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For Steve Wright, owner of WrightWay Studios, the quest for the perfect take can turn into a therapy session between the 39-year-old producer and the talent.
"I've sat people down on the couch, and just dug into their lives to try and bring out those emotive places," Wright said, sitting in WrightWay's Studio A. "The role of a producer is a psychiatrist."
Wright, who grew up in Annapolis and now lives a block away from the Remington studio, can tunnel into a musician's psyche because he was one, too. During college, his rock band, Bovox Clown, gained notoriety and even served as house band for MTV's "Beach House" program in 1994. The attention might not have been deserved, Wright says now.
"We just weren't a good band," he said. "No one should have let us out of the basement."
Despite the early success, Wright wasn't meant to be a rock star. Armed with the knowledge he had learned recording Bovox Clown on a 16-track analog machine in his parents' basement, Wright bought a P.A. system and did live sound for bands for 12 years. One of his clients was the experimental rock quintet from Baltimore, Lake Trout. At the group's CD release party, members approached him with an offer to produce their next album. Wright warned them he had previously only worked in basement studios.
"They said, 'That's great. We don't know what the hell we're doing either. Let's go screw up together,'" Wright said.
Around the same time, Wright was offered a job at Baltimore's High Heel recording studio. It was 1997, and suddenly, Baltimore was where he needed to be.
"It was all of the moons aligning," Wright said.
Since then, he's turned High Heel into WrightWay, and become an accomplished producer. He's worked on everything from Avril Lavigne demos to a Slipknot side project to records with David Correy, the "X-Factor" contestant from Annapolis. Most recently, Wright recorded and co-produced "Coming Out of the Fog," Baltimore act Arbouretum's latest album for the Chicago label Thrill Jockey.
Each new project is different. Sometimes, Wright offers structural and musical advice to young acts, and other times he's simply "being a host" to more accomplished artists. But his best experiences come when he and the musicians can "turn off all the computer screens" and create a vibe in the room. Wright says it often reveals the artists' true personalities.
"It's about capturing the facial expression of the band and making sure that gets on tape," Wright said. "That's what I love to do."
Navasha Daya, former lead singer of the soul group Fertile Ground, enters Studio A during our talk, ready to work with Wright on her next solo album. Wright says he's almost finished with the next release from local indie-rock act Celebration. Another Baltimore band, Among Wolves, will be after that.
The constant stream of clients proves Wright is in demand. It also means a lot of work -- something Wright is used to. While recording Lake Trout's album, he spent an entire day testing different heads on a bass drum. The $100,000 recording budget at the time may have allowed it, but it was Wright who undertook and loved the tedious process.
"When I finish a record and listen to it in the car, and not think about all the hard work that went into it," Wright said, "that's a good day."