Fifteen years ago when owner Andy Pinkham was searching for a home for his recording studios, he admits he was a little desperate. He had run Mortal Music as his full-time job for five years and he needed to move his studios from their original location in Reading quickly. He called other studios for leads, but it wasn't until he found the Terminal Street buildings that he felt like he'd landed on right for his business, and, as he says, “Mortal Music on Terminal Street sounded like a fit.”
Since then he's been the man in Charlestown behind countless demo tapes and favorite CDs, the guy who recorded Bronson Arroyo's song “Destiny” between the 2004 Red Sox pennant win and World Series win and played Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah” at Carnegie Hall just this past January.
His studio is largely hand-built; using wood, soundproofing techniques, and 10 tons of sheetrock, he created multiple work rooms within a single concrete-walled space. It's there that he meets with clients like Boston-based singer-songwriter Chelsea Berry, who he describes as, “the best kind of customer: one who is talented and one who pays,” and who clearly feels at home at Mortal Music. The collaboration is mutually beneficial -- it was she who was picked to sing at Carnegie Hall and brought him along as her accompanist.
Both are also Berklee grads, and it was at Berklee that Pinkham learned many of the skills he uses most at Mortal Music. But Pinkham actually began his career as a courier and an instrument salesman. He eventually bought a 4-track recorder to record his own music.
As he explains, “The 4-track became a 4-track and a drum machine, then became an 8-track, then it just kept getting bigger and bigger,” and most of his recording time was spent recording friends rather than himself.
Twenty-five years ago he opened Mortal Music on a part-time basis, choosing the name after his experiences recording as a member of a Christian group. He says, “they had this really high and mighty attitude, and I thought, if there's music in heaven, it's better than this.” The name Mortal Music appealed to him because of it's down-to-earth nature.
He explains, “we use our bodies, flesh, breath and spirit to create and respond to music,” that we “dance with our bodies, sing with our breath, perform and play with our flesh.” His mixing and recording style is similarly analog; he says, “It's all about creating the sound, rather than sending it through [computerized] plugins.”
He acknowledges that each musician requires different techniques, however, and admits that he has, “some sessions where it's like pulling teeth, and you really have to work to get something creative out of them. Other times you just set up the microphone and get out of the way.”
Knowing which kind of session is which takes experience and intuition, and if longevity is any clue, Andy Pinkham is one man in Charlestown who has it.