do the financial and legal stuff, and lend a daily administration hand. Since I am a part owner, we work out major decisions together. Brad is best at booking since he has a better idea in his head of how long things take.
Q: What do you like the most about being studio owners?
Jenny: The best part is when folks are over, or we are out for a show, of course!
Brad: Yes, when bands are here and actually stay with us and immerse themselves completely in the project – it becomes a little recording vacation for everyone and some great friendships are solidified in those projects.
Q: Any pet peeves about your business partner?
Jenny: What, and reveal them to him? 😉
Brad: None that I’m gonna reveal! (big freakin’ grin!)
Q: What are some other hobbies you each indulge in, other than music?
Jenny: Remodeling, gardening, and tribal fusion belly dance.
Brad: When I’m not working on Evergroove projects I’m working on my own music. I’m currently involved in three bands: The Threatened, Violent Science and a “heist” genre project that is yet to be named. So I eat, sleep, and breathe music. However, when we can, I love hiking, camping, traveling, and road trips. I really like to get away and experience new locations.
Q: What have been some of the biggest challenges for Evergroove so far? Are there some things you want (or need) to change?
Jenny: Right now, frankly, we have a bit more work than we would like… not because we don’t want more work – we do! But we don’t have the capacity to get folks their work in a faster timeframe. There is only one Brad and one room set up for engineering right now. We hope to add a prep/overdub space, but like our second biggest challenge – working on a cash basis and having reached max capacity – we need to make very careful, calculated decisions to get the very best acoustics an gear for our money. Can you tell I run the books? 😉
Brad: The biggest challenge, I feel, that we have faced to date has happened somewhat recently. Since we’ve opened we’ve grown steadily, and almost predictably, each year in our workload. Recently, maybe a year ago, we had a sudden boost in business that we just simply didn’t see coming and that means that projects are taking a *touch* longer than usual while we adapt to the new workload and come up with a more efficient workflow to get projects out the door sooner.
We’ve made some basic changes and are looking to expand by adding a B-Room and bringing on a second engineer on a project-by-project basis. We hope to complete that this year but we do work on a cash basis and avoid taking out business loans so we’ll budget for it and get it done just as soon as we can.
Q: Very practical. What projects are you most proud of to date?
Jenny: I am proud that many of our very earliest clients still come to Evergroove – and some come to us exclusively. 🙂
Brad: Good answer Jenny! Because we give 110% of ourselves to each project it would be almost insulting to the artists, as well as ourselves, to pick a favorite.
Q: Any funny tales to relate? Or do we need to censor those wild times as well? 😉
Jenny: Come to our Evergroove party and create your own funny tales… our annual Thank You to the community has become, shall we say, somewhat legendary.
Brad: We’ve been incredibly fortunate because the artists that come to us seem to be very serious about their music and making a go at it as a band. So while there have been some shenanigans in the studio there hasn’t been any major drama to speak of. Even if there were… we don’t kiss and tell 😉 What happens at Evergroove definitely stays at Evergroove.
Thank guys, and thanks especially for supporting Denver Original Music!