Preservation Magazine, Summer 2015

Back Story: Striking a Chord with Ben Folds

Singer, songwriter, and music producer Ben Folds talks with Preservation about Studio A and how its history inspires musicians.

  • By: Lauren Walser

After singer, songwriter, and music producer Ben Folds learned that the 1960s studio he had leased for more than a decade—the iconic RCA Studio A on Nashville’s Music Row—had been sold to a developer, he wrote an open letter to the city expressing concern for its historic structures. Then, last summer, he launched the “Save Studio A” campaign and joined the National Trust in naming Music Row a National Treasure in January of this year. Folds, a gifted pianist and multiplatinum-selling pop-rock artist, talked with Preservation about Studio A and how its history inspires musicians.

Why did you want to get involved with saving Studio A?

This building and this space have a real place in recorded music history. And it’s living history. It’s still making relevant records. It’s such a gem, and it should be kept.

What I wanted was a pause for the community to really make sure, before we made a move toward wiping all that [history] out, that this was exactly what everyone wanted. And overwhelmingly, it’s not what everyone wanted.

What has been your favorite recording experience at Studio A?

I don’t really have one. I’ve just gotten such joy out of being there and being part of the continuum. My crew and I have taken great pride in the room and what’s come before. To me, it’s just that it’s there—that I can walk in and write and record in a place that’s been such a fertile, creative space. Everyone who walks in there has that reaction.

How does being in a place with that kind of history impact your music?

When music was made in [Studio A] to begin with, people were just starting to figure out stereo. And there was just so much yet to happen in the world. And I think feeling that is a little bit of a responsibility, in a way, I suppose.

What is your hope for the future of Music Row?

I think some of the reason [for Music Row’s success] has been the informality, the unassuming nature of it. People were making music in the equivalent of what are just houses. I think this caused an environment where creativity was really encouraged. At the same time I think it made it more difficult to save, because a lot of people would say there wasn’t an amazing piece of architecture, and that if people are happy to make records in these little houses, why not build other houses somewhere else.

So to me, what I would like to see is that it continues. It doesn’t feel over to me. It feels like it’s all still going.

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Read the full interview with Ben Folds.

Lauren Walser served as the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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