In some fashion or another, Adam Baker has been doing recordings of his own music as well as recording for friends for most of my life.
It began when he was a teenager, using a cassette four-track in his parents’ basement.
When Baker started his current and longest running project, Adam Baker & The Heartache, he stepped away from recording since other members of the group had more experience on that end.
But after a couple of releases and a few band member changes changed the dynamic, he decided to get back behind his self-described “tiny desk,” a desk in the middle of his apartment living room, when it was time to start writing and crafting an album again.
“While I was still living the apartment life, I had a couple friends approach me about helping them record some tracks,” Baker said in an interview with Whatzup. “It wasn’t an ‘official’ studio yet, just a project helping out other friends and local musicians. Sometimes it was songwriters in my living room, and other times it was doing location recordings for live music videos and live performances.”
After purchasing a house last year, Baker set up his project studio in his third bedroom, again “mostly to work on my own music as well as tracks with my band,” he said.
The events of 2020 caused a pause in performing, so he and his friend Topher Beyer started doing a fun recording project called “The Essentials,” featuring local musicians from a bunch of different bands along with some special guests.
Everyone would track their parts separately and send them to Baker who would edit and mix the recordings before releasing them.
“At the same time, both Lexi Pifer and The Paper Heart asked if I could do a new single for them,” Baker said. “I ended up with a lot of great musicians coming in for both of those projects, and the experience was not only rewarding but also a ton of fun.”
As you might expect, Heartache Productions isn’t a traditional studio.
Baker calls it a “tiny studio.”
“It’s a 12-foot by 14-foot space in my home that’s been well treated for reflections so we can always get a great sound,” Baker said.
The layout is continually being optimized for the limited amount of space he has at any given time. Baker also owns a carefully curated collection of guitars, tube amps, acoustic and electric instruments, effects pedals, and keys along with a substantial locker of condenser, ribbon, and dynamic mics and analog preamps. Anyone who records there should have exactly what they need for the sound they are trying to create.
There is even a house drum set “always mic’d and ready to go with several options for snares.”
Having a studio in his home is a labor of love outside of his normal day job and is a very relaxing environment.
“I try to make everyone feel really comfortable so we can get the best performance possible,” Baker said.
Baker mostly books weekend projects or occasional short weeknight sessions. Since the studio is in his home, he typically tries to accept only projects from musicians that he knows or, at least, has some acquaintance with. But he will do work for anyone who asks him as long as it makes sense, including tracking parts as a studio musician since he can play guitar, bass, mandolin, ukulele, banjo, and sing.
The amount of space he has to work with is always going to be the challenge, but Baker said, “In some cases it ends up giving a project a really intimate feel, which can be amazing.”
Baker said one of the things he enjoys most is helping songwriters bring their ideas to fruition which is one reason certain artists prefer to work with him.
“Some people come in with very specific ideas in mind, where others come in with a mostly written song but want some help giving it direction,” Baker said. “I love bouncing ideas with other songwriters and helping them find some new directions that they may not have thought of for their songs.”
He also loves non-conformity in the studio, sometimes using unorthodox ideas of production in order to “experiment and weird things out,” pushing the artists’ boundaries in the process.
When gigging becomes an easy option again, Baker says he will be back on stages doing what he does best. He would also like to resume the monthly songwriting series that he was hosting before the pandemic.
He admits, though, that the downtime in 2020 gave him a chance to reflect on the past few years, realizing that his heart is truly in original music, whether it’s his own or helping others bring their visions to life. Going forward, he sees more of a balance of his time spent between live performances and working in the studio.
At present, Heartache Productions is able to take on only one project at a time, due to space and time considerations. But Baker has aspirations of expanding the studio in the future as he sees his venture coming full circle in a few years.
“I have plans to slowly complete the finishing of our basement so I can build a larger space which will give me more options as to the type of projects I can work on,” he said. “I am also tossing around the idea of using my studio to do some type of reboot of the live songwriter showcase that I had hosted at Trubble Brewing for the three years prior, some type of Fort Wayne ‘tiny desk’ if you will.”
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