An Interview with Jam Phelps
Stories Through Sound is a blog featuring interviews by industry professionals across the audio and post production fields. This week, we're interviewing Jam Phelps.
Jam Phelps is an audio engineer, music producer, and drummer based in Durham, NC. Jam runs Denk Studios, an inclusive recording studio that serves as a safe space for everyone regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Denk Studios was built from found and recycled materials, beginning as an outdoor garage and now existing as a fully functioning recording studio. Jam is also a member of Omni Sound, an online community for women+ who create, record, and produce music and sound.
What inspired you to build your own recording studio?
I have always wanted a career in music. I began as a drummer at age 10 and by adulthood I was in several bands. I moved to Seattle in 2014 and had trouble connecting with musicians there. I decided I wanted to work on my own music projects, so I bought a cheap set up and a keyboard and began recording and producing my own music. When I moved to Durham in late 2017, I began to realize I was really good at recording and I finally had the space I needed to record. I started recording some friends for free and built up a portfolio. I had a lot of fun engineering and producing music with friends. All the women that I spoke to would tell me these horror stories of how they were treated in the studio environment. Stories ranging from I got hit on by the staff, they didn’t respect my work or listen to my ideas, and I was laughed out of studios for being too old. As a woman and a queer person I had also had these experiences. I heard enough and decided I would focus my studio on recording women and other marginalized folks.
What does a typical day at Denk Studios look like?
My day starts by having a cup of coffee and getting on social media to connect with musicians and other women in the industry. I then go into my studio and fire up my work station, check emails and begin mixing. I like to mix in the morning while my ears are fresh. I do any needed tracking or production in the afternoon/evening. If I don’t have any projects to work on I will work on my business, sending invoices, accounting, marketing, cleaning my studio. Working on your business is a vital part of being a studio owner.
Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about opening their own studio space?
My best advice is don’t spend a ton of money on things you do not need. Don’t start off your career in massive debt. Find the tools that work best for you and build on your skills with those tools before investing in more gear. You can also find acoustic treatment and building items for less at your local reStore.
My other giant piece of advice is to make sure you have customer service and people skills. You could be the best engineer in the world but if no one wants to be around you it won’t matter.
What are some of your favorite pieces of gear to use?
My favorite pieces of gear are my JBL Mki305 Monitors. They sound as beautiful as they look. I also use Reaper as my DAW and I love it! A must have plug in for me is Melodyne as I record a lot of singer song writers.
I try not to focus on gear when talking about my studio and encouraging folks to go into this industry. I think it is a big misconception that you need all the latest and most expensive gear to record and produce music. The best gear is the gear you already own. I have never had a client ask me what pre amps I use or what mic I have. As long as their songs sound great, that’s all that matters.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
I am currently working on Angelfuni’s Heartbreak/Healing album. It is a double EP style album and it’s sounding fantastic! I am also finishing an album for The Blue Horse Project. It is a folk/ Indie record focusing on her life journey as a 67 year old life time activist.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Thank you for taking the time to interview me and spread the word about my studio. I love working on new and incredible music every day and I have met some amazing women during this process. I am excited to see what this next year brings! If anyone is interested in getting to know more about me or my work my email and DM’s are open to you.
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