Blackbird Studios
Nashville, Tennessee
by Bobby G. Frasier

Years: 7
Web Address:
Rate: Dependent upon room/gear
Contact: Scott Phillips, Studio Manager

Blackbird Studios in Nashville, TN is one of the world’s great recording spaces. The name Blackbird pays homage to world’s greatest band of all time: The Beatles. That alone should tell you about the love of music that the owners, John and Martina McBride, manifest in their studio. Throw in Grammy award-winning producer, equipment designer and inventor of the parametric EQ, George Massenburg, with his over-the-top Studio C, and this complex becomes outrageous!

Blackbird consists of seven studios, along with a separate rental department. I ask you, where can you rent a Telefunken Ela M 270 serial #001 for $10,000.00 a day? There is only one serial #001…

I spoke with Blackbird’s Studio Manager, Mr. Scott Phillips about this little “jewel in the heartland.”

What makes Blackbird unique in the world of recording studios?

John McBride’s vision of Blackbird is pretty much about one thing: audio. It starts there. We don’t want clients to be limited by their imagination. If you can dream it up, we want to be able to say, “Yeah, let’s try that!” With our collection of gear and vibe here, we want to create an atmosphere that’s like no other. A sort of “The Four Seasons meets Moulin Rouge.” Some might think it’s a little over-the-top, but not our clients. If you were a painter, wouldn’t you want every color imaginable? Well, that’s us, that’s Blackbird. Which leads us to the number one reason we are who we are: our staff is second to none. Our gear and reputation get clients in the door, but our staff brings them back again and again. With a world of knowledge from our Chief Engineer, Vance Powell, to our amazing assistant engineers, our entire staff is what makes Blackbird what it is.

Could you give us some architectural details on Studio-C?

Studio C is the ultimate listening environment. The control room sounded so good that we had to put the console and everything else in there on wheels so we could move things out of the way and actually track in there! Just like it used to be... all the players in one main room, some with headphones, some not, totally vibing off each other. With the addition of an SSL 9080XL K-Series mixer, it’s a little more difficult to track in there, but the SSL has been the perfect piece to Studio C’s puzzle. Whether you are doing 5.1 or stereo mixing, Studio C is unlike anything else out there. George Massenburg is the only person insane enough to think up this idea, and John McBride is the only person insane enough to build it. Its concept is ultimately “Massive Diffusion:” 138,646 different lengths of wood, no two of which are the same. The room materials weigh roughly 40 tons.

What year was the 8078 in Studio A built? Have there been any special modifications done to it?

The Neve 8078 in studio A was built somewhere in the early 1970s. It was first installed at Motown’s Hitsville Studio in L.A. Donald Fagen, of Steely Dan fame, owned it then and we purchased it in 2002. We’ve totally modernized the console, making it one of the best sounding desks out there. Vance Powell, our Chief Engineer, says that one modification in particular is that the console was reconfigured into a quasi-inline desk, with the addition of a send-to-tape fader on each channel.

Could you tell us a little about Mr. McBride’s love for The Beatles?

For McBride, it all started with The Beatles. You’ll find pictures and memorabilia all around the studio. As you
could have guessed, “Blackbird,” a favorite song of his and Martina’s, is where we get the name for the studio. As he puts it, “The Beatles just hit me in the DNA.” Got into his system and never got out. He has a huge, and I mean huge collection of Beatle albums. We have a line from the song “Blackbird” sandblasted into Studio A’s tracking space. He wanted to have a place where people could look on the back of the album covers and say, “Wow, that was done at Blackbird too!” just like everyone used to, when they thought of Abbey Road Studios.

Your collection of vintage mics, instruments, amps and recording gear is obscene! Is all of the gear available, either for rent or within the studio time rate?

Everything in the studio is available; 1400 mics, 150 guitars, 35 drum kits, 40 guitar amps, 45 snares, etc. With Studio A and Studio B, everything is included with the rate. The others have a good collection of mics and gear, but have a lower price point. If an artist wants additional gear, it’s a half-price rental. We have a full-service rental company renting out to Nashville and all over the US. We do have lockout rates for those other rooms that include everything just as Studio A and B, but as I said... there’s more than enough included to make a great sounding record!

Seriously, obscene doesn’t even start to describe the unbelievable amount of vintage (and modern) gear available at Blackbird. You’ll come for the Fairchild 660, you’ll stay for the ’49 Gibson J200…

Albums/Projects include: Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, the White Stripes, The Raconteurs, Brad Paisley, Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dixie Chicks, Michelle Branch, Sheryl Crow, Faith Hill, Dolly Parton, Jewel, and of course, Martina McBride, to name a few…

Hit page 3 for the second of our 5 Studios...