Tucked away in the back roads of Bedford County, you’ll discover The Fainting Goat, a 1500 square foot, two-room recording studio and control room, with 20 foot vaulted ceilings, operated by local musician and drummer Willy Gurley.
The Fainting Goat provides artists a comfortable space for recording, and access to some truly unique equipment and instruments. From the Kurzweil K250 that was played by Bruce Springsteen in a studio in Richmond, to an Acoustic 360 bass cabinet that was used in numerous shows with Wayne Newton in Las Vegas, to a vintage 1967 Bandmaster amplifier, the studio is equipped with more than 100 instruments, including guitars, drums horns, even an accordion.
It was at the young age of seven that Gurley was first introduced to music. His dad, Hal, who owns local seafood restaurant and live music venue, Clam Diggers, started finding and collecting guitars, keyboards, and other cool, rare instruments to fill his house, and Willy started learning how to play them. It was in 2006, that Hal had the idea to build a recording studio, and studio construction and sound proofing began. While it took several years to fully complete, Willy continued to develop his love and training for music by studying at The Jefferson Center’s Music Lab, an after school program in Roanoke focused on music production and performance.
At the Music Lab, Gurley had the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art recording equipment, and learn from top-level national and regional artists, and teachers, including the infamous Victor Wooten and the Wooten Brothers, Snarky Puppy, Jake Dempsey, Brian Mesko, Jonathan Scales, and Cody Wright.
“The quality of gear available at The Music Lab for kids to learn on is insane,” said Gurley in a recent interview conducted on site at The Fainting Goat studio. “Plus, I had some really great coaches and teachers while there. At one point, I even had the opportunity to work with other musicians to finish writing a song based on Victor Wooten’s bass tracks and present it to him. Some of the areas finest musicians worked with me on that project.”
One of those musicians, Brian Mesko, who currently records with Gurley from time to time at the Fainting Goat Studio, shared the following, “Ever since meeting Willy at the music Lab three years ago, he has continued to impress me with his work ethic and dedication to the crafts of engineering and musicianship. This makes him very easy to work with, and he deserves all of the success coming to him now and in the future!”
Nowadays, when Willy Gurley isn’t recording or mixing a CD, he’s out making his own music and is a regular drummer for rock band $5 Shake, and performs in a duet show with local musician Jody Ensor.
“Playing is what I enjoy the most, but recording is my stronger suite and my niche in the community,” said Gurley. “There is so much more that goes into recording. You’re paying for the knowledge that person has, for knowing how to best use a compressor efficiently and how frequency and signals work.”
As for advice for artists who come in to record, Gurley says that solid musicianship is most important, but preparation is a close second. Then they need to find a recording studio they trust and feel comfortable with, and then be prepared to come in and do the work. “A really well put together record will take three months to a year to complete, and bands need to plan for at least three recording sessions to produce a full album.”
Gurley also says that it’s just as important that he feel comfortable working with the artist and that he wants to do business with them too. He invites artists who are interested in embarking on a major recording to come out and experience The Fainting Goat. He will recorded one song for free to make sure that the working relationship is a good fit for all involved. He’s convinced that anyone who visits the studio once, will certainly want to return.
“This is exactly where I want to be. I’m sitting in the captain’s chair and driving the ship. I knew from an early age that music is what I wanted to do and it’s what I’ve always done. I wouldn’t know where to begin if I had to do something else. I would have to start from scratch.”
If you’re interested in learning more about The Fainting Goat, you can find it online. You can also find Gurley playing a few shows coming up with $5 Shake. This Saturday, Oct. 1, the band will be at Mango’s at Smith Mountain Lake. Then on Saturday, Oct. 22, $5 Shake is part of the lineup for the Listen Local Fest, being held at Dr. Pepper Park at The Bridges.