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There’s a professional recording studio in Monson

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MONSON– Hidden in the woods on the Willimantic Road in Monson is a remarkable recording studio – Mainely Sounds. It’s a hybrid studio with a 24-track analog board capable of creating both analog and digital recordings in a thoughtfully laid out studio space.

Todd Underwood, the creator and owner of Mainely Sounds, knew from the time he was 12 years old that he wanted to be part of the music-making process.

“I was an audiophile at a very young age and became interested in the technical side,” he said. He had been part of a band when he was in his early teens – they called themselves Static, an appropriate name for their group — and he instinctively knew that playing an instrument wasn’t going to be his strong point. He really liked being part of the technical end creating how the music sounded.

“I wasn’t able to be a part of the music making process as a musician so much as an engineer – now my instrument is the slide knobs,” he grinned, referring to the sliders on the recording board.

He and his wife Georgia King Underwood, and their two children Melinda and Zoe came to Monson sometime after the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Prior to that, Underwood had been working in hi-tech businesses in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. One was Henschel, a designer of electro-mechanical and navigation systems for ships.

“When the USS Cole got attacked we got a lot of her parts and pieces to refurbish,” he said. “I can recognize gauges and panels on ships after working there. It was a family oriented company and I loved being part of their R&D (Research and Design).” When a British firm bought out the company, the work atmosphere changed and Underwood knew it was time to move on.

He was recruited by Xanoptix, a fiber optic company and charged with creating prototype fiber optic multi-transceiver communications. He showed me a piece they had built from scratch. It was about 2½ inches long, maybe an inch wide and looked like a Lego. “There are 18 lasers in there with a chip that can stream up to 56 channels,” he said. At one point the company had demonstrated the chip’s efficacy by hooking it to 30 laptops and streaming different information to each one!

But after 9/11 and the Tech Bubble burst, the company disbanded and the Underwoods decided it was time to get back to Maine. Georgia had family in Dover-Foxcroft and they knew the area was a safe place to raise their daughters. They bought a shell of a house in Monson and set about creating a home for themselves. When the girls went off to college, Underwood knew he would at last have the time to work in the field he had always loved – sound engineering.

Observer photo/Shelagh Talbot
MAINELY SOUNDS IN MONSON — Todd Underwood works the sound board at Mainely Sounds, his recording studio in Monson.

“I had the whole house to myself and had all this sound equipment I had collected over the years,” he said. “So I gutted the basement and turned it into my studio.” Underwood, who not only is an audio engineer, also has a finely tuned ear for music. The centerpiece of his studio is the 24-track analog board (recordings can been done analog to digital as they track through the board).

Analog, the more traditional way of recording, has a warmer sound than digital, in this writer’s estimation. Underwood agrees. “Analog is where it’s at as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “I’ve had almost 30 years of experience doing this and I was trained before digital which I think is a huge advantage, absolutely huge.”

He paused and then continued. “Back when I was doing this it was much more difficult. When things didn’t sound right we would fix it at the source and that’s something people have gotten away from. We knew how to make it sound good before it even went into the microphone,” he explained. “That’s part of the ear training. You have to make things sound right even before you set up the microphone. It’s sort of a lost art.”

And after you make your recordings – is there a choice on how you can keep it? “You bet!” Underwood exclaimed. “Your music can go on CDs, or right on your phone as a digital MP3 or Wave File in the iTunes. And if you want a traditional record album, we can send it away and put it on vinyl for you!”

“The fundamental basics of audio engineering have not changed even though Pro Tools now exist,” Underwood wrote on his website. “It’s those fundamentals and basics that separate the truly great audio engineers from those who use a mouse to correct their inefficiencies due to lack of knowledge and experience.”

Currently he is working on a project with Half Way Home, a popular acoustic band from Monson that features indie & traditional folk, as well as original tunes.

Now Underwood is looking to spread the word about his recording studio and his ability to provide equipment for live sound in multiple venues. “I am getting back to a profession I missed dearly,” he said. “Initial recording projects have yielded very impressive results and should be on par with high-end professional studios that cost several hundred dollars an hour.”

Underwood has the drive and imagination to devote to outstanding recordings and is willing to work with individual musicians and bands to make their recording dreams come true. Because of his dedication and passion to the craft, prices are reasonable. “I need to get the word out so people can discover the possibilities available to them,” he said.

For more information about rates and studio availability contact Todd Underwood at 207-385-3402. Email him at toddundy@yahoo.com or visit Mainely Sounds & Underwood Audio on Facebook.

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