When you read the list of hit artists that have passed through Plush Studios, it’s hard to imagine that this creative hub for music recording is tucked away in a quiet corner of Central Florida – Winter Springs to be exact. The studio space was built roughly 15 years ago (known as Plush for nearly half that time), and been home to a range of contemporary pop, rock, rap, and metal tracks by artists such as Nicki Minaj, Shinedown, Justin Bieber, and Paramore.
In addition to the records coming out of its walls, Plush has also been the launching point for a number of Full Sail students and graduates. This includes studio manager Ethan Curtis, who began his relationship with owner Aton Ben-Horin (Director of Global A&R for Warner Music Group) while still a student in the Entertainment Business program. Ethan recently opened the studio doors to us, and gave as a look inside the facilities and practices that have helped set them apart.
“Everybody comes here when they come to Orlando,” he says. “Sometimes stars align, and its all really opened up for us. I feel like we offer something really unique here in the way we are operate and work with talent.”
Walking into Plush for the first time, you start to pick up on why the studio has become a local favorite. There’s a genuine feeling of warmth not often found in major recording facilities. This extends through the cozy mixing rooms, large live tracking area, and vocal booth that looks more like a tree house than a state of the art technical space. More than one specific aspect however, the layout, décor, and the people who work there combine to create an atmosphere conducive to collaboration. Ethan explained that the signature “Plush vibe” is an important component of their studio philosophy.
The view into “the treehouse” from Studio A.
“A lot of other studios are very clinical, it’s business, staff are employees, and that’s just how it is,” he says. “But here it’s like an open club, where anyone who is motivated and passionate is welcome. Especially since we work with so many Full Sail students and graduates, we want these kids to feel comfortable here, to sit down and ask questions and learn. That’s the thing that sets us apart very much. We’re a business, but we’re a family.”
On a production end, the studio offers a complete range of music recording services and equipment. They’re outfitted with an SSL console flown in from California that has a history of its own – being previously owned by producer Giorgio Moroder. The Augspurger Monitors in the A Room are from the legendary Hit Factory in New York City, and were personally tuned for the room by George Augspurger himself. A host of instruments, microphones, and other gear are also on hand, but the studio isn’t only focused on recording, engineering, and mixing. The staff also includes adept songwriters and musicians that work with the artists on developing their tracks, as well as help on the business and promotional efforts.
“‘Incubator’ is the word I’d use,” Ethan says. “We have a direct outlet to get stuff out to the industry, so that A&R factor is huge here. None of the other studios in the area at all have that. They’re just recording studios. Here you get the technical work done, and for those who want additional guidance, we have other resources to help bring their projects together and add value.”
Plush is also a supporter of the local music community in general, hosting industry nights multiple times a year that highlight independent musicians. These include artist showcases, and networking opportunities with local entrepreneurs. That sense of support for the human element of the music industry, the talent of both the artists and technical staff of different levels, is something Ethan attribute to their success, as well as his continued loyalty to the studio.
“When I started out I really appreciated the people that were willing to offer up opportunities, willing to put you on if you were willing to put in the time,” he says. “It’s so important to have that opportunity, and I’m proud that we can do that. We have the best engineers in Central Florida, and they’re the key to it all. They’re amazingly talented, and are great with the artists and interns. I really don’t know of any other studios around here that really do what we do.”