For Mason Shirley, owner of Sound Machine Studio in Skidmore, an early childhood experience led to a lifetime of chasing sonic perfection.
“Around the age of 10, I received a real drum set for my birthday and began creating music right away with my brother and our best friend Andrew,” said Shirley. “We wrote and recorded original songs on a cassette tape recorder, and the process instantly captivated me.”
However, it frustrated Shirley because, unlike those Led Zeppelin tapes, his early recordings sounded “terrible.” So began a lifelong journey to make great, impactful recordings.
“Twenty-four years later and I’m still on the same quest, but hopefully I’m a little bit better at it than my 10-year-old self,” he added.
That quest eventually led to his creation of Sound Machine Studio in 2010. Originally housed out of Shirley’s bedroom (with his twin-sized bed hiding in his closet), and equipment purchased with money saved from his time as a Best Buy team member, the studio eventually found its footing and along with growth, its own space.
“Through hustling on MySpace and hanging up flyers at a few local music stores, I gained some clients and within about six months drummed up enough business to justify renting a building,” Shirley said. “Early on, I met some key people in the Corpus Christi music scene who helped spread the word about my services. Consequently, I gained even more clients, allowing me to focus on the studio full time within the first year.”
According to Shirley, the steady and continued organic growth of the studio inspired the idea of his very own building, built and designed by him and his family.
“I’ve been lucky to work with great artists who keep coming back,” he said. “Roughly eight years in, designing and building a custom studio became a serious consideration. Business was very stable and I felt ready to commit to this career for the long haul.”
Shirley and his wife moved to Skidmore and broke ground on the new facility in 2019, and opened the brand new, state-of-the-art Sound Machine Studio in May of 2020.
“We were inspired to create the best experience possible for clients,” he said. “After having worked in this career for 10 years, I knew what I wanted out of a building and I knew how much space was necessary to get the sounds that I was after.”
As Shirley described it, he and his wife designed the studio to feel “very unlike a house” with an array of bold colors, wood on the walls, authentic 1960-70s furniture, and quirky light fixtures, making the aesthetics unique for this area. According to Shirley, the studio itself is one of the very few buildings in South Texas built specifically for recording, with studio walls over a foot thick, two air-conditioning systems for noise separation, acoustic treatment built into the walls and ceiling, and sight-lines between rooms designed for perfect visual communication during large recording sessions.
“We wanted to make the entire package as unique as possible, and sound as good as possible,” Shirley added. “We are already working on the next phase of development to create unique overnight accommodations for clients staying several days.”
Over the years, Sound Machine Studio has recorded some of the bigger Texas artists, earning seven No. 1 songs on the Texas Regional Radio charts and even more songs charting in the top 40s. Some of his clients include Robert Ray, Jake Ward, Melissa Brooke, Nathan Bonnes, Beau Walker Band and country music legend Johnny Rodriguez.
The projects that have particularly impacted him are an album he did for Christian-rock artist and songwriter Dave Moore, called “The Return.”
“That was the first record I produced with an adequate budget and ample time to make the best record possible,” Shirley said. “Dave booked the studio for an entire month, which was a dream come true.”
Another important project in the continued evolution of Sound Machine Studio was working on a Christmas album with Johnny Rodriguez, slated to be released in late 2021.
He added, “Making that record allowed me to work with A-list players and it totally changed how I view the recording process and creating parts, particularly with country music.”
Still, he continues that original quest for sonic perfection began by his 10-year-old self because, as Shirley puts it, something new is found with every client that ventures through the doors at Sound Machine Studio.
“Every artist brings something unique to the table, and I try to isolate that and appreciate it,” Shirley said. “Using new techniques keeps things fresh as well. Most of all, I see every session as a stepping stone to continue to improve and reach that goal of creating a better sounding project each time.
“So far so good and I think clients have been enjoying it; that’s the goal.”
For more information, visit soundmachinestudio.com.