Church Studio Gives Young Band Professional Experience
It’s a long trip from the garage to a world-class recording facility, but one young Tulsa band recently made the journey. This April, Jett Fleeman, Nico Stevens, Cade Baldwin and Alec Lim, the four musicians who comprise metal outfit She Hates Me Not (SHMN), spent a day at The Church Studio, former recording studio and home office of Tulsa Sound legend Leon Russell and his label Shelter Records. While there, the teens tracked several of their original compositions in the same cosmic space where icons like Tom Petty, Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder once recorded. The significance of the opportunity wasn’t lost on the kids, or their music-loving parents.
“The whole process of going to the studio and recording music in itself is great, but to do so at a place with the history and significance of The Church Studio is on another level,” says Michael Fleeman, whose 14-year-old son, Jett, is SHMN’s vocalist and rhythm guitar player. “[Studio owner] Theresa [Knox] and Ronnie [Carlson] and the whole staff there are amazing and made the experience top shelf.”
Clint Stevens, the father of SHMN’s 13-year-old lead guitarist, Nico, agrees. “Going in for a full day of recording at a world-class studio was surreal,” he says. “The entire team there is top notch.”
The Church Studio and Community Engagement
Although The Church Studio sees its share of nationally touring acts, Knox, who purchased the building in 2016, always intended the studio and museum to play a role in the local community, too. When she opened its doors to the public last year after extensive renovations, she already had a plan in place.
“Providing studio services to our local artists is a top priority for The Church Studio,” she says. “The amount of extreme talent in our community is inspiring. We are known for celebrating our colorful music heritage and paying tribute to those trail blazers like Leon and JJ [Cale], but working with our local artists is really what gets us energized. We offer discounted pricing to our local musicians and have established a recording scholarship fund to eligible candidates.”
The studio also offers free tours to school groups.
“The museum aspect of The Church Studio is a wonderful opportunity for us to share our city’s incredible music history,” Knox says. “By the end of the tour, students know more about careers in the music industry – from being a recording artist to sound engineering, producing or the business side of the industry.”
Fleeman and Stevens are impressed with the way the members of SHMN have grown, both as musicians and as people, through experiences like they had at The Church Studio and working together as a band.
“It’s been fascinating watching the band develop over the last year or so, starting as some young kids playing some cover songs to morphing into a full-fledged metal band with their own original music,” Stevens notes.
“I love the chemistry between the four of them; they work extremely well together and feed off each other’s energy and imagination,” Fleeman adds. “They have some fun rules. For example, even if you don’t like someone’s idea on a song, their rule says everyone will listen before it’s scrapped. To me this shows a lot of patience and maturity. I think these four really understand the team concept that no one person is above the others and embrace it.”
“We were shocked to learn the ages of the band members of She Hates Me Not. They are not just gifted musicians, but they have a great work ethic,” she says. “We stay on a strict recording schedule and have an expectation of professional conduct, and this band exceeded our expectations.”
According to Fleeman, SHMN has plans to record three more singles before releasing a full album by the end of this year.
“It’s been pretty cool to see how the band has changed and developed. They have really progressed rapidly from last year to this year,” he says. “We’re so excited about the future.”
Supporting Young Local Musicians
It’s Knox’s hope that young bands like SHMN take more than just recordings from their time at The Church Studio.
“The music industry is so competitive, and we hope the experience gained at The Church Studio provides a competitive advantage for our artists,” she says. “We’re not just providing industry-leading acoustics and gear, but a professional environment that is garnering attention from the major record labels. Creativity, persistence, stamina, time management, hard work and confidence are many of the traits we see come out of the recording process that translate to all aspects of our young artists’ educational, professional and personal lives.”
For more information on SHMN, visit facebook.com/shehatesmenotofficial. To learn more about The Church Studio, including its Audio Engineering Training Program for high school seniors, visit thechurchstudio.com.
Julie Wenger Watson is a freelance writer who’s worked in all aspects of music promotion. She’s also Co-Director of “Live From Cain’s,” a public radio show pilot.