Inside Soundcheck Rehearsals in Nashville: Part One
In 2001, the Shure Artist Relations office opened at Soundcheck Rehearsals in Nashville. I had pitched the idea to the company, and they decided to let me give it a try. I was on a two-year trial run. Almost 15 years later, I gratefully sit here typing this blog from the very same spot we moved into in 2001.
Soundcheck is one of the most amazing places in Nashville, and full of incredible people. For the next few months, in this series, I am going to introduce you to the owner, his staff/family, and some of the other tenants who, together, make up this music hub.
Meet Soundcheck and Its Owner
Soundcheck has set the bar for an all-encompassing entertainment facility, housing everything from rehearsal spaces to cartage, from rentals to backline, from storage to manufacturers. It is the ONLY place that made sense to open a Shure Artist Relations office when country music was hitting its big stride, and it's still going strong.
So much has happened since then, including a change in ownership.
"We bought Soundcheck back in 2004, but Crew One (Productions) had an office here about six years before that," says Ben Jumper, current owner of Soundcheck and part owner of Crew One. Ben is also a managing partner of Soundcheck facilities in Austin and Houston, and owns Backstage Custom Cases in the Nashville facility. "I was approached by then owner Bob "Norton" Thompson and his wife Toni, who were ready to retire. They asked me if I was interested. Four months later, after a lot of negotiation, we sat down and bought Soundcheck from Glenn Frey of The Eagles and his trusted roadie of 25 years, Bob "Norton" Thompson."
The Evolving Soundcheck Community
Glenn and Bob had owned Third Encore in Los Angeles and decided to open a facility in Nashville. For a while, it was like tumbleweeds at the facility. Bob decided to have a "Grand Opening" party and from that event, business picked up.
"I wish I could take credit for the concept," says Ben, "but it was Glenn and Bob. What I saw here was a diamond in the rough. Bob was 61 and just had hip and knee replacement surgery. He was ready to retire and relax. The place just needed updating. They had a great business model, and I was honored to have an office here, but I saw some things that could happen that could make it better, cooler place."
Ben and his staff have certainly done that. After the first few years, we realized that Ben was not going to be one to settle down. More rehearsal spaces were built; more storage lockers were constructed and filled. Currently, there are a total of nine rehearsal rooms of various sizes and prices. There are over 250 storage lockers and over 16 vendors, including Tour Supply, Meyer Sound, Blackhawk Audio, Stage Call trucking, Moo TV, D'Addario, and many more.
"I love the vibe here, the synergy," Ben explains. "Even though there are people in the building that compete, it's arm in arm. We help each other. That's what makes it such a cool place."
When asked about working with all of the vendors in the building, Ben replied, "It's unbelievable. I get to work with the best of the best in all genres. I think Shure Microphones is top. I think Meyer Sound is the top of the game. Christie Lights is one of the top in the world. Fender, Peavey, Taylor Guitars…. It's an honor to be able to work with all of them. To me, that's the magic here. I get to work with the best people out there, and I get to offer them to our clients. It's a win-win."
A Community Rallies: The 2010 Flood
On May 2 of 2010, Nashville was devastated with an incredible amount of rainwater, which lead to the flooding of the Cumberland River. There was three-and-a-half feet of water inside the entire Soundcheck facility. Millions of dollars of equipment was lost. Instruments used by major touring and studio artists were destroyed.
So why did almost all the tenants come back after the flood?
"This community is amazing in that we all helped each other. As soon as we were getting ourselves just a little bit upright, we were reaching out to help somebody else get upright. So many people did that for us. The volunteers that came to wade through the muck and contamination, the sorrow and sadness of what everybody saw…that's part of it. The Nashville and music community all rallied around each other and held each other up through the some of the toughest times of our lives. Definitely, the toughest time of my life was that flood. My wife and I lost our entire life savings overnight in order to get Soundcheck back up. We had to put up our farm as collateral. But it was the manufacturers that helped us do Fan Fest three weeks after the flood. They helped us and supported us."
As a person who went through this experience with them, I can tell you firsthand that it was incredibly difficult to walk through two warehouses full of water-damaged instruments, set pieces, and tons of personal items. I'll also never forget the team of people who came by my office to help me clean it out. Some of them had just heard about it from others, so I was very surprised at who stopped by. They will always have a special place in my heart. Shure was incredibly supportive as well and stood by my decision to remain at the facility.
Moving on to his staff, Ben figuratively describes them as "the musicians who make the music here at Soundcheck. Although some of them are excellent musicians, they actually run Soundcheck on a day-to-day basis. It's an honor. We've been through a lot together in building this company. Without that amazing group of people, Soundcheck really wouldn't be here today. A lot of people would have walked away from the mess and the tragedy [of the flood]. These folks locked arms, and we were in it together. It's the family that we have, the Soundcheck family, then the extended family of tenants and the 250 locker tenants. Everything comes together here. I'm just the bandleader who keeps everything on beat, but they make the music."