Stunning views over Ballarat, eight hectares, gardens to roam and a spacious studio area, this revamped shed on a hillside in Mount Helen is a relaxing setting to make music.
Welcome to Ballarat's newest recording studio.
Father and son duo Tom and John Robinson spent the past four years creating this musician's paradise.
They are just about to hit the one year mark of operating as Homestead Studio.
TOM'S JOURNEY TO BALLARAT
Tom Robinson grew up in Melbourne playing guitar with his dad.
He studied guitar at the Victorian College of the Arts after finishing high school and played in bands - mainly funk, jazz and blues - around Melbourne.
He soon returned to study to learn the art of sound engineering.
"I was doing a lot of it anyway so I decided I should learn how to do it correctly," Tom says.
"I had been making albums for people in other studios and then the last three, four years we have been building this (Homestead Studio) and are hitting about a year of it functioning."
Tom's parents purchased the property at Mount Helen, now home to Homestead Studio, in 2012 for their retirement.
It is a relaxed environment - that is not always the case in other studios.Tom Robinson, Homestead Studio
After working in Melbourne recording studios where limited space was restrictive, Tom saw the potential to establish his own studio at the property, where size would be his point of difference.
The property is a former winery. When Tom first had the idea, the shed (now converted to the studio) was filled with bottles of wine.
John says he too saw the potential for the space.
"I had always planned to build a project studio when I retired," he says.
"Years ago I used to play and record at a studio in Adelaide but I never made a fortune out of it and family and work took over. I had always promised myself to one day have my own studio.
"But we turned it into something a bit bigger than I was anticipating - mainly because we had the space to do it."
TAKING THE PLUNGE
Tom said as soon as he had the opportunity he threw himself into working full time at Mount Helen to create his studio dream.
He admits the process has been a steep learning curve and they were continuing to learn and make changes to improve the space.
"I didn’t realise how little I knew about recording and processing in general until I had to try to build a space for it," Tom says.
"We’re still learning and changing - that is why we are making all the changes to the space now. We learnt so much in that first year and had to find a way to make the improvements we needed.
"I don’t think that will ever stop. We will continuously be figuring out how we can do it better."
John had built recording studios in the 1970s, but with vastly different technology.
At the time he was an electrical engineering working in the sphere of tape machines.
Now, Tom explains, Homestead Studio runs with a 50 per cent analogue and 50 per cent digital set up.
We will continuously be figuring out how we can do it better.Tom Robinson, Homestead Studio
"It is a lot simpler to keep running than what they were dealing with in the 70s," he says.
Almost every element of the studio rooms has been created by hand.
Tom says there is something special about creating the space with his dad by his side.
"We are certainly very proud of it. It is really lovely," he says.
"This is the first time I have ever done that with him. As a musician he taught me a lot of original playing and we played a lot when I was younger, so I guess it is a step on from that."
Tom says he does the recording, while John is better with design work and acoustics.
A POINT OF DIFFERENCE
The problems Tom experienced with small recording spaces in Melbourne were front of mind when working on his new huge seven to nine metre studio.
"I really like working as live as possible, even in a recording studio. I have had bands as big as 11 people record all at once in this space because we have so much space to play with," he says.
"It is not something I could ever do in Melbourne. In Melbourne I did a large band called Quantum Milkshake once. I ended up having their flute player in a bathroom to get them playing live. It wasn’t perfect.
"Now in this kind of environment I can do a really good job of that live while a lot of studios in Melbourne not having that space end up multi-tracking. I think it (multi-tracking) loses a bit of the spark and also takes a lot longer.
"Artists come here and we have done eight song or ten song albums in a day here because you just play through it and it’s done.
"The artists love it, particularly in jazz, so I get a lot of those guys coming up and I have a lot of friends in that type of group in Melbourne as well.
"I would certainly like to try to do live recording with more rock bands. We had a band called Mount Defiance here and we did it almost entirely live and it came out wonderfully."
Most of recording artists at Homestead Studio travel from Melbourne, with some local bands and one singer from Gold Coast.
Horns of Leroy, Nick Costello and The Backburners are some of the artists who have worked with Tom at Homestead Studio to record their music.
