Nashville Trax: From Dream to Reality




Joe Markusic,

Beats and Brews Guest Writer

Bill Watson, like most of us has dreams and aspirations to do something special with his life, to leave a legacy he could be proud of. Many of us never pull the trigger and follow through with chasing our dreams. Most of us get stuck in living in the daily routine and before we know it, our life has passed us by. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill, whom after years of struggling with the decision, in 2004 decided to move to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue his dream of succeeding in the music and entertainment industry. Bill Watson grew up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania with the goal of being a working musician. After years of pondering over the risk, he made the decision to invest in himself and follow his dreams. Unlike where he grew up, one out of three people work in the industry in Nashville. Many have tried, but failed to make it. Bill is determined to not become a statistic of failure, but rather one of success. Below is my interview with producer and musician, Bill Watson.


How did you get started in the music and entertainment industry?


I heard a song by John Denver on the radio, “Back Home Again”, thought it was cool and decided to learn to play it on my Dad’s guitar. That led to entering a church talent show and it took off from there.


Why Nashville?


I needed good session quality musicians for my business to work. There are good musicians and singers worldwide but usually in very isolated pockets, there is no place on earth that has such a high concentration of talent in such a small area as Nashville. Definitely the largest concentration of session quality players on the planet.


Tell me about Nashville Trax. When did you open?


I started doing demos for clients with my ex-wife Rhonda who sang and played keyboards when I lived in Pennsylvania. It was very much part time but made money and I enjoyed it.


I thought maybe if I made the move it might be even more successful but my wife hated the idea of moving . After Rho and I divorced in 2002  she encouraged me saying that I was now free to chase my dream and if I was ever going to do it, that was the time to execute. So I sold two houses I owned and started looking for property in the Music City area. I opened Nashville Trax and created  in 2004.


How many projects have you worked on and who are some of the biggest acts you’ve worked with?


Slightly 0ver 3,000 projects. The Swansons whose recent single “Valentine” went #1 regionally. Danny Thompson a country act from Canada who first broke on the BBC Radio Network in the U.K. and that was the catalyst for huge word wide radio airplay. In Christian Music, The Greatest Gift, a three piece singing trio that hit #1 on the Southern Gospel charts. As far as musicians: world renowned guitarist Brent Mason. Fiddlist Jenee Fleenor of Blake Shelton’s band and regular on The Voice;  and drummers Jim Riley of Rascal Flatts as well as David Northrup of Boz Scaggs band are all on my team.


What are some of the biggest transformations you’ve seen in the music industry?


Home recording gear increasing in quality. And digital replacing analog, especially in the editing area. .


What would be the major reasons to go into a professional studio over a home-recording set-up?


In terms of the actual recording medium, none, digital is digital. But a designed-for-a-specific-purpose  room and super expensive outboard gear such as $1,000 and up microphones, $3,000 preamps, etc, may be beyond the budget of a home recording enthusiast. But the biggest reason is to get a professional engineer and/or producer involved who has experience as well as access to tools and talent the amateur lacks. I produce meaning I take the rough a client gives me and make every decision that moves the project from the client’s initial rendering to a professional recording.


Does the room make a difference?


Absolutely. A room can have too much natural reverb or it may sound boxy, etc. and those are things not easy or maybe impossible to fix in the mix. Home recording folks try to build vocal booths and such but lacking budget, experience and know how usually end up with flutter echo and other issues that make their work sound worse instead of better. Our drum room and iso booths at Nashville Trax are designed for specific purposes, The walls are not parallel, there are angles and bows designed into the walls to reflect sound in a certain direction, we have bass large, expensive bass traps correctly positioned to tighten up the low end, etc.


What could a great-sounding recording do for an artist’s career?


It is the bargaining chip that gets you to the table. If you don’t have that you don’t really have a legit shot. If you have a great sounding recording and do everything else right in terms of marketing and promotion then a great sounding recording will launch your career.


Do artists benefit from networking?


Generally, yes. One contact leads to another and often leads to your next producer, radio promo guy, or an A&R person deciding to give your music a listen.


