Meet Gainesville’s Newest Music Venue, Heartwood Soundstage
Building a new music venue from the ground up is no easy feat. Put four men, each with an extensive musical resume behind the project, and the result is what has become North Florida’s first premiere sound recording studio and live venue.
Heartwood Soundstage, located at 619 S. Main St, has the attention to detail one could only attribute to the idea of at the heart of it all– creating a venue made for musicians by musicians.
“We wanted to make this a recording studio experience for both the audience and the musician,” said one of the four co-owners and founder of Mirror Image Studios, the recording studio which previously inhabited the space, Bob McPeek. “Most venues are not designed with acoustics or sound in mind and we have the benefit of all of our experience.”
“The four of us each bring a different set of skills and knowledge,” said McPeek. “Everybody has something very valuable to offer that nobody else in the group has.”
The venue, which has been an idea in the works for over a decade, will feature an indoor stage with a green room on one side and an audio and video production studio on the other.
Audience members will be able to experience the live filming through camera feeds broadcast on monitors throughout the venue. Outside will offer a more casual space for outdoor shows and festivals.
“This is a place where musicians and audience respect and connect with each other,” said McPeek.
Heartwood will also be the first venue in Gainesville to encourage a completely immersive experience, sans cell phones, chatting and other distractions during recording sessions.
“Our motif is if you’re here, you’re here to listen to the music. You’re here to escape the stresses of life and see this amazingly beautiful thing humans are capable of creating, which is music,” he said. “Be here, now.”
Dave Melosh, one of the co-owners of Heartwood and founder of Medusa Productions, a recording studio in Gainesville, has been filming live studio music for over a decade. Melosh will be moving his operations and videography expertise to Heartwood.
“I’ve known Dave Melosh for a while just from working in the local music scene and I’ve been hooked on Heartwood since he first explained the studio’s vision to me,” said Dave Johnson, manager of the local band Locochino. “The technical side of what they’re doing is robust to put it lightly.”
“It brings a whole new layer to the region’s musical pallette,” said Johnson, who has been volunteering to help create Heartwood’s IT system. “People will be able to sit in with some of their favorite bands while they record live albums and the studio is capable of broadcasting amazingly high definition audio and video to anywhere in the world, so there’s literally a global audience to what’s happening in Gainesville now.”
Matthew Fowler, co-owner of Heartwood and owner of Springbok Booking and Media, found himself in Gainesville to record an album after touring as a folk musician.
Pointing out the often poor treatment musicians receive at venues, Fowler hopes to make Heartwood a place he would want to perform.
“It’s not a place where profit margins are most important thing,” said Fowler. “We want to make these musicians leave feeling like they’re being treated with attention to detail. That’s what I feel is lacking in a lot of venues.”
“It will be a concerted effort to listen to music with 100 percent of your attention on art,” said Fowler. “It puts the spotlight on art, which is where it should be.”
Heartwood opened its doors for the first time on February 25 with an inaugural music festival, Heartwood Music Festival.
The festival hosted 24 bands from all around the state of Florida, food trucks, a bounce house and art vendors.
For the avid music fans present at the Heartwood Music Festival, this attention to detail did not go unnoticed.
“Music is the key to everything. Music doesn’t need words or explanations, it just is,” said Rachael Yates, an attendee at the festival. “Heartwood embodies all of these things.”
To others in attendance, like Alfonso Hernandez, the venue is beginning to fill a void left in the local music scene that resulted from the closure of the local venue The Jam almost a year ago.
“I miss The Jam a lot and I feel like this is going to be the replacement of it– good vibes and and a cool environment,” said Hernandez.
“I hope we get to a point where every show we do is jaw dropping and hair-raising for both the audience and us,” said McPeek.