Loud as Folk Record Club: Keeping the Dream Alive
By Sean McAlindin click here for original article
Ten years ago, Spike McGuire was looking for a way to bring artists and audiences together when he founded the Loud as Folk songwriter showcase in Reno, Nev. The concept soon set sail up and down the West Coast as a touring revue featuring new artists with every iteration. Along the way, McGuire developed a close-knit network of talented singer-songwriters from the around the globe.
As this one-of-a-kind acoustic cabaret grew in popularity, Loud as Folk moved from coffeeshops and roadhouses to seated theaters and performing arts centers with a focus on authenticity and engagement.
“The tradition of songwriters gets a little drowned out in the noise of a modern world,” says McGuire. “It’s kind of hard to be in the corner of a bar or restaurant trying to yell over the crowd. At our shows, people are there for the art itself.”
When COVID-19 put a halt to live concerts last year, McGuire and his partner, Greg Gilmore, pivoted to the recording studio they founded in 2016.
“There will be plenty of Loud as Folk shows in future,” says McGuire. “We’ve been cautious with everything going on, which is why we started the record club in the first place. We still wanted that opportunity to showcase songwriters and have new music for our fans and followers.”
Loud as Folk now invites one artist each month to record an exclusive session, which is then made available on CD, cassette, vinyl and digital, and accompanied by an in-studio music video. The record club released its first album a year ago; entitled “Loud as Folk: Early Recordings,” the compilation featured 10 artists from several states and countries.
This September saw the release of “Volume 13” featuring Reverend Hylton, an itinerant songwriter from Georgia. October’s “Volume 14” will highlight local musician Rachael McElhiney, known for her work in Reno bands Buster Blue and Failure Machine.
“What’s special about us is we always strive for a very intimate experience with the artist, whether it be at a venue that’s maybe a little too small for the reputation of the artist, or a larger venue that’s seated and dead silent. We wanted to carry that intimate view of the songwriter over to our record club,” says McGuire.
Focus on tradition, community
At the Loud as Folk studio in the basement of the Potentialist Workshop on Second Street in Reno, McGuire and Gilmore take a unique approach to recording.
“Most engineers are used to working with bands, so I’ve been to a lot of studios and never got that sound of the solo artist at the core,” says McGuire. “What we go for is a very stark portrait of the songwriter. We try to get the most accurate representation, as if you were seeing that person live at a Loud as Folk show. We definitely honor a lot of those old-school recording styles.”
First, every song is recorded digitally in one take. There are no other instruments or embellishments added. The recording is later played through speakers in a large gallery upstairs from the studio and re-recorded into open-air microphones. Known as a reverb chamber, this traditional technique is used to add a sense of authenticity to the music without the aid of digital processing. The record is then mastered through tube compressors onto a reel-to-reel tape machine.
“It’s great being in the studio working with old friends,” says McGuire. “I always think it feels like the neighborhood treehouse. Loud as Folk is ‘The Sandlot’ of music. My favorite part is all the awesome people I’ve gotten to meet over the years.”
It turns out that good community makes even better business. This year, Loud as Folk put on a successful show at Brewery Arts Center in Carson City and celebrated its 10th anniversary in the Crown Room at Crystal Bay Casino.
“I think it brings out a spirit of camaraderie,” says McGuire of the songwriter showcases. “People say ‘I can’t believe I have to go on after so and so.’ There is so much respect. It gives people motivation for their own sets. When artists call out impromptu collaborations, it adds even more energy to that magic. I’ve always thought that one of the most important parts of folk music is that community element. I want to honor that. If I build something bigger than myself, it turns out I get to play funner shows.” |