The cream rises. If you believe your act and your music product are the cream let people know about it. Especially in a town like Nashville where a huge percentage of people make their living from music.  You just never know who you’re talking to. The person that waits on your table at a restaurant may well have a close relative in the business or may even work full time at a music publishing company daytime, waiting tables at night. Give them a business card and friend them on Facebook or somewhere they might hear your music and become a fan, who knows what it may lead to.


How many of the artists you work with are able to match live what they’ve done in the studio? Is this the norm?


These days most can get very close because of “flying in tracks” which means that the drummer plays to a click track and music tracks imported from the recording session are “flown in” as .wav or .mp3 files and mixed with the live-played instruments. A band like The Swansons gives me a specific list of the tracks they need to make that happen: “We are playing an awards show next weekend, please export and load all fiddle, background vocal, steel guitar and percussion tracks on songs X, X and X  for a live performance.” Nearly everyone is doing it.


In your opinion, what classifies as a good mix and a good master?


A good mix has a depth and a balance between the instruments and vocals that translates well across all mediums: on computer speakers to big studio monitors and most important, on radio. If a mix is really good the mastering is nearly transparent in terms of how the mix sounds and mainly adds some compression and imparts maximum loudness. If the mix is lacking them mastering also becomes about making the recording sound better in a specific bandwidth, more clarity in the upper midrange for example,


How has this changed with the introduction of digital music and MP3’s?


It’s kind of crazy, Joe, the more technology has advanced the more people are listening to music in the mp3 format, delivered on cell phones and tiny, cheap computer speakers. So we record on expensive digital software like Pro Tools HD then  mix on super expensive studio monitors but the end product is played back over the cheapest system available. Knowing this, there is a trend to tailor extra specific mixes specifically for that medium.

These Cider Houses Rule!

At Beats and Brews, we love our craft beer, however it’s definitely good to enjoy sweeter side of things with a crisp, refreshing hard cider. below is a list of different cities to check out around the country with some of the best hard ciders to have ever been crafted. It should also be noted that Ann Arbor, MI makes the cut, so make sure to stop in wolverine territory for your cider fix!


Here Are the Top 10 Cities for Drinking Cider

Hard cider is quickly becoming the most popular drink in many cities across the U.S. – and it’s easy to see why. With a rich history dating back to the British colonists, who drank cider more than ale, and a huge variety of customized brews available, it’s a crisp, refreshing drink that’s enhanced by the addition of other fruits (like pears and apricots). From smooth and sweet to tart and tangy, you’ll find your favorite brew in one of the U.S.’s top 10 cities for cider lovers.

We also included the city’s Walk Score to show you the ease of strolling from one cider bar or taproom to another. Also included is the median home sale price to help you analyze the cost of living and how much of your paycheck can be dedicated to sipping cider.

  1. Portland, OR

Walk Score: 65
Median Home Sale Price: $440,000

What better way to enjoy the beautiful Willamette River, which winds around Portland’s downtown hotspots, than with a crisp, cool cider in-hand? The City of Roses has several exceptional local brews to match its charmingly funky vibe.

Notable cider bars: Portland Cider House, Bushwhacker Cider, Cider Bite, Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider, Cider Riot!, Portland Cider Co., Schilling Cider House, The Civic Taproom

  1. Seattle, WA

Walk Score: 73
Median Home Sale Price: $730,000

Seattle is one of the hottest cider spots in the U.S. This gorgeous seaport city, which initially boomed during the Gold Rush and is known for its rich musical history, is now packed with trendy cider bars and great places to enjoy your favorite distillations.

Notable cider bars: Capitol Cider, Schilling Cider House, Seattle Cider Company, Number 6 CiderLocust Cider – Ballard TaproomCockrell Brewing

  1. New York, NY

Walk Score: 89
Median Home Sale Price: $540,000

New York City is a cider lover’s mecca. The Big Apple, with its unmistakable skyline and world-class attractions, is also home to some of the finest cider bars in the country. Most are in the heart of Manhattan, though several are sprinkled throughout Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island, as well.

Notable cider bars: Brooklyn Cider House, The Owl Farm, Eli’s Night Shift, The Ginger Man, Craft Culture,Taproom No. 307, Fools’ Gold, Valhalla NYC, Haymaker Bar and Kitchen

  1. Denver, CO

Walk Score: 48
Median Home Sale Price: $425,000

Tucked in the South Platte River Valley, Denver is a Rocky Mountain paradise for cider aficionados. Teeming with great pubs and cideries, the Mile-High City is a spectacular place to search for your next favorite beverage.

Notable cider bars: C Squared Ciders, Hops & Pie, Colorado Cider Company, Stem Ciders, The RackhouseFalling Rock Tap House

  1. San Francisco, CA

Walk Score: 86
Median Home Sale Price: $1.42 million

The City by the Bay is a great place to sample new ciders from local artisans and enjoy tried-and-true favorites. Known for its spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and its famed Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco has earned its place on the map when it comes to cider.

Notable cider barsUpcider, Fermentation Lab, Crooked City Cider, The Crafty Fox Alehouse, Shotwell’s,21st Amendment Brewery and Restaurant, Elixir, Mikkeller Bar

  1. Ann Arbor, MI

Walk Score: 51
Median Home Sale Price: $361,000

Home to the University of Michigan and a fabulous downtown area, Ann Arbor is Southeast Michigan’s best spot for cider lovers. Many of the best brews in A² come from locally sourced apples – the state is home to one of the largest concentrations of orchards in the Midwest.

Notable cider bars: Arbor Brewing Company, Bill’s Beer Garden, Beer Grotto, Grizzly Peak Brewing Company, Salt Springs Brewery

  1. Chicago, IL

Walk Score: 78
Median Home Sale Price: $300,000

Chicago is a cider lover’s dream space – it’s packed with great cider bars, most within a short distance (or right on) Lake Shore Drive. Relax in the cool Lake Michigan breezes with your favorite cider in hand or cheer for the Bears from your favorite watering hole; either way, the Windy City is an ideal place for cider connoisseurs. If you’re there during February, attend events during Chicago Cider Week.

Notable cider bars: ERIS Brewery and Cider House, Right Bee Cider, The Northman, Fountainhead, Hopleaf Bar, The Long Room, Sleeping Village, Emporium Arcade Bar, Begyle Brewing Company, The Bad Apple,Bangers & Lace

  1. Philadelphia, PA

Walk Score: 79
Median Home Sale Price: $199,000

Philadelphia is one of the Northeast’s best spots for hard cider tasting trips. The City of Brotherly Love backs up to the Delaware River, and you’ll find noteworthy cider bars minutes from the shore – and many of the brews are local, coming from rich orchards scattered throughout nearby valleys.

Notable cider bars: Cinder, Hale & True Cider Co., Original 13 Ciderworks, City Tap House – Logan , Commonwealth Ciders, Stone & Key Cellars

  1. Asheville, NC

Walk Score: 36
Median Home Sale Price: $320,000

Asheville, home of the Biltmore Estate and the famed Basilica of St. Lawrence, is a fun mountain town packed with amazing cider bars. From local brews to those imported from other areas, the Land of the Sky is definitely a fabulous place to sample new blends and infusions.

Notable cider bars: Urban Orchard Cider Company, Noble Cider, Daidala, TreeRock Social Cider House,Sovereign Remedies

  1. Minneapolis, MN

Walk Score: 69
Median Home Sale Price: $290,000
The City of Lakes – Minneapolis – is a great place to enjoy fantastic cider brews. This gorgeous city, known for its proximity to neighboring St. Paul and its unmistakable skyline, great nightlife and local attractions, is home to several amazing cider bars that get rave reviews from critics and everyday guests.

Notable cider bars: Urban Forage, Sociable Cider Werks,   Town Hall Brewery, Elevated Beer + Wine + Spirits, Crooked Pint Ale House, Kieran’s Irish Pub, Red Cow



To figure out the top cities for cider lovers, we compiled a list of the most notable cider bars in the nation – the cider bars that critics can’t get enough of and that get raves from excited guests all over social media. Then, we segmented those bars by city and arranged them by the number of favorable reviews. Cities with the most rave-worthy cider bars made our cut, which we then pared down by the quality and quantity of reviews. In order for a city to make Redfin’s Top 10 Cities for Cider Lovers list, it must have multiple cider bars with excellent ratings.


Original article from Redfin