Songwriter-sound engineer applies lessons from Nashville to launch music studio in Portland

A songwriter and music producer who has worked in world-renowned recording studios is currently developing a production and training facility in Portland.

Ryan Ordway and his wife, Emily Wedick, kicked off the operation last weekend by launching the first class in their training program, titled Let’s Record ME, at Studio Portland.

Located at 45 Casco St. in the city’s Arts District, the studio has added Ordway’s professional-grade sound production equipment to its existing gear. Ordway offers hands-on lessons for potential producers, as well as services such as music production, mixing, and engineering; production of videos and podcasts; material reviews and music industry promotion; and sound design for film, television and commercial use. Services are offered in all styles and levels of music.

The Studio Portland is the name of the production operation and Let’s Record ME is the name of the training program offered with The Studio Portland space. Both are for-profit businesses. Creative Portland, the city’s nonprofit arts agency, serves as the operation’s nonprofit fiscal sponsor for a fundraiser, which will provide financial assistance for students to participate in Let’s Record ME programs.

Courtesy/Studio Portland

Ordway, in the background, is in the control room of Studio Portland, investigating where students get hands-on experience with sound equipment in the ‘concert hall’.

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Group visits

Ordway is an audio producer, engineer, and songwriter with over 20 years of experience touring, producing, songwriting, and writing commercial jingles and theme songs for television.

Born in Los Angeles, he grew up in Wolfeboro, NH He began playing guitar as a teenager, inspired by his uncle, Danny Wilde, a Houlton native and co-founder of the Rembrandts, who experienced one of his biggest hits in the 1990s with the NBC theme song “Friends”, “I’ll Be There For You”.

“I was turning on MTV and VH1 and seeing my uncle and thinking, ‘Wow, that’s so cool,'” Ordway told Mainebiz. “It pushed me to embark on this career.”

After high school, he returned to Los Angeles to develop as a songwriter and guitarist. After about a year, he decamped to Boston, which became the home base of his band, Oddway. Ordway was its main songwriter, guitarist and bandleader.

The group did a few hundred shows a year from 2001 to 2007, including three national tours. Traveling by 16-passenger van with a trailer to haul their gear, the band played at numerous colleges and bars. Ordway also taught guitar lessons in Boston for many years, teaching up to 65 students a week.

Songwriting success

Around 2007, Oddway broke up. Ordway then cut an EP record which landed him a publishing deal. Since then, it has also resulted in numerous songwriting deals.

Today, its music catalog is licensed in over 13 countries and on platforms such as Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu. His songs have been featured on NBC shows including ABC’s “The Office” “Happy Endings”, FOX’s “Raising Hope”, SYFY’s “Eureka”, Warner Brothers’ “Felicity”, ESPN, NESN and Comedy Central.

His song in “The Office,” for example, occurs during a bar scene. (The music is not the well-known piano melody that begins each episode.)

“That’s the trend – whenever a show needs a song for a bar scene, that’s when they call me,” he said.

Ordway characterizes his music as “Amerikinda” – a bit of rock and roll and some modern notes.

“I’m in the vein of Tom Petty meets the Beatles,” he said.

“When you hear Ryan’s music, it sounds very familiar to you,” Wedick said. “It’s almost like coming home to a place you’ve never been. And he experiments with synth sounds. Sometimes his songs take an interesting turn.

Ordway then invests in equipment to open its first recording studio, in Wolfeboro, with a business partner, and continues to give music lessons.

The studio generated a lot of demand right from the start.

Wedick said other studios could offer a sound engineer, but the recording artist would have to outsource other aspects of the recording, such as instrumentals.

In contrast, she said, Ordway brought engineering as well as her own multi-instrumental and songwriting talents to the table, which allowed her to “elevate” the ideas brought in by artists. of the disc.

The clients were local and regional artists.

A few years later, he invested in more equipment and a larger space in nearby Gilford, NH.

“This studio was a step up,” he said.

speed rolls royce

In 2015, he was selected for a free six-day session to record two songs with Ken Scott, a British producer, at Blackbird Studio and Blackbird Academy, a studio complex in Nashville, Tennessee, founded by the sound engineer John McBride and his wife, country artist Martina McBride.

Scott’s client list includes The Beatles, Elton John and David Bowie.

“It was incredibly intimidating,” recalls Ordway. “I walked into the room and they had a camera crew around us. There were students from Blackbird Academy watching us record. Ken Scott says, ‘Mr. Ordway, would you mind playing a tune for us? »

Scott produced Ordway’s song “Easy Street”, which was featured in a video tutorial titled “Getting Started with Music Production”.

Ordway also had a chance to check out the McBrides’ high-end gear at Blackbird. The centerpiece was a type of recording console made by Automated Processes Inc., a manufacturer of recording studio equipment commonly known as APIs. The McBrides console, Ordway said, was the largest API console ever built.

API, dating back to the 1960s, is the “Rolls Royce” of analog recording consoles, he said.

“The flavor and the color – everything is better mixed together,” he said. “He captures the energy of the group. Lots of records that we all grew up with – you’ve listened to API.

Ordway was hooked by the API he heard at Blackbird.

“I call it my six days in college,” he said of the console training he received.

Soon after, Ordway and Wedick decided to move to Falmouth. They bought a farm there, built a studio in the farm and bought an API 1608. With cables and other equipment, the investment was around $200,000. They ran the studio for two years, then shut it down and sold the property when the pandemic hit.

The material went into a storage unit. A few months later, Ordway traveled to Portland to try to find a space where he could set up the studio again.

“Ryan said, ‘I’m going to Portland to find a studio worthy of this level of equipment,'” Wedick said.

Well built studio

Ordway was put in touch with David Hembre, an architect who also owns 45 Casco St., a former school building dating from 1899 and located near the Maine College of Art.

Courtesy / Loopnet

Studio Portland is located at 45 Casco St., a century-old former schoolhouse that now houses various offices and studios.

In addition to Hembre’s offices and tenant-occupied spaces, the building houses Studio Portland, a recording facility created in 1986 and purpose-built for acoustics, with sound-control features such as floating floors and facilities such as a green room, a large recording and mixing rooms, and an existing collection of recording equipment.

Clients spanning over four decades range from national artists such as Rod Stewart, Ray LaMontagne and Charlie Musselwhite to local artists such as Rustic Overtones. The studio was used for voice-over work for the award-winning television series “Schitt’s Creek”.

“It’s a well-built studio,” Ordway said. “I thought, ‘This is an amazing place.'”

Studio operations “were in a lull” but the space was ready to go, he said.

Ordway and Wedick, who now live in South Portland, partnered with Hembre, installed their gear, and began rebuilding the brand for audio production and hands-on training.

“Weekend Warrior Audio Production Camp” for high school students was the first class, which was held last weekend.

Other programs, aimed at high school students, adult musicians and home recording enthusiasts, are designed to provide hands-on experience of recording and mixing in an acoustic environment.

Leveraging Ordway’s industry connections, courses are designed to attract visiting teachers.

Marketing

The couple are developing a marketing plan. This includes deploying press releases through Portland’s marketer, Kast Inc., as well as social media, radio ads and word of mouth.

“So far, it’s all been done without a marketing budget, but by word of mouth,” Wedick said. “We’re excited to invest our resources in targeted marketing and see where it can go.

The Weekend Warrior class and an upcoming five-day audio production camp, each hosting eight to 10 students, were both three-quarters booked.

“These first two classes will be a trial run,” Ordway said.

From September, he expects to have more courses of varying lengths in place. The goal is to be able to sponsor 50% of their students through the fundraising partnership with Creative Portland.

So far, students have come from southern Maine, but the goal is to attract others from farther afield as well, Ordway said. Education programs will likely make up about 70% of business and professional services 30%, he added.

Referring to the producer of Grammy-winning Michael Jackson hits, Ordway said, “Who knows? The next Quincy Jones could be here in Portland.