It seems that there was always music on when I was growing up. My dad remains a huge music fan: Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Lucinda Williams, Seger and Springsteen still greet me when I walk in his door. Growing up it was a steady diet of Orbison, Buddy Holly, the Beatles and the Big Bopper ( HEL-lo BAY-bee!). Once a year my dad would drag his records into our school and exercise his history degree by making us listen to the classics... I have no idea how he convinced the principal that this was a good idea. How many young kids really need to be walking around singing "Yakety Yak?"
In 1985 my brother introduced me to Tangerine Dream, the seminal German electronic music group. The music was unlike anything I had ever heard, and it fascinated me. I got the bug in a rather serious way and started collecting electronic music, and eventually composing. I even considered starting an American branch of the TD fan club, and was given permission to do so by TD's reps in Germany. I never really got that idea off the ground. My school (preppy heaven Phillips Andover) at the time had a modest electronic music studio and I took every class I could there in order to get as much time as possible with the machines. That was 1987 (don't bother with the math, I'm 42), well into the MIDI revolution, and I became very friendly with a certain Macintosh computer and Mark of the Unicorn's Performer sequencing software (version 2.6, I think).
I started collecting synthesizers shortly thereafter, and soon was surrounded by keyboards, mixers and speakers in a pretty well developed home studio. During the "collection" years I worked stints at the ill-fated Tower records in Boston, worked as a lighting designer for a few theatre companies, returned to Phillips Andover as an Associate Faculty member (the youngest ever) to assist in the training of students during a theatre renovation, got hired by the company doing the new sound system at Phillips and spent a couple of years on the road installing sound systems in churches, schools and theatres. I ended up as one of the technical directors of the Firehouse Center, a non-profit performing arts venue here in Newburyport, responsible for both the sound and lighting for any number of events and shows, including events with Patty Larkin, Livingston Taylor and Jonathan Edwards.
I ended up lecturing about sound and or lighting at places like Phillips Exeter and Plymouth State College. Plymouth still hires me to come mix the larger acoustic acts that come through the Silver Cultural Arts center (from groups like Altan, to James Naughton, to Christine Lavin).
I opened up my personal studio space to the general public in 1994, as "the warehouse," due to the fact that the studio was situated in a (you guessed it) warehouse in Amesbury, MA. From the beginning I was most interested in recording singer-songwriters. Something about the nakedness of the music and words appealed to me as a nice balance to the densely layered electronica that I was composing.
In 1996 business was good enough that I moved into a much larger space in Newburyport, where the studio took on its more obvious moniker: Thomas Eaton Recording. Little did I know that in a couple of years the whole recording world would come around to my way of working, embracing the computer as an essential part of the modern music making process. Performer changed with the times, and now some 20 years after I first sat down with Performer, I turn on Digital Performer nearly every day. Yes, that's right...for more than half my life I've been using this software. Scary.
So people came here and made records. I met Rob Laurens at Club Passim in Harvard Square in 1995, and we're still working together. In fact I now am one of the regular sponsors of Passim's Cutting Edge of the Campfire Festival (every Labor Day and Memorial Day). Rob's last record was nominated for a Boston Music Award. So was Jenny Reynolds first record that we made here, and Colleen Sexton's, too. I met Jay Schadler, a broadcast journalist who lives in the region, and we started working together. Suddenly my recordings were on ABC...Primetime, 20/20, then Bravo, and the National Geographic Channel. And Peter Guralnick (the man in the know about American music) now drops in to record interviews for NPR and the BBC. I met Ellis Paul through Rob, and Vance Gilbert through Ellis, and Joyce Anderson through Vance, and the wheels kept turning.
In 2005 Performing Songwriter magazine featured my place in an article about ten studios nationwide that make good records for reasonable budgets, and I was honored to have been selected. In late 2009 I moved the studio to a larger, more private space in Newburyport's industrial park, and the studio became known as Universal Noise Storage. As I was completing work on UNS, I connected with Will Ackerman (founder of Windham Hill Records), and since 2010 I have been chief engineer at Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont working alongside Will while keeping the home fires burning at UNS.