My name is Alan Crossland, owner of Route 1, Acuff Studios. I grew up about 4 miles south of Acuff. My parents were cotton farmers so I spent most of my youth driving tractors, working cattle, and everything else you would expect on a dirt farm. I joined the band in high school, beginning a lifelong obsession with music.
Back in the 70's and 80's, after a good cotton crop, a farmer named Dink Thomas would have a barn dance and usually a fish fry. Everyone in the area would go to eat, dance, drink, and celebrate. That is where I first heard a band called the Maines Brothers Band play. I was hooked. The Maines family is also from Acuff. My dad bought me their first album called "Route 1, Acuff" from the Acuff Steak House in about 1981. I wore two of them out. That is why I call my recording studio "Route 1, Acuff Studios."
I still felt at the time that I would follow in my fathers footsteps and be a farmer. My parents saw the trends for farming and tried to talk me into doing something else. My mother kept trying to get me to go through the sound technology program at South Plains College in Levelland, TX. I really wasn't that interested at the time, so I went one semester in Ag Economics at Texas Tech University. I decided quickly that I didn't want to be an educated farmer, so I went to SPC after all.
After graduating from SPC in the spring of 1988, I applied for a job at Don Caldwell Studios in Lubbock, the same studio where the Maines Brothers had done all of their recordings. I was enthralled, sometimes Don would have to tell me to leave and go home. This was still in the analog era, MCI 600 analog mixing board, 2 inch MCI tape machine, and all editing was done with tape and a razor blade. During this time I worked with the likes of Don Caldwell, Mark Murray, Lloyd Maines, Kenny Maines, Donnie Maines, Steve Meador, Richard Bowden, Doug Smith, Alan Munde, Country Gazette, Cary Swinney, Andy Wilkinson, Richard Buckner, Pat Green, Terry Allen, Bukka Allen, Jo Harvey Allen, and many, many others. It was the learning experience of a lifetime.
A couple of years into my job at Caldwell Studios, I was fortunate enough to be part of an original progressive rock band called Mesquite-O-Bytes with my mentor and co-worker, Mark Murray. The band included Mark Murray on keyboards and lead vocals, Tom Blackburn on guitar, Kevin Powell on bass, and myself on drums. We got our name from rehearsing in my parents shop out here in Acuff. That particular summer the mosquitoes were absolutely horrible, so Mesquite-O-Bytes seemed to fit (Mesquite is a desert tree that grows all over West Texas). This was a very significant turning point musically for me. Up until this time, I had grown up listening to country music and 80's pop and rock music when we got a new tractor with air conditioning and a stereo. The rest of my by band had grown up listening to Gentle Giant, Genesis, Yes, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Return to Forever, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and many others. I was all of a sudden thrust into this netherworld of crazy and colorful music I had never heard before with all kinds of different song forms and time signatures. We wrote and rehearsed more than we played gigs, but it was a huge, mind expanding experience for me. At the same time I was recording all kinds of projects, mostly country and gospel, with Don Caldwell, Lloyd Maines, drummer Steve Meador (Carole King, Eric Johnson, Leonard Cohen) and pianist Bonnie McRae. As a result, I am totally comfortable recording and producing traditional country as well as any kind of rock or jazz influenced music, or my favorite way, mixing it all up together!
Also around this time, I started what what would become one of the best friendships of my life with concert pianist Doug Smith. I actually worked with Doug my first week of working at Caldwell studios on what would become the solo cuts on his self-titled album "Doug Smith." Doug is not your typical concert pianist. He grew up a hardscrabble kid from Kermit, Texas, having grown up with oil field roughnecks and playing football, basketball, and baseball. For some reason Smith and I clicked personally and professionally. During the years to come, we would refine our piano sound as well as keeping each others spirits up during the ups and downs of the music business.
In the mid nineties, things started to change rapidly. Digital recording was beginning to take over, forcing all of us analog guys to learn a whole new way of doing things. My boss, Don Caldwell was spending more time putting the Cactus Theater together, Lloyd Maines was beginning to work more in Austin, ultimately moving there. Around this time I met my wife Carrie and my daughter Caitlin. Caldwell and I were trying to find an arrangement where I could take over the studio. After reaching a lease agreement, I took over the studio changing the name to Brazos Studios, adding another engineer, Amy Devoge and a graphic designer, Kyle Pettit, remodeling the facility, and upgrading to digital. After 3 years of some great recordings and bad business decisions, I was not able to get an extended lease on the business space (not Caldwell) and was forced to close, ending 25 years of West Texas music recording at that location. It was a sad time for me.
I had been working on an album for Ingrid Kaiter, Buddy Holly's niece and a great blues singer. Her dad, Manfred Kaiter, was a master stone mason originally from Germany. After some soul searching (and a few gentle threats from my wife) I talked to Manfred about being his helper. My master plan was to learn how to build my own studio. Manfred hired me, and I began to learn everything I could about masonry: stone, block, brick, and stucco. We became good friends and he poured everything he could into me, saying I had a knack for it. It was a good therapy, coming from a family that worked with their hands in the cotton fields. I still did some recording on the side, primarily with Andy Wilkinson, who had a small project studio downtown. Also, a good friend of mine named Curtis Peoples had purchased an early Pro Tools rig for some home recording and generously loaned it to me, giving me my first computer based multitrack recording capabilities since losing Brazos Studios.
After working 3 years as a stone mason, I was yearning to get back into recording full time. My wife Carrie and I were renting a farm house down the street from where we are now. About the time we finished the last major stone job Manfred would do, we saw this place come up for sale. We drove by it for a couple of weeks thinking we couldn't afford it, but Carrie stopped by one day, and after some wrangling on financing found out we would be able to buy it. The property had a guest house that I quickly converted into a studio, about half the space I currently have. Just like that, I have been recording full time ever since. My friend and concert pianist Doug Smith worked with me for about 2 years adding on and remodeling the rest of the studio, a gift of labor and spirit I will never forget.
So here we are today. My recording studio is a hard earned labor of love. I am so fortunate to have had the help and support of my family, friends, and customers. My mission here is to provide the best quality recording in the most relaxed and creative space I can offer.