A Recording Studio
GIBSONTON – Getting to interview people like Ruskinite Jeff Knauff is one of the thrills of publishing Townie Life Magazine. I cannot tell you how many amazing neighbors we have in South Shore. I have a list a mile long but, for now, let me tell you about Jeff and his recording studio.
Jeff invited me to his Gibsonton-based The Parsonage Recording Studio one afternoon in June. He was working with a group of musicians to ‘lay down some tracks.’ Sounds totally cool, right? And, it was.
Don’t Judge A Book by Its Cover
Admittedly, my imagination can run a bit wild so when I arrived at The Parsonage Recording Studio that afternoon I was a bit surprised. It was not quite what I envisioned. In my mind a recording studio would have had music blaring loud enough to be heard miles away, tons of questionable-looking characters with long hair milling about, and cool cars with flames painted on the sides parked outside.
The reality, however, was The Parsonage Recording Studio was a normal looking little white house with a silver four-door sedan and a mini-van parked on the street.
But, what did we learn in kindergarten? Never judge a book by its cover.
The Parsonage Studio? Unassuming little white house on the outside, badass recording studio on the inside. I’m talking a real, live MTV-type recording studio (if anyone remembers MTV).
A Love of Music Never Leaves You
Let’s go back a bit first, though, so I can tell you about Jeff.
If you’ve been born with a love of music you probably know it never really leaves you. Jeff Knauff is this way. He’s always loved music: listening to it, playing it, singing it, and writing it.
Jeff made his living playing in a band as a young adult. Then, like many of us, he grew older and into more responsibilities. While earning a living in music worked when it was just he and his wife, Jeff took a break from his music career in search of a steadier income once they had children.
Though he initially struggled to find a steady job, Jeff eventually found himself at Progressive Insurance where he built a successful 30-year career. Music was never far away, though. He kept it going as a hobby and added ‘recording music’ to his music activities.
“The thing is,’ Jeff says, ‘the further you get in a career the more expendable income you have. Some of this recording equipment is expensive, but over time I was able to buy the different elements needed to professionally record music.”
A Second Career
Over time the equipment also multiplied and it began living in his garage. When Jeff retired from Progressive he decided it was time to do something with the equipment. Use it or lose it. With the help and blessing of his wife, Vicki, Jeff decided to go back to music full time and open a recording studio.
The first task at hand was to find a location. His realtor led him to Gibsonton to look at a small white house. While most of us would have asked the realtor to keep driving Jeff was curious. The way Jeff describes it the house was in shambles and had a questionable history. It needed more than a bit of work, but the price and location was perfect. Lots of elbow grease and MAJOR renovations later Jeff had a recording studio.
Because it was once the parsonage for the church next door, Jeff named the business The Parsonage Recording Studio.
The Parsonage Recording Studio
The Parsonage opened 8 years ago and Jeff has been busy recording music ever since. He’s worked will all types of groups, from hip-hop to rock and roll to country. He typically works with serious and experienced musicians. All of his business comes from word of mouth and he’s busy.
Watching Jeff and the professional musicians at work the afternoon I spent at the studio was fascinating. I learned a lot. For example, I learned that drums are sometimes recorded separately and added to a song track later.
What I witnessed that afternoon was a session for singer-songwriter, Eddie James, who is working on his third CD (yet to be titled). Eddie does not have his own band, so his songs are “built instrument by instrument,” Jeff explained.
I also learned that music is about much more than a cool band writing and playing a song. The theory, experience and knowledge behind good music is pretty intense. Recording a song, to get it right, can take countless hours and multiple recordings.
The Musicians in This Story
Eddie James is a singer-songwriter. He has two CDs (a third CD in production).
To purchase Eddie’s CDs:
To learn more about Eddie James: Eddie James WEBSITE
To see where Eddie is performing locally FOLLOW him on FACEBOOK.
Leroy Meyers is a drummer with a popular event band fronted by Ronnie Dee (Joey Dee’s son. Joey had a big hit with “The Peppermint Twist” back in the 60’s)
Russ Bertolino (he goes by Russ Bert professionally) is one of the finest bass players in the Tampa Bay area. He is currently playing with the popular cover band Jaded.
Jeff is a self-taught in recording and producing music. “Having played music professionally,” Jeff says, “helped me understand the recording side of it, how to ‘hear’ what sounds good or not. When I first started playing in a band I could read music, but did not know much about chords and how to play with other musicians. Learning to do that, and learning more about music theory, really helps me on the recording side.”
Beyond the Recording Studio
Jeff takes his recording studio on the road, too. He volunteers as the sound technician for Firehouse Pub concerts, and records the acts live at the Firehouse Cultural Center. One of his most recent Firehouse Culture Center recordings was that of Victoria Ginty and Ladyhawke, who subsequently used Jeff’s recording to make a CD. A live recording has to be top-notch to be considered CD-quality, and Jeff did it.
Recording has also taken Jeff beyond music. When 101.9 WPHX, the Firehouse Cultural Center’s low-power FM radio station, was launched Jeff lent his expertise to the project and was the Chief Operator for the radio station until recently. (*Look for another Townie Life Magazine article on the Firehouse Cultural Center’s radio station).
Jeff still records a radio show for 101.9 WPHX. In his weekly program, WPHX Presents, Jeff interviews musicians and asks them about the musicians who inspired them to become musicians. It’s a great concept. The program also showcases acts recorded live at the Firehouse Pub and artists recorded live at Jeff’s studio. You can check out Jeff’s WPHX Presents and other 101.9 WPHX programming here: http://www.wphx1019.org/
Living the Dream
We all dream of becoming something big when we’re kids: astronauts, actors, doctors, basketball stars and rock and roll stars. Jeff may not be a questionable-looking character with long hair and a flame-painted car, but he’s living his music dream, even if it was put on hold for a steady job for a few years.
Something to consider. What dreams are you working on? Comment below.
To contact Jeff: firstname.lastname@example.org