Mercer University is breathing new life into Macon by doing more than just preserving a historic southern building. Mercer Music at Capricorn will offer opportunities for students and local musicians while potentially attracting interest from recording artists and tourists all over the world.
Five years ago, local developers approached Mercer University with the idea to build commercial and residential developments around the dormant Capricorn studio. The historic building was donated to the university for restoration with an idea to give area musicians a place to enjoy artistic freedom. With help from local citizens, Capricorn Sound Studios was re-envisioned as Mercer Music at Capricorn. Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music will make some use of the renowned studio space and will offer classes and internships in engineering and business. The facility will also house offices, co-working space, and conference rooms for local non-profits and organizations such as Bragg Jam, Rock Candy Tours, Macon Film Festival, and Macon Pops. Mercer’s initiative will continue making Macon as vibrant as possible in the hopes that a thriving community will attract talent.
We want this to be a center of gravity for musicians, a place where they can get better publicity and space to cultivate musical art here in Macon.
Four main components will make up Mercer Music at Capricorn, each with its own function. First is an incubator space with rehearsal rooms for bands to rent and practice in 24/7. “Most musicians don’t have a nine to five job, they’re working as bartenders, cooks, and waitresses– jobs that make it easier to pursue a music career. We want to give them a place to create music at their convenience,” says Rob Evans, Chief Engineer over Capricorn and co-owner of Creek Media. Creek Media, which operates 100.9 The Creek, 100.5 The X, and Sound and Soul, will be overseeing the studio in conjunction with Mercer.
Andrew Eck will be in charge of the incubator and says, “We want this to be a center of gravity for musicians, a place where they can get better publicity and space to cultivate musical art here in Macon.” Rental prices for the incubator will range from $250 to $500, but there will be one to two rooms that can be rented out just for the day at a rate of $100. “I’m anticipating an age range from high-schoolers to fifty years old and up,” Eck states. “Music cuts across a lot of boundaries.”
Next is the newly installed Studio B. This area will be more reflective and better for acoustics. Studio B will be equipped with a PA system, a removable stage, and lighting that can be used for special events and live shows. “The original recording space is so soundproof, no noise bounces around. It’s a dead zone. Studio B will be great for strings,” explains Evans.
Everyone who lives around here has a story connecting with Capricorn somehow, and I want that to be the main draw of the museum.
The third focus of Mercer Music at Capricorn will be a museum where visitors can use interactive kiosks that tell the story of Capricorn Records and Macon’s rich music heritage. The museum will show a more personal side from the people who have memories of the original studio. Jared Wright, who is in charge of the museum, says, “If you see the museum and you go home and realize you have a personal photo or a ticket stub, you can submit that and it really helps make it more of a community space. Everyone who lives around here has a story connecting with Capricorn somehow, and I want that to be the main draw of the museum.”
There will be a gift shop and a bar where people can enjoy drinks and socialize while touring the museum or watching a performance. Wright also states that he wants to show people the importance of independent record labels and the importance of this building when Southern Rock was at its peak in the ’70s. Macon is often overlooked for its contributions in contrast to other musical meccas like Muscle Shoals and Memphis that have remained active by drawing new generations of artists to their historic studios. Macon has always produced a unique sound and brand of music and this revival will encourage its continuation.
Finally, Studio A, the original room where Southern Rock royalty cut their first tracks, is frozen in time and will be available to any artists looking to add a touch of ambiance to their recordings. The classic studio will have a few minor tweaks made during the renovation but will otherwise remain the same as it was during the height of Capricorn’s success.
Both studios will be equipped with top-of-the-line recording equipment, including a one-of-a-kind, 40-channel API analog sound console that was custom-built for Capricorn Studio A.
Lightening is capable of striking more than just once and that’s how we had an Allman Brothers Band and a Marshall Tucker Band. And that’s how we had a Little Richard and a Jason Aldean come out of Macon. I think this goes to show that our story isn’t done yet.
Phil Walden, Alan Walden, and Frank Fenter had the vision to start an independent record label that was free from corporate constraints, a place where their artists were free to let the creativity flow and make the music that moved their soul. Capricorn shot into the stratosphere when they introduced the world to bands like the Allman Brothers Band, the Marshall Tucker Band, and Wet Willie.
Jessica Walden, daughter of Alan Walden and owner of Rock Candy Tours, has been involved with the revival since the beginning. She says, “This is a pinnacle piece to our story and also of our physical offerings that we can provide to musicians to help nurture their careers here in Macon.”
The historic building has been a stop on Rock Candy Tours but could only be viewed from the sidewalk. Now, tourists can go inside the building to view the original studio and visit the museum. Jessica grew up in the building, as her father’s apartment was located inside, and her childhood artwork is still displayed on the walls upstairs– but as a child, she could never understand what her dad saw in the run-down building. “I’m seeing what he believed in years ago,” Walden states, “and I have to give my father credit for refusing to give up on Macon.”
Capricorn Revival: A Commemorative Concert Celebrating the Rebirth of Capricorn Sound Studios will take place on December 3rd to mark the renovation. The show will feature Capricorn legends like Musical Director Chuck Leavell, Jaimoe, Bonnie Bramlett, Jimmy Hall, Randall Bramblett, Tommy Talton, and John Bell. The concert will also feature many performers who embody the spirit and sound of Capricorn– artists including Duane Betts, Bonnie Bishop, Marcus King, Brent Cobb and more will come together to pay homage to the ones who paved the way while celebrating the future of Mercer Music at Capricorn.
Mercer Music at Capricorn will attract and nurture artists here in Central Georgia while also drawing talent and tourists from around the world. As Jessica Walden says, “Lightening is capable of striking more than just once and that’s how we had an Allman Brothers Band and a Marshall Tucker Band. And that’s how we had a Little Richard and a Jason Aldean come out of Macon. I think this goes to show that our story isn’t done yet.”