Image: Matthew Causey
Mercer prepares to give Capricorn Records a revitalizing makeover
There’s a culture and history surrounding Capricorn Records, and now there’s Lofts surrounding it too. But, on the inside of that worn building, a revitalization is being planned.
In 2015, Mercer partnered with NewTown Macon to begin the transformation of the original Capricorn studio.
The Lofts at Capricorn opened this past December, and people have already began moving in. One of the buildings won’t be available to rent until April, but the other three are open and operating.
Alexis Fletcher, the manager of the Lofts at Capricorn, said the Lofts have the overarching theme of the history behind Capricorn Records.
“Pretty much everything in here has to do with Capricorn Records,” Fletcher said while pointing out some of the various pieces of art, photos and memorabilia related to the studio that were hanging on the walls of the lobby.
The lofts come in one and two-bedroom options and vary in price from just under $1,200 to just over $1,800. A $300 administrative fee is halved for Mercer students.
Next to the pool area is a mural painted on the side of Capricorn Records. The original painter, Michael Pierce, was brought out in fall of last year to restore the mural, which had been damaged over the years by the weathering and decaying state of the Capricorn building.
There is also a spot marked on the wall by the pool where glass will be installed so that Loft residents will be able to see into the Capricorn recording studio once it has been restored.
“With the studio, Mercer is working on renovating the inside of it and making it back into a functioning recording studio,” Fletcher said. “They’ll have shows in there. There’s supposed to be a bar. So it’s gonna be a really cool place once it’s done.”
The restoration of the studio is being overseen by Larry Brumley, the senior vice president for marketing communications and chief of staff at Mercer University. Brumley said these Lofts are the first residential construction project in downtown Macon in about eighty years.
“We’re in the homestretch of fundraising for it,” Brumley said. “We need about another two million dollars to get all the funds necessary to do what we want to do with the facility. We’ve got some large asks out. We’re hoping that will be positive and will get us to the finish line.” The fundraising goal for the project is $3.5 million total.
Brumley said the restoration of the studio will be broken up into four main “components” and will result in a restored studio and various additional features and facilities for students, musicians and local non-profit organizations.
“So the project in a nutshell is this: leveraging Macon’s music heritage to create Macon’s music future,” Brumley said. “Capricorn has this great rich history. It’s the birthplace of southern rock…and so it’s a very important national, cultural site.”
The first component involves the original recording studio itself. Brumley said the goal in this area is to update the equipment to modern standards and get the studio operating again.
The recording studio business has changed in recent years, Brumley said. These types of studios are going away because they cannot financially support themselves. To combat this issue, Brumley said there are several other components of the project that will generate revenue and also provide opportunities and facilities for local musicians and Mercer students.
“The second major piece of it that’s about creating Macon’s music future is what we’re calling music incubators,” Brumley said. “One side of the building is going to have 13 rehearsal rooms of various sizes that musicians can rent by the month.”
Brumley said musicians that rent out the rehearsal rooms will have 24/7 access to the rooms to practice and will have the opportunities to meet and collaborate.
The third part of the project is what Brumley refers to as the “interpretive space, telling the story of Macon’s music history.”
Brumley said this part will function like a “mini museum.” It will be located on the second floor of the studio and will be open to the public. It will have a variety of artifacts and memorabilia as well as digital kiosks that show the story of Macon’s music history and the history of Capricorn.
The final part of the project is creating office space for local non-profit arts related organizations to have and congregate in.
“All within that 20,000 square feet you’ll have all this talent and interaction and collaborating and the inspiration of what was made there in the past that was so important to our country’s cultural history,” Brumley said. “And all that together will create something that is completely unique in America.”
Brumley said Mercer has talked with people across the country, including at various historic studios and at the Grammy Museum.
“They’ve told us what you’re putting together under that one roof does not exist anywhere in America,” Brumley said. “It is an absolutely unique concept.”
Brumley said he also expects the music school to even be able to hold classes at the studio sometimes to teach students about various aspects of recording music in a professional studio.
“It is a nationally important project,” Brumley said. “If we can finish the fundraising and make this happen, this will be a tremendous asset for Macon and for Mercer.”
Brumley said the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles has also been in contact with Mercer about the studio becoming an affiliate of their educational program due to the shared goals of education.
Outside of the school, the studio will also be open to the public for renting studio space. Local musicians and even Mercer musicians can pay by the hour to use the historic studio to record songs and albums in either digital or analog format.
Brumley said they are planning to keep the original recording booth mostly the same for the nostalgic and historic value of it.
On the other side of the recording booth is the lobby entrance to Capricorn Records, which will be turned into a second area for recording or for holding concerts. Brumley said that, since the film industry is growing in Georgia, this second recording area will be made to work well for recording film scores.
Despite the work the studio will need, it’s still functional as a studio right now.
“Even with the building in this condition, we still do some recordings in it,” Brumley said.
Several local journalists and Mercer students have used the recording booth in recent months. Brumley said one local journalist at GPB brought his own equipment into the studio to record a band playing when he did a story on them even though the building doesn’t even have running water.
The goal, Brumley said, is for the project to be completed sometime in 2019, which will be the 50th anniversary of Capricorn Records.
Brumley said that growing up with the music that came out of Capricorn Records has made this a special project for him and for many others.
“The music of Capricorn is kind of the music of my life,” Brumley said. “I guess you could say I’m kind of revisiting my childhood, in a way, working on this project.”