Oxford might be known for books and looks, but local music is fast emerging as an export coveted by music lovers around the globe.<>
An array of homegrown musicians are finding Tweed Recording as the place to put tracks down – so there’s no need to go to Nashville or some other big city, big money studio.
Andrew Ratcliffe is the man and mind behind Tweed, and he’s built a state-of-the-art facility in the College Hill community. Back in the 1990s, the Atlanta, Georgia native was a University of Mississippi student playing the stages of Oxford as a drummer for Hammond’s Folly, Fappy Tweed, Always Sunday, and others.
But the music bug bit him hard and he left his studies, eventually finding his way to the other side of the production glass.
“We had saved some money to record at Ardent in Memphis, and our bass player at the time was actually working for Dennis Herring at Sweet Tea,” Ratcliffe recalled about his early production days. “We had a practice space with some cassette four-track machines, and people would always show up to play with us or use the room. We decided to use the money to buy a bunch of nice recording gear and make our own record and try charging folks to record in our space. Sixteen years later, I am still here.”
The cast of artists Ratcliffe, 38, has worked with is long: Sanders Bohlke, Pokey LaFarge, American Aquarium, Cory Brannan, Will Hoge, The Damnwells, The Red Thangs, Tate Moore, Greater Pyrenees, Cedric Burnside, North Mississippi Allstars, Shannon McNally, Mayhem String Band, Will Sexton, Charlie Mars, and more.
Tweed offers multi-track recording either to digital or analog formats. A smorgasbord of microphone options is available so just the right sound can be achieved; and if an artist or group really needs to get in the mood and drop anchor for a few days, the studio now offers a three-bedroom, two-bath house that sleeps six comfortably.
Pickers and vocalists are coming from beyond Lafayette County to give the studio a spin. And with rates starting at $50 an hour, Ratcliffe just might get Nashville’s Music Row to shake a little in its boots.
“I don’t run a Pro Tools-based recording studio. I am running a hard disk recorder by Mackie that is over a decade old. It’s a workhorse, very simple and doesn’t bog down with plug-ins,” Ratcliffe explained. “I have the real analog boxes instead of using a software-based compression, EQ, or effects processor...no Auto-Tune or the likes. I try to get musicians in the room and capture a live performance to two-inch analog tape and then a digital format for easier storage and mixing. There aren’t very many folks on Music Row that are still recording – let alone cutting – live takes and keeping them.”
More than just the boss are benefitting from the endeavor. Oxford’s session musicians often find work at Tweed, including drummers Ryan Rogers and Tim Burkhead; bass players Justin Showah, Nathan Robbins and Tommy Turan; and guitarists George McConnell and Robert Turan.
Ratcliffe, a self-described “cable junkie,” is more than a producer and instrumentalist. He’s also a self-taught engineer who learned from veteran sound engineers he’s shadowed for 20 years. One of the recent additions he engineered is a Trident A Range console; only 13 of these
London-made consoles were made in the 1970s.
When he’s not busy in the studio – which can sometimes be a 15-hour day – Ratcliffe gets to be a family man. He’s married to Holli’s Sweet Tooth owner Holli Ratcliffe, and the couple has a 2-year-old daughter and is expecting another.
“I really like getting out in Oxford to see live music...other than that, just spending time at our home hanging out with my girls,” Ratcliffe said.