By Joshua Sherman, MD
Photography by Bryce Boyer
Pop. Classical. Rap. Blues. Hip-Hop. Musical Theatre. Rock. So much of the music industry is divided by “labels,” but here in Southern Vermont we embrace them all—and more often than not—create hybrids.
Meet some of our Southern Vermont creatives. Hear their voices in extended interviews at oldmillroadrecording.com.
Adam Guettel is the two-time TONY® Award-winning composer and lyricist of The Light in the Piazza, which also garnered him a GRAMMY® Award nomination. He wrote the music and lyrics for Floyd Collins, which won the 1996 Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical and the Obie Award for Best Music. The grandson of Richard Rodgers and the son of Mary Rodgers, Adam is a third-generation Broadway composer.
“I started out as a young pianist. Not a particularly enthusiastic one. Not a particularly talented one either. When I started singing professionally (at The Met and at City Opera) and when I started to get to perform and understand how theatre was made, then I sort of popped into existence…to see the absolute chaos that is the beginning of the project and the absolute sublimity of a project that really works out well—that can move an audience. To see that happen at the age of 9, 10, 11 was a formative experience and really set the template for how I deal with my work today. I learned that things take time, and people make mistakes—and there’s nothing wrong with that—and that’s part of the process.”
“I work in a way that is different from the way many people work. To be specific, one is often given an assignment, ‘We need a song here that does this’ or ‘We need to do this for the character’ or ‘We need a lift in the score here—and here, we need a solo.’ I understand all that—and respect it—and eventually abide by it. But the way in which I abide by it is that I either have it sitting around, or I make something up in a scattershot kind of way where I will make music that suggests a slight departure from the assignment as given. To try to make the perfect song for a situation that has been prescribed by either a director, book writer, or myself is a process that I think is boring, drudgery— homework. If it feels like homework, it is going to sound like homework. So, I prefer to make stuff that sounds really cool and weird—and ‘wow what is that for?’—and then figure out how to bend the storytelling so that the actually inspired ideas can find a safe and effective home. And that’s my process. I’ve never liked homework. I never did it.”
“I have a lot of music in me that I want to get out into the world, but one of the reasons I’m grateful for being a teacher, as well as a writer, is that when you don’t feel you have that originating generative spark that a writer must have, it is a great privilege and a great reassurance to know that you can still be an effective teacher—and pass things on, and be generous, and listen and try to help and develop the great new people who are coming along. That’s a cantilever for me. It’s a great balance.”
“I always knew I wanted to live in Vermont. Even when I was a kid. I was a plant maniac, even when I was a boy. All I wanted for my birthday was plants…we faced south—and I had these incredible plants. I heard about Vermont, like, it was this place that was all about plants. My whole life I wanted to live here. And, eventually when I was 29, I moved here. And I’ve been here 25 years.”
Benjamin J. Arrindell
Benjamin J. Arrindell is a GRAMMY® Award-winning engineer who has lent his signature sound to such diverse talents as Aretha Franklin, Janet Jackson, Busta Rhymes, The Village People, Mary J. Blige, En Vogue, Kool & the Gang, The Temptations, Gerald Levert, and Yolanda Adams, among others. He is the in-house engineer at Old Mill Road Recording in East Arlington, Vermont.
On His Start
“After high school, I joined the Army. And after basic training, I was stationed in Germany, and I opted to buy a stereo. That was my intro into music and that was when I really started loving music. I asked my friend, ‘Why do these records sound like this? You know, how do they get made?’ My friend was like, ‘Yeah, man, there are these things called, ‘recording studios.’ So, when I got out of the service, I went to a recording school, Center for the Media Arts, in New York City, which has since closed. The first time I saw the control room, I was like, ‘Wow, look at all them knobs!’ I was hooked. I told my mother, ‘I’m going to work in a recording studio.’ She was like, ‘Yeah, do you get paid?’ I said, ‘Not really. Not at first, Mom.’ And she was like, ‘Okay, follow your dream.’ And that was it. And off I went.”
“What is mixing? Let’s say I’m a baker, and I’m going to make a cake. I have to gather all the ingredients, right? ‘Recording’ is like gathering all of your ingredients. You gather the bass, the piano, the lead vocals, the drums. ‘Mixing’ is the process of putting all of those elements together to make them one cohesive thing, which we consider a record. But like in baking, the key is to mix the raw ingredients in the right amounts. Not too much salt, not too much egg, not too much sugar. Not too much drums, not too much bass, not too much piano. The art of mixing is, literally, putting together all of the elements in the right amounts to make a unified sound.”
“I enjoy being up here. I lived in New York my whole life. I never lived anywhere else other than Germany. But as my sister would say, ‘that doesn’t count because that was the Army.’ So, building Old Mill Road Recording was the right opportunity that showed up at the right time. And it’s so pretty up here, particularly in the summertime. The first time I brought my friend Isabel here, she was like, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing. This is paradise. Look, you have a river.’ And that’s right. The studio overlooks the river. It is paradise.”
Iain Pirie has guided the careers of some of the most important names in music, first with RCA Records UK; then for 17 years at 19 Entertainment (ultimately as executive vice president); and most recently as founder of Tritone. Pirie has worked across records, producer and songwriter management, music publishing, TV production, and artist management. After initial work for Spice Girls and Pop Idol, he subsequently managed the audition process and the entire music part of the American Idol franchise from Seasons 1 through 13, overseeing the creative of the most successful artists to have launched their careers from the show, including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Fantasia, and Adam Lambert. Tritone currently represents the producers/songwriters Jim Jonsin, Broken City, and Gannin Arnold. In addition, Pirie is a management and music consultant to Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment. Current projects include Annie Lennox’s daughter, Lola, and Now United, an exciting new multi-platform multinational music entertainment brand.
“I guess everything really worthwhile that you learn in life is very experiential. You know, you can teach theory in all sorts of different ways. But there’s nothing quite like getting out in the midst of things and feeling the pain (and the consequences) of mistakes—and not even your own mistakes sometimes. Sometimes, it’s the mistakes of others or the consequences of certain decisions that get made. I learned the importance of anticipating consequences for everything, because if you are very well prepared and you think ahead, you can stop some of those problems from happening.”
“Artists are often quite emotionally sensitive people, and understanding the importance of that and protecting them and encouraging them is crucial. And that applies to producers as much as it does to the actual singers and musicians.”
“My wife and I met in Los Angeles, but my wife grew up in Saratoga and parts of her family are still there. We would come back to New York to see her family periodically. We went up a mountain somewhere. And we looked out across; I can’t remember exactly where it was—it must have been somewhere up in the Adirondacks—and we looked out across—and we could see Vermont. And I was like, ‘Wow, that looks like something out of Lord of the Rings over there.’ We loved coming to the Adirondacks. We bought a little place up there and we spent holidays there. By this point, I’d lived in L.A. for probably, I don’t know, 13 years. We were at a point in our lives without even realizing it, subconsciously in search of a change. I was certainly a bit burnt out, sitting in my car in seven lanes of gridlock traffic in the middle of L.A. We were really invigorated by coming to New England and being in upstate New York and loving all that. We started kicking the idea around of making a huge life change. We had two kids and started thinking, well, we should go where we kind of know, and we love the Adirondacks. Maybe we should think about relocating there. The more we started looking at schools and things, the more we started thinking we should really go and check out Vermont. So, we did—and immediately fell in love with it. It was just one of that kind of crazy life moments where it just made sense to make a massive change and almost embrace the polar opposite of what we were living through in L.A. And we love L.A. It wasn’t a total, ‘we hate L.A. we gotta get out’ type thing. It was just it felt like, okay well we’ve been here quite a long time and it would be really fun to go and do something else. We moved here in the summer of 2016. We bought a house, we renovated it, and enlarged it. I built an office, and I continue to work in music. I love being based here.”
On American Idol
“When I was running music for American Idol, we had quite a big team of people, because it was a big machine to run. So, we had a really good, handpicked team of people who ranged from quite experienced right down to very inexperienced, but they had the right personalities and the right skill sets and the right, more than anything for me, kind of moral compass as well. I think one of the things I’m most happy about with that era of my life and career was that we created a very loyal, committed, strong team of people that really had each other’s backs. Hugely. It was a really rewarding part of my life.”
