Today we bring you the first in our “In Control” series, where we take you inside Nashville’s studios and get to know the masters behind the dials and the glass. To kick things off, Emily hung out with Eric Masse at his Casino studio in East Nashville.
I am sitting across from Eric Masse inside the windowless Casino, a studio whose velvet aesthetics are made to absorb the acoustics of in-progress records. Masse offers me a berry La Croix, and we temper around a conversation about the culture of East Nashville for a minute, sipping on our beverages between commentaries. I like to gauge the level of humor and eccentricity in a person before launching into any formative question-answer session.
Luckily, Masse’s comedic tendencies mirror my own, and hanging out with him amongst posters of Grace Potter and The Nocturnals and Caitlin Rose quickly feels like catching up with a friend I used to know. I ask Masse why he named the studio “The Casino.” He replies, “it just seemed like a good place to take a gamble on your future.”
Eric Masse shares my sentiments about Nashville; as an artist of any kind, it’s a great city to take that gamble, to be proactive within your own entrepreneurship. He believes that we are living in Nashville during “its tipping point, where you’re doing it yourself and kind of succeeding.” Although he is grounded in the staples of the East Side, (Ugly Mugs, Café Margot, and yes, 308), his own career mimics the progress of the city; it is impressive and expansive, and word-of-mouth praise has generated an influx of newcomers and opportunity. In a sense, The Casino is Nashville.
A Michigan native and Berklee College graduate, the producer has succeeded in harnessing his craft; he’s worked with artists from Mikky Ekko to Madi Diaz and Dierks Bentley. I instinctively trust the creativity of any one who is half as self-deprecating as I am with an impressive resume superimposed over excessive modesty. Masse embodies these characteristics; he’s an intuitive creator who appreciates collaboration and unconstrained vision. As a music writer, talking to Masse feels a lot like speaking the same language in a different dialect; he s hares my sentiments about working with authentic artists that possess a matured self-awareness.
By the time I realize the intricacies and talent in Masse’s work, we’re blasting Tame Impala throughout the studio, one of his picks for a sunny spring day. We’ve created a dialogue that bounces between the best Grateful Dead albums, (although he would never want to produce one himself; he accurately describes those long, hallucinogenic interludes as “internally produced”), his favorite local bands (check out Escondido), and a strange alternate universe in which Rhianna pops in the studio for a beer.
Masse grew up on Motown the way that I grew up on folk, and we meet in the middle, loving the spirit of a rambling sixties-seventies rock n’ roll. I would attribute part of his success to an ability to circumvent genres, realizing that notes of outlaw country can permeate synthetic sounds, and vice versa. He regards music with a keen wonder, and possesses that x-ray vision all great producers share; it’s an ability to peer inside the skeleton of a song, assess its contents, and subsequently bring it to life.
Check out his work here.
Follow us on Twitter.