Local Spotlight: Crown Studios

Yet Another Local Spotlight is upon us and this time we have a doozy. Shell Enns, owner, and operator of Crown Studios, has a passion for his craft like none other and boy it shows in our sit down with him. Robert and I had the pleasure of talking With Shell about everything from Jackson, to Papa New Guinea, to Rick Ross. I hope you enjoy this one as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

As usual, here’s an abridged version of the interview, if the podcast is not your style…enjoy.

Who are you and what is the Crown Studios?
Hmmm, I now understand what it feels like for an artist when I hit record. When I watched you hit record, suddenly everything changed. I am Shell, like a Sea Shell, Crown Studios is this place and we make records. I don’t know, to get into too much more detail it just depends on what the artist comes in with, sometimes we start from scratch, sometimes everything’s there and it’s making sure we get the right tones. At the end of the day, the goal is, when we hit play…do you feel something? I get really nerdy about sounds, and you won’t see it in the podcast but yeah, each room has a unique sound. So, when we’re recording we think about that. We can bring Gobos in to make the room bigger and smaller as we need. I’m really adamant about making sure it sounds right in the room first, and then we can capture that. I love to make records where we capture sounds artists can do naturally, like they can pull it off at the show. I love making records that are true to the artists making pieces.

What makes Crown Studios a unique experience?
I really want Crown to be very relaxing, I want it to be a space that you can feel comfortable in, and at home in. I love that it’s a home recording studio. I never want to lose that element even as we’re expanding. I want to create an environment that is easy and relaxing to be creative in, in the same way, that maybe you write a song in your bedroom, or you know, wherever that is, that place where you feel at peace. I want Crown Studios to feel like that. The world around might be crazy but when you come to Crown you can take a breath and get really focused on your art. I hope that comes across in not just the way we approach making a record but the space that we make a record in. I love the idea of being boutique, innovative, a little different but very relaxing.

What originally got you into making music?
For me, music is like learning a language. I’m sure none of us here remember learning to speak, and if you do, you’re an incredible human. You know, you just grow up speaking, so I kinda don’t really remember dabbling in music. As far back as I can remember, I would be singing and writing songs, maybe not fully-structured songs, but definitely singing to the records my parents played in the house. I don’t remember learning to play guitar, as far as I know, I would have been really young, I just always kinda had a guitar around. As far back as I can remember I’ve been in bands, all through High School and what-not. I’d always end up being the songwriter and lead singer. I’d like to think I have a macro-view on songs. I loved writing songs, then in college, I didn’t want to major in English or Math so because of that I picked the Spaceship, thinking I would record all the songs I had written over the years. What ended up happening was I got an internship for an indie film company, I did some scoring for them. Around this time I wasn’t playing much guitar, I was doing more beats and stuff like that. I scored for this indie company and it was really fun, It would be short promo videos and TV spots and stuff like that. So, I graduated with an audio production degree. I did a lot of live sound coming out of school, and that’s probably the biggest influence on my approach to recording and mixing.

Tell me a little bit about your personal background and how did you get from there (Papa New Guinea) to Jackson, MS?
My wife and I have been in Jackson for about 3 or 4 years now. I grew up in a small tribe in Papa New Guinea. My Dad was a Bible translator, and he committed a ton of time to that and I have a ton of respect for him for that. Up until about 7th grade, I’d finish what little home-schooling my mom had for the day and then run around and play soccer or go build fort and swing from vines. Legitimately, have you seen Jungle to Jungle the movie? That’s me, basically. I went to an international boarding school in the Highlands region and I met tons of really cool people from all over and that’s more when I was in bands because in the tribe it was more reggae. We moved to the US in ’06, which would have been maybe 10th grade for me. That was a pretty intense transition. At that time we were living in Clinton, MS. I was chasing the soccer ball around and mowing grass, basically and ended up playing Soccer at Hinds community College. Those are good years for me. Then I transferred to a school in Michigan and I studied audio production there.

“The industry’s changing, but everything changes, life is fire. If you’re not used to that, then you won’t be ready for the next thing.”

How did you turn your passion for music into an actual business?
Kind of necessity a little bit. When I first moved back to Jackson, I had a really great conversation with a friend of mine. He basically said, “Shell if you really want to do this, you will find a way to make it happen.” If it dawned on me that really I could do anything if I put in the work for it. So, I just really started busting my butt. I took every gig I could get that looked a lot like live sound. I started mixing, someone heard my mixes and referred me to a production company. The first show I mixed was, I think, Mystikal in Vicksburg. Ok, you’ve got to talk about that! It was pretty intense! It was my first time mixing a concert, of course I didn’t tell the company that. I got there and didn’t know what I was doing at all. I not even sure how to got input in and out of the board, but to be honest I knew this is what I needed to do. I was just going for it. It worked and the production company, I guess, enjoyed it. They called me back and the next gig I worked was Rick Ross at the Coliseum. Keep in mind I’m frontin’ like I’m this engineer that knows what I’m doing. I’m totally faking it. I kinda got hooked on the pressure, not just the pressure but that thrill of the energy coming up through the faders. You’ve got 12,000 people listening and you’ve got one moment and you can’t screw it up. You’ve got to come in clutch. It was at the Rick Ross Concert that it dawned on me, this is an instrument, this is my art form, so I really got into mixing and I took every last show I could. I’ve moved more away from the live sound now, I’m definitely more keen on being in the studio. I like the whole process of making a record.

Would you care to share the most interest recording experience you’ve had at Crown Studios?
This a bit of a roundabout way to answer that, but I do get a lot of interesting phone calls, but I also feel bad about laughing when I get them. I got one not too long ago, somebody wanted to come in for a recording session and they had this song on Youtube they wanted to sing and they asked if I could take the vocals out so they could sing over it. So, there’s a lot of things wrong with that scenario. Sometimes is wish people could understand this concept, so I’m going to take this time on this podcast to explain it. Ha, if you make spaghetti you can’t take the tomatoes back to the grocery store, even if you have the receipt. Hahaha! What I mean by that is that even if you buy the song or the stems or whatever you can’t change it once it’s been made into spaghetti. Once the vocals are in the mix, they are in the mix. Once the individual elements are bounced to the two track, it’s done. I wish that I could but I can’t. That’s an interesting thing that happens fairly regularly.

When working with new artists, what steps go into building and producing a song? How do you make an idea into a reality?
For us, every song is different, every artist is different, every record is different. It depends on where they’re at with a song. Some people come in here and they’ve already fleshed it out and the artistic stuff I do is more on the mixing side of things. There are other times that people will come in and have like a guitar and a vocal track but want a full band or maybe they like want something that sounds like The Neighbourhood or something more electronic and they just don’t know how to get there. It really depends on the project. Basically, that’s an open-ended conversation with the artist. It’s a matter of asking them, what are they listening to, where do they envision it and sometimes its helping people understand how far they CAN take it. What is the secret dream you have for this record? Let’s find it, and let’s make it happen.

What’s your opinion on the evolution of the music industry?
I’m excited, I’m really excited. I think this is a great time to be in the industry, I really believe that. The industry’s changing, but everything changes, life is fire. If you’re not used to that, then you won’t be ready for the next thing. I think that’s just the way it works. It folds in on itself, reinvents itself, and comes out better. That’s just the way everything works, not even just music. To me, this is a really exciting time to be in the industry. There’s room for someone to come up with a creative idea that rocks everything and sets the tone for what the new model’s gonna look like. I think right now anyone can put in the work and make their dream come true and that’s not something that used to happen. There were good things about the old industry, you know the filters of a label, and not everything was so diluted. There was a quality control so to speak. What’s exciting about now is that maybe we don’t have the quality control up top, but it still exists now because you’re not going to make it if you don’t put in the work. I’ve heard a lot of people say that its impossible to make it now. The reality is that it was impossible to make it then too, it’s always been impossible to make it in this industry.

What would you say to someone that doesn’t know you exist yet?
I would ask him about him. I think that’s the most important thing. Being genuinely interested in other people is the most important thing. At the end of the day, I love Crown with all my heart, I’ve poured my soul into this, too many sleepless nights, too many hours, I can’t log hours, but if it all went away, the only thing that’s important is the people that we invest in. So it’s important to be interested in other people and figuring out what they want. That’s the key.

Check out Shell’s Crown Studios at CrownStudios.co and like it on Facebook. Big thanks to Shell, and Audry Enns for letting us invade the studio. I hope you enjoyed the interview, stay tuned for more Local Jackson magic!

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