Benjamin Lerner, the great grandson of Irving Berlin (composer of such standards as God Bless America and White Christmas), is a classically trained pianist, currently working on his debut album, featuring his all-original piano-raps, which focus on addiction and sobriety.
“My dad used to always bring me up here when I was a kid. He built a house in Sandgate in the 1970s. He wanted to be part of these post-Woodstock hippie farm communes. He turned it into his sanctuary. He would take me out of my posh urban life and into this stark reality. The peace that I feel on the top of that hill, carrying on the legacy of that hippie woodsman—who gave me the gift of knowing the pride and satisfaction that can come from hard work—is incredible. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
“It was hard at first, because there is a difference between being able to rhyme words and being able to do it rhythmically. I was a poet, but was never really a singer. My instrument was always my hands. So, it was a process. But I got into rap by being a fan of rap music. In social situations it was a sign of status to be in the middle of the party and rhyme over beats on command. I thought it was an incredible skill and I wanted to be part of it.”
“Talent is a lot like addiction. It can come out of nowhere, but if there is a history of it, I think that is a definite influence. It certainly made it easier for me to discover that I had an ability with words and music, because I had a family that was interested in those things. What was most important was that when I made the move from classical piano to rap music, although there was some resistance, my parents didn’t cut me off from it. They didn’t make my true passion the forbidden fruit. There’s so much joy that I get out of writing my own songs and combining these two media. I never would have gotten that out of pure classical piano playing. If they had punished me for combining my love for music and poetry in the way that I do, I wouldn’t be able to make the music, but more important, I wouldn’t know who I was in the way that I do today. From being able to express myself, I don’t just make music, I come face to face with who I am as a person—it’s like putting a piece of your soul on paper musically.”
The Music Makers
A list of some of Southern Vermont’s industry creatives
ALG BRANDS: Ashley and Scott Austin have had impressive independent careers: he was an A&R executive at Madonna’s Maverick Recording Co. and at Warner Bros. Records before he was tapped as a talent producer for the first two seasons of the hit TV show, The Voice. Ashley started at CAA,
eventually transitioning to estate management at Jampol Artist Management, where she worked with The Doors, Janis Joplin, and Rick James, among others. Recognizing the incredible power in aligning iconic personalities and entertainment brands for select collaborations, they founded ALG Brands, a boutique firm specializing in intellectual property and personality rights for entertainment brands and pop-culture icons. ALG clients include Iggy Pop, McCoy Tyner, Dean Martin, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, photographer Mick Rock, and more. algbrands.com
BOB STANNARD & THOSE DANGEROUS BLUESMEN: An eighth-generation Vermonter who’s been playing and singing the blues since 1969. Don’t miss Bob’s vocals and harmonica. bobstannard.com
EARTH SKY TIME: 2019 marks celebrating four years of concerts on the farm. Check online for up-to-date-events. earthskytime.com
FREDDI SHEHADI: EMMY® Award-winning guitarist/ composer/producer, be sure to check his website for updates. freddishehadi.com
GRATEFUL MOUNTAIN PRODUCTIONS: Although Matt Appelman is known for his work licensing art, he and his wife Jenni have recently been recruiting some very talented musicians to the Southern Vermont scene.
GREEN MOUNTAIN BLUEGRASS & ROOTS: The brainchild of Jill and John Turpin, GMBR is a four-day music festival featuring a variety of bluegrass, roots, and Americana music including icons of the industry and innovative up-and-coming artists. greenmountainbluegrass.com
MANCHESTER MUSIC FESTIVAL: Now in its 45th year, MMF is the premier Southern Vermont summer classical music festival. Since 2017, GRAMMY® Award nominee Adam Neiman has been at the helm as artistic director. mmfvt.org
MAXINE LINEHAN AND ANDREW KOSS: are an accomplished musical couple. With a background in both classical and contemporary music production, he is the owner of The Studio at Strawberry Fields Lane. She is an international performer who has been heralded by The New York Times as “fiercely talented.” maxinelinehan.com and strawberryfieldslane.com
OLD MILL ROAD RECORDING: is a new state-of-the-art luxury destination recording studio available to musicians worldwide who want to record and publish their music. In-house GRAMMY® Awardwinning engineer Benjamin J. Arrindell has 30-plus years of experience. The studio features top-of-the-line equipment, including a 48-channel SSL Duality mixing console, Yamaha C7 Grand Piano, and Griffin Speakers. The control room, live room, and isolation booth have been meticulously designed and tuned by world-renowned architectural acoustic designer Francis Manzella. Thoughtfully organized for comfort, flow, and versatility, Old Mill Road Recording is unlike any other studio around. It provides the opportunity to record pristine sound while overlooking a breathtaking river view in the heart of the Green Mountains of Vermont. It is available for recording and mixing local talent, advertising work (jingles/ commercials), post-production work (digital media/ TV/ film), and as a destination recording studio for top artists. oldmillroadrecording.com
PETER MILES: With a relaxed stage presence, Miles plays extraordinary versions of classic folk and rock ballads. Miles also writes and performs original music that reflects the influence of these diverse artists. milessongs.com
SEEDERS INSTRUMENTS: In addition to his expert skills as a musician, Will Mosheim is a master designer and builder of custom banjos and guitars. Having trained with several legends in the field, Mosheim incorporates his own unique touch and style to his work. He strives to maintain a meticulous approach to the craft and sound of his instruments. seedersinstruments.com
SONIC CIRCUS: Since 1996, Sonic Circus has worked with recording studios, broadcast studios, live sound companies, and independent engineers/producers to provide equipment, technical design, and support for all aspects of audio production. They carry more than 250 lines of audio hardware and software, as well as an exclusive private stock of vintage recording consoles, outboard signal processing gear, and microphones. soniccircus.com
SOUTHERN VERMONT ARTS CENTER: Originally a 400-acre private estate with a 28-room mansion from 1917, the campus became the permanent home of SVAC in 1950. Today, more than 120 acres remain and the property has been converted into a state-of-the-art museum complex, including the 400-seat Arkell Pavilion. svac.org
STRATTON MOUNTAIN MUSIC: Stratton’s year-round music scene features indoor and outdoor settings, small stages and large venues, local talent, rising stars, and internationally acclaimed artists. stratton.com
TACONIC MUSIC FESTIVAL: Co-founded by Artistic Directors Joana Genova and Ariel Rudiakov, the organization provides year-round concerts, lessons, demonstrations, and educational programs built upon the traditions of classical
THE MILL: Once a meeting place for “The Green Mountain Boys,” the Gristmill of East Arlington (built in 1764) now serves as a private concert venue, event space, and hub for artistic collaboration. Producer Joshua Sherman is at the helm of the arts complex and production facility. themillvt.com
TWIDDLE: With lead singer Mihali Savoulidis, Twiddle is a Vermont-based jam band with a huge following. They utilize extensive instrumental improvisation in their live performances, incorporating influences from a wide variety of music genres, including rock, jazz, bluegrass, reggae, and funk. Twiddle formed at Castleton State College in Vermont in 2004. twiddlemusic.com
WALKER FARM MUSIC SERIES: is hosted by the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company at their state-of-the-art performance facility, Walker Farm. westonplayhouse.org
THE WILBURTON INN: Once well known to NYC kids for creating the popular band “Moey’s Music Party,” Melissa Levis now caters to a more adult crowd with her hilarious late-night cabarets. Often accompanied by other members of the Levis family, don’t miss these unforgettable nights at the majestic 30-acre hilltop estate. wilburtoninn.com
WINTER WONDERGRASS: WinterWonderGrass aims (and succeeds) at cultivating and nurturing the relationship between nature, authentic music, and communal family, creating a vehicle for inspiration. Founder Scotty Stoughton and his team bring bluegrass and string music to fans across the nation. winterwondergrass.com/stratton
Check out more of Southern Vermont’s talented performers:
-BILLSVILLE HOUSE CONCERT SERIES
-DON’T LEAVE BAND
-IDA MAE SPECKER
-JIM GILMOUR BAND
-THE JULIE SHEA BAND