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House & garden > Motor City Cribs and Rides

Motor City Cribs

Jim Roll's recording studio in a former chicken coop

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Published 6/10/2009

Ann Arbor used to be a town in the country — but not anymore. But out on Jackson Road, on the town's far west side, you'll find a little reminder of the A2 that once was. There, tucked in the woods is Backseat Productions, Jim Roll's recording studio for the last two years, in a building that was once a chicken coop.

Since setting up shop here, Jim has recorded many great Ann Arbor-area indie records — including Chris Bathgate, Matt Jones, Orpheum Bell, Frontier Ruckus and Misty Lyn (with whom Roll also plays).

About Roll: Before the many producer credits, he'd established himself as a literate alt-country singer-songwriter who'd collaborated with authors Rick Moody, Neal Pollack and Neil Cleary. He has three stellar albums of his own.

Roll's studio has a lot of history to it too. Originally called 40 Oz Sound, it began about 15 years ago, launched in part by bassist Geoff Streadwick. The latter's generosity saw the studio become a nexus for the Ann Arbor indie scene. When Streadwick died tragically 10 years ago (carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty furnace), brothers Chris and Drew Peters of Getaway Cruiser took over the studio.

There, the Peters brothers recorded Ted Nugent, Electric Six, Athletic Mic League and some upcoming (back then) performer called Fergie, among many others. When the Peterses became too busy for their operations, they honored Streadwick's spirