El Paso is currently home to number of recording studios and the past year was a good one for musical artists coming out of the city on the crossroads between music scenes in Austin and Los Angeles.
Khalid has been the most successful of three fresh faces from El Paso that have reached the national stage. Elia Esparza landed a spot on The Voice in 2016, followed by Valerie Ponzio in the 2017 season.
Beacon Hill Recording Studios
Alfredo Gonzalez is general manager and music producer at Beacon Hill Recording Studios, 6430 Gateway Blvd, where Khalid recorded his hit song “Location.” Gonzalez said the 3-year-old studio struggled at first, in part because El Paso didn’t have a large recording industry infrastructure like big cities.
“We face additional challenges we wouldn’t have faced necessarily if we were in LA. Gonzalez said.
But, he added there is also a benefit to being in a community with only a small number of recording studios.
“Competition is less. So, you know it’s easier to become a key player in the city, in El Paso than it’ll be in LA.”
Gonzalez said Beacon Hill benefitted from working with touring artists like B.o.B who needed to record a collaboration on a track that featured Busta Rhymes and Cash Cash.Now Khalid’s success has added to the studio’s reputation and is getting the attention of other companies who they liked the sound.
Elia Esparza is another client who has helped showcase Beacon Hill.
“She’s also very active and so locally she’s been, I would say a voice I guess, no pun intended,” Gonzalez said.
He believes that social media has a lot to do with their success when artists like the vibe and share it on their social media.
Gonzalez said that the studio sees more pop and urban music artists, but has also worked with Christian singer Marcela Gandara, who is originally from Juarez.
El Adobe Recording Studios
Other El Paso recording studios have served their share of popular artists.
The oldest recording studio in El Paso is El Adobe Recording Studios,at 5301 El Paso Dr., which opened in 1978. Originally the building was a stagecoach stop on the Butterfield Trail in the 1800s. The original adobe walls still stand and are three-feet thick in some places, which is good to shield the noise from the outside said Joe Cueto, media consultant, writer-producer at El Adobe.
Lynyrd Skynyrd and Juan Gabriel are some of the legendary artists that have recorded at the studio. In fact, Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded their last album at El Adobe.
“Juan Gabriel was a steady client ours from the 1980s until his death. He recorded five platinum CD’s here,” Cueto said.
Cueto said Gabriel auditioned him by having him conduct the Houston Symphony at the Astrodome in front of 40,000 people where Gabriel was the main act in 1986.
“I was a music arranger for Juan Gabriel for 30 years. I did over 400 arrangements for him, for many projects,” Cueto said.
Part of the reason the studio has stayed open for so long is because “it is a very unique facility,” Cueto said.
“Clients love the spaciousness and the ambiance is very relaxed, like a home,” he explained.
The main recording room is one of the largest in the country and it has the capacity to record a symphony orchestra. The ceiling in the big room is 17-feet high Cueto said.
He says the studio’s convenient location has helped with business.
“For clients that come from out of town, such as ad agencies, we’re 10 minutes from the airport. Clients from Juarez, Mexico, we’re five minutes from the Chamizal crossing,” he said.
Over 300 national commercials have been produced at El Adobe. The studio has also produced recordings for members of El Paso’s Symphony Orchestra. Other types of music recorded at El Adobe include heavy metal, country music, rap, hip hop, Latin and Norteño music.
Local band Hank of the Destruction Moose, Maddison Livingston and local artist Joe Barron have recorded there.
“It costs an artist from $10,000 to $30,000 to record an album. Depending on if they hire musicians, the number of musicians they use,” Cueto said.
The cost is lower for a self-contained band. “But an artist that hires a band and orchestra to play behind them is much more expensive,” Cueto said.
Star City Studios
One of the latest recording studios to open in El Paso is Star City Studios Productions, 120 West Castellano. It opened in the summer of 2016.
Opening a recording studio wasn’t the plan said producer/engineer Eric Boseman, One of the owners is John “Buddy” Winston, a longtime El Paso musician. He was looking for a venue where he and his bandmates in PT and the Cruisers could play and put on shows, Boseman said.
A realtor called Winston and told him about the place and that’s how it started.
Winston’s wife and Star City Studios co-owner is the artist Pat Olchefski-Winston. The studio includes a gallery called the Om Room for her paintings and works by photographers, designers and other artisans.
A performance room called Live at Studio C can host up to 150 people to watch live performances. The 1975 had a private concert in the space before their sold-out concert at the Abraham Chavez Theatre.
A combination of local and out of town artist record at the studio, Boseman said.
“That’s one of things we’d like to do, is become sort of a destination studio. That people from LA or Austin or places that people from here have been going to, to go record. We are starting to see people from those places come here to record now,” he said.
Boseman said El Paso’s affordability is an advantage for artists who come into town to record.
“Because the cost of living is cheaper, it’s cheaper to stay here while you’re working on your project.”
To record at Star City can cost between $2,000 and $30,000, depending on which room is used and the level of package.The studio has a hourly rate of that ranges from $50 an hour to $85 an hour.
Besides recording, Star City also rents out the space for events like quinceañeras and weddings.
The studio sees a lot of different types of artist.
“We have everything from hip hop to blue grass, Spanish rock, to metal. Lot of jazz, we got a lot of jazz projects going on in here lately. So a little bit of everything,” Boseman said.
The studio has an emphasis on helping local artists and developed a series of ‘This Business of Music’ workshops.
“Our first one we had brought in an attorney, music attorney from Austin to speak on licensing and publishing and copyright,” Boseman said. The second one was on fundraising and financing your art.
El Paso’s music scene is seeing some cool stuff Boseman said.
“You’ve got the young Khalid whose kind of blown up, giving lots of shout outs to the city. A friend of mine Valerie Ponzio, who was just on The Voice. She’s giving all kinds of shout outs to the city,” Boseman said.
“We’ve had the ranch (Sonic Ranch) outside of the city that for a long time had been bringing different types of artist,” Boseman said.
He said all this is starting to add up to help grow El Paso’s music industry.