John says part of the appeal is the relaxed atmosphere.
He says a sense of calm is important for the process of recording which can often be stressful and high pressure.
"We have had a lot of young bands and musicians coming up from Melbourne; they discover it is actually not very far to come, it is easy to get here and since most musicians live on the west side of Melbourne because it is cheaper, Ballarat is easier to get to than Cranbourne or Pakenham," he says.
"They have really enjoyed it. We have got 20 acres out the back and a big garden people wander around, pick some veggies and feel really comfortable. It has been great because it has just been very relaxed. I can tell you in the 70s it wasn’t relaxed.
"It is a fairly harrowing experience recording, both for the people recording because you are being judged by musicians, and for them because you are really listening to every little thing they do - they are quite exposed. Up here that doesn’t seem to be such an issue."
Tom and John have spent the past few weeks finishing the changes to the studios and hope to take three to four bookings a week.
Committee for Ballarat's approach to innnovation
Committee for Ballarat identified jobs, connectivity, sustainability, innovation and community well-being as key focus areas in its strategic action plan for 2016-20.
The committee's long term focus to advance Ballarat includes strategy to create jobs, align skills with industry needs and attract investment in innovation.
The 2016 Victoria in Future report report projected Ballarat's population will increase to 266,200 by 2051
It is estimated 15,000 new jobs are needed in the region by 2030 to support the projected growth.
Committee for Ballarat chief executive Melanie Robertson said preparation for these new jobs, some that may not even currently exist, will require forward-thinking training and education for future jobs.
"The CEO of Telstra was in Ballarat a few weeks ago and was talking about some of these issues. They need something like 1500 new software engineers every year and at the moment the universities are only preparing 1200," she said.
"It is about addressing some of those shortfalls and the mix matches between training and jobs for the future.
"Some of the facilities we have got like the Ballarat Tech School are doing that - to me that is the fundamental core of what we want to do. A lot of it is about opening our eyes up to what is happening in the future."
Committee for Ballarat also identified a lack of high level career pathways for youth and a need to diversify the economy to prepare for future sustainability in its strategic plan.
Ms Robertson said the people of Ballarat needed to make sure their eyes were open to the potential of the city to be a leader in innovation and industry.
"An example is looking at the automated bus saying this is the public transport of the future and we want to be a part of it," she said.
"How do we prepare for those types of things that are coming, look at the opportunities and really leverage off those opportunities? I think that is what innovation is around.
"We want to challenge people in their thinking. We want people to have a belief in themselves and for Ballarat to have a belief in itself. We want to stimulate discussion.
"We don't want to be bogged down in the issues of today but how do we look at that next step.
"That's why with the discussion about car parking that was going on, we said what about having less cars in our CBD because that is the direction the world is going."
The Courier's new innovation series
Last week The Courier launched its new series Ballarat Innovation; a feature of stories each week that showcase and celebrate industry, business, innovation and entrepreneurship in Ballarat.
The new series comes as part two of the More than Gold series that told the stories of Ballarat's diverse community members last year.
This new branch continues the aim of More than Gold to create a sense of pride in Ballarat's achievements and celebrate the fantastic people that make this city great.
In partnership with Committee for Ballarat, we hope these stories help create a sense of aspiration, a sense of excitement at the possibilities of what can be achieved in Ballarat, and a sense of confidence to take a risk.
We want to move past the buzz word idea of innovation and instead celebrate the diversity the word offers by telling the stories of new startups, long established businesses that are innovatively responding to change and challenges, and experimentation with technology.
As we tell the stories of Ballarat's innovators, we will also be asking the harder questions: what is needed to support and promote growth in industry in Ballarat?; how does Ballarat address the skills shortages that are holding so many business back?; how do we create the estimated 15,000 new jobs that are needed in the region by 2030 to support the projected population increase?; how do we ensure our education offerings are prepared for the changing nature of jobs; and how do we create more high level career pathways for Ballarat's youth?.
We hope you enjoy the journey, as we explore and celebrate innovation in Ballarat each Saturday.
OTHER STORIES IN THE BALLARAT INNOVATION SERIES: