I’ve been fascinated and inspired by sound and recording since I first listened to the White Album when I was 8 or 9 years old. All that mystery and weirdness combined with great songs and singing; the many colors of guitars, the singing, the snippets of conversation, the snare drums… everything. It seemed like a portal into another dimension – hyper-real and dreamlike at the same time, and so “grown up” – all those sounds combined to make art with sound that was visceral and beautiful and scary. I used to record myself into a cassette deck for awhile, then two cassette decks, doing primitive overdubs. When I was in college I bought a tascam 4-track and entered the world of multi-tracking. Sometime around 1999 I downloaded the free version of Pro Tools and entered the world of digital recording. I made my first solo album, “Sweet Is The Anchor,” alone in my music room, playing all the parts and obsessing over the layers and sounds. I loved the process. Sometime around 2005 I was approached by a few students in my songwriting classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music about recording their songs – Jack Higgins, John Kuczaj, George Brumis, Kate Magnusson and Steve Sliga. That’s how Kernel Sound Emporium was born. I set up a few mics in the living room and added guitars and bass and whatever I could think of. It took off from there. As it became more of a regular thing, I set up the studio in a corner of Diane’s art studio.

She has graciously put up with me for all these years and we’ve worked out a schedule where we don’t get in each other’s way. Since 2006 I have recorded dozens of albums for Chicago singer / songwriters, constantly learning to be a better engineer and upgrading my stuff along the way. The studio has become part of a bigger Chicago community of songwriters and performers connected to the Old Town School of Folk Music and the Acoustic Explosion series at Silvies, hosted and curated by the same John Kuczaj mentioned above. From the very first songwriting class I taught at the school, I was amazed by the quality and richness of the songs being written. It continues to amaze me to this day. Here’s a playlist of some of the music recorded at Kernel over the years:
(Links to each of the artists are below if you’d like to explore more of their work)

I record into Pro Tools 12 through a Universal Audio Apollo 8 interface. I have a handful of swanky boutique mic pre’s and a collection of some fancy and some very useful mics. I am happy to play drums, bass, guitars, keyboards, sing harmonies, add percussion… or just engineer and mix. The fee is the same if I’m playing or engineering. Get in touch if you’d like to talk about recording with me: steve at stevedawsonmusic dot com