May 17, 2012
Hidden amongst the cornfields and lakes of northeast Indiana sits a modest home. Inside this secluded home is T. Bush Recording and its owner/proprietor/sound engineer Tim Bushong. He’s got a fresh pot of coffee brewing and some time to chat.
“Syracuse, Indiana. In fact, I grew up about a four minute walk from where we’re sitting now,” says Bushong after I asked him where he grew up. How does a guy from a small town like Syracuse get to where he’s at now? How do you fall into music so deeply and dedicate the better part of your life either writing, performing or recording others?
“Well, my family’s very musical,” he explains. “Both of my parents were musicians. My dad was a very accomplished trumpet player. He used to have a singing group that would go out on Sundays and weekends and play. We had a lot of music in the house. All kinds of music. A lot of big band, which I still enjoy.”
Growing up in such a musical environment it’s nearly inevitable that one of two things will happen. You will either fall into music as well, or you will despise it and become a talk radio listener. Bushong is the former.
Trombone and bass were his gateway into the world of music.
“The summer before my sixth grade year I started taking trombone lessons. About the same time, my folks were playing with some country gospel group up in Elkhart County. The guy had a bass guitar and amp for sale, $70 or something. My dad got it, and we both started playing bass that summer. My dad noticed I took off on it pretty quickly. If I was gonna be in a cover band now, I’d rather play bass than guitar.”
Fortunately, he didn’t follow that dream of being a bass player in a cover band. “I picked the guitar up right after my eighth grade year. Put a band together pretty much right away, and I was the lead singer by default because we couldn’t find anyone that could or would sing.”
Bushong played in bands all through school, performing at school dances, basement gigs, garage gigs. These were the stepping stones to the big time. Or semi-big times.
“There’s some self-inflicted hiccups in there, but basically yeah,” Bushong replies when asked if he hit the club circuit right after high school. “I was doing rock n’ roll and working in a factory in the day. I got married in ’83. My wife has always been very supportive.”
Heidi Bushong is the patron saint of rock n’ roll wives. It’s safe to say there would be no T. Bush Recording without her.
The semi-big time was a band called Rox Sedan. “We got a little taste of success, but it was this time period, mid-80s, that I really knew deep in my heart that I had to either cut bait with Jesus Christ or go fishing. To quote C.S. Lewis, I was the most miserable person for about six months. I finally repented and gave my life to Christ in May of ’87.”
This was a turning point for Bushong. “I kinda put music down at that point for a while, you know, because it was such a big focus of everything. Just needed to clear my head and really get into God’s word and get wisdom.”
Once Bushong had made that transition from flightless to righteous, he was ready to get back to what he loved so much: music.
“It was a couple of years later I started writing songs again. One of my old friends from South Bend graciously allowed me to use his Fostex 4-track recorder, so I would just drive up to South Bend, use a little drum machine and a Rockman nd just write songs all the time. Then it was the fall of ’88 that I put together Lovewar.”
At the time, just Bushong on vocals and guitar, a friend on bass and a drum machine, Lovewar “put together a six-song demo tape and sent it out to some underground Christian magazines. That in turn got some interest from an old friend who asked if he could send it to some people. He sent it to the Elefante brothers out in L.A. Flew out there and met them. We ended up signing with them.”
Once signed, Bushong, along with a full-time drummer and bass player recorded Soak Your Brain. A concoction of chunky, tight guitar, low end boom and big drums, it was a huge success in the Christian rock and metal world. They played everywhere they could. By now, Tim and Heidi had little ones at home to take care of, so Heidi kept things together at home so Tim could share his message through rock n’ roll. Eventually, the gypsy lifestyle got the best of Bushong’s bandmates and they jumped ship, so he replaced them with the brothers Hill, a couple of young Turks whose titanic rhythm section accented Bushong funk-heavy guitar.
In 1996, however, Bushong and Lovewar had an epiphany. “During one rehearsal Lance [Hill] said it would be cool if we would just play music that was fun, that you’d want to dance to. And I was thinking, you know, you’re right.” After playing the last official Lovewar show in Brazil in front of 50,000 people, The Channelsurfers were born. With the addition first of rapper/singer Jason Brown, then Aaron Scantlen, The Channelsurfers created a hybrid of rock, funk, soul, hip-hop and vaudeville all rolled into a giant ball of riff rock fun. With two albums in two years, The Channelsurfers blazed new ground in the world of Christian rock. They left behind many a fanboy and girl. But as your parents eventually tell you, sometime you gotta settle down.
In 1999, with a nine-year-old son Aaron and two little sisters right behind him, Bushong decided to retire from the road.
“We planned a farewell gig which we played on October 16, 1999 at Sunset Hall.” Bushong said. “We played our last gig, and I kinda wanted to put my shingle out and have a little studio, so that’s really where I started officially.”
Thirteen years later Bushong is still doing what he loves. “I’m still doing it, thank God. I’ve gotten better as an engineer. I believe partially what has been helpful is having been a musician and knowing the stress and kinda knowing what you want out of an engineer. That’s just the golden rule for my business. I want to treat a client like I wanna be treated.”
Jettingham, Sirface, Sunny Taylor, London Calling, Emery, The Migraines, Haste The Day, Still Remains and Bride are just a few of the clients who have put music to tape (figuratively speaking) at Bushong’s T.Bush Recording studio. “A lot of heavy bands would come here because I could get that heavy band to sound the way they wanted to sound. Some guys are a little heavy-handed with their production and engineering. I’m more like, you know, this guy’s got this weird, ratty guitar sound, so I want to try and adapt to that. That’ll make him more comfortable and sound more like what they’re used to.”
A couple more names to add to that list of artists that have recorded at T. Bush Recording are The Great Flood Catastrophe and Hannah Bushong, the former being the musical project of drummer Aaron Bushong, and Hannah being Tim’s daughter. Both have followed in their dad’s musical footsteps.
“I just talked to some friends of mine. They’ve been married for 10 years and have one kid. They don’t know if they’ll have more since they’re musicians. I told them to do what I did. Grow musicians.”
Aaron plays in his band and helps out at the studio recording for clients. Hannah is a great jazz singer, recently releasing a full length Christmas album and showcasing her fabulous pipes on WBOI’s “Meet The Music” show. Who accompanied her on acoustic guitar? Dad, of course.
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