The Local: How a San Diego music studio beats LA and New York

Dan Smith plays
Dan Smith of Bastille performs inside Signature Sound Studios. Photo by Blair Giesen

By Blair Giesen

If you love music, you probably think most of the music you listen to comes from Los Angeles or New York. That these cities are where the best musicians record their music and where all the cool studio performances happen. Well not so fast.

Some of the best recordings happen right here in San Diego.

I stopped by Signature Sound Studios this month and found something very unexpected. From the outside, it looked like most nondescript commercial buildings in Kearny Mesa, but when I opened the door, everything changed. I felt like I was transported to New York in a recording studio that had been around for years. The first thing I noticed were the framed platinum records hanging on the walls

When I arrived, 91x was there to record Dan Smith from Bastille, who performed a beautiful song on a grand piano.

I sat down with Christian Cummings, the resident producing engineer, to hear this musical story of Signature Sound and music produced right here in San Diego. The list of artists who recorded at Signature Sound Studios was so long it blew my mind. Here are a few: Blink 182, San Diego’s POD and Switchfoot, plus U2 megastars Santana and Jewel.

Signature Sound compares to the best recording studios in Los Angeles or New York, and has the largest control room and studio in Southern California. As Cummings explained, “San Diego has very talented musicians; you don’t have to leave San Diego to be successful in the music industry.

I pressed Cummings for some great stories about the artists he works with, but he smiled and told me everything you can think of happened here but he wouldn’t tell. He went on to say that recording has changed and sometimes artists stick around for months at a time and sometimes it’s a combination of home recording, studio recording and mixing.

So the next time you listen to your favorite song, remember that it may have been recorded right here in San Diego at Signature Sound Studios.


Blair Giesen is a San Diego-based media and marketing consultant and startup enthusiast. His column, The Local – Businesses & Strategies That Count, appears bi-weekly in Times of San Diego and explores the stories of local San Diego businesses doing amazing things. If you think a company is doing something amazing, send them a message or log on to LinkedIn Where Twitter.