Watsky visits the ORC recording studio in Fremont, Terra State

The studio tour was like making ‘lemonade out of circumstance’

SANDUSKY TOWNSHIP — Since opening her Ohio Recording Co. studio in 2015, Brennan Willis has welcomed hundreds of artists to Sandusky County.

None had hurried a massive tour bus down the narrow ORC driveway off Ohio 19 until last week, when national alternative hip-hop artist George Watsky arrived with his troupe traveling musicians.

A tight fit and a first, sure, but Watsky’s bus did it.


Watsky visits the Fremont ORC studio

National hip-hop artist Watsky visited the Ohio Recording Co. studio in Fremont for three days as part of a nationwide tour of recording studios.

Daniel Carson, Fremont News-Messenger

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He’s on tour, but Watsky isn’t playing 1,000-4,000 seat venues because he had planned part of a 40-city tour he launched last year and eventually canceled due to COVID- 19.

Instead, Watsky has embarked on a nine-city tour of recording studios across America where he seeks to complete the third part of a series of albums he started in 2018.

“It was a reimagining of how my career looked,” Watsky said as he and Willis briefly walked out of the studio to talk about the performer’s visit and the obstacles COVID-19 has put in front of artists. and producers.

Fremont and the ORC studio represented the fourth stop on Watsky’s whirlwind studio tour.

For three days last week, the San Francisco-based artist and several backing musicians worked on tracks at Willis’ studio.

Watsky also visited Terra State Community College to speak to students about his experiences in the music industry.

On the ORC website, there is a quote request form that recording artists fill out.

Willis said he got one from Watsky, which led to the artist’s visit.

“He had an explanation of what they were trying to do. And I thought that was a really good idea, that they were trying to make lemonade from the circumstances,” Willis said, calling it a “once in a lifetime project”. .”

The ORC owner and music producer phoned Watsky, heard his idea for a national recording studio tour, and decided it would be a perfect fit for the Fremont studio.

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Ohio Recording Co. and Watsky deal with the impacts of the pandemic

A steady slick of rain that brought several inches of precipitation to Fremont blanketed Watsky’s tour bus on Wednesday as he and the other musicians worked in different rooms at ORC’s studio.

Willis said the studio took a year to build, with work beginning in 2014 and the studio’s first recording sessions taking place 12 months later.

Producer and collaborator Kush Mody sat at ORC’s control panel and listened to a few tunes while Watsky played acoustic guitar on a nearby sofa.

Other musicians hung out in the studio’s writing station, where they could use a laptop, mic, and interface to brainstorm and work on new ideas.

From San Francisco’s youth poetic scene, Watsky has made a name for himself with music, a collection of essays and his work on COVID-19 relief efforts.

He said he set a Guinness Book of World Records record in May 2020 for doing a longest freestyle rap of 33 hours.

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In setting this record, Watsky raised approximately $140,000 for COVID-19 relief, with the money distributed to out-of-work musicians impacted by the pandemic.

With the cancellation of her 2020 tour, Watsky was unable to work for approximately 18 months.

He acknowledged the pandemic had been devastating professionally, but noted that his fanbase remained loyal and gave him no feedback when he was forced to cancel his tour.

As a recording studio owner and music producer, Willis has also felt the sting of the pandemic.

He described 2020 as “really tough” with musicians staying home due to closed venues and security concerns.

“People like George weren’t traveling because their tours were canceled or tours became non-existent,” Willis said.

For Willis, that meant few local musicians with the money to visit ORC and make demos.

The studio also relies on artists from outside the region to get off the road and record new music.

Watsky visits Terra State, talks to music students

Willis started as an instructor in Terra State’s music program in August.

Michael Czeczele, director of music arts and technology at Terra State, said he had done snare drum sampling at Willis’ recording studio and knew him before he started as an instructor.

“He saved them in his collection of snare drum sounds,” Czeczele said.

Czeczele asked Willis to join the music faculty at Terra State.

Willis and Czeczele teamed up to bring Grammy-winning producer Austen Jux-Chandler to the Terra State campus in October.

On his website, Watsky said he has amassed more than 200 million views on YouTube, with appearances on HBO Def Poetry, Ellen, CNN, NPR, PBS, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton Mixtape.”

His collection of essays, “How to Ruin Everything”, was a New York Times bestseller.

Czeczele said Watsky visited his professional seminar class in college and spoke with students about his music career.

He said Willis’ connection with Watsky drew the nationally acclaimed hip-hop entertainer to Terra State to meet his students.

“He was very engaged with the students and answered many questions about starting a business in the music industry,” Czeczele said.

Willis said he hopes he can use his studio and business connections to bring more artists to Terra State.

The studio tour continues for Watsky

With the rain still pouring heavily outside, Watsky took a break around 5:30 p.m. while his fellow musicians continued their discussions inside Willis’ studio.

Watsky said this album is inspired by his experiences with fellow musicians and a central theme of collaboration in American society.

“We are in the time of this pandemic where we are asking humans to collaborate together to solve this big problem,” he said.

His next stop after Fremont was Iowa, with Nashville coming further down the road.

Even though the number of COVID cases remains high, Willis said things started to look up commercially for him this spring as more people got vaccinated and started going out more.

“It started to feel different,” Willis said.

He relies on “x-factors” like Watsky to stop and record music.

And now he knows that his driveway can accommodate the next tourist bus that will pass through town.

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Twitter: @DanielCarson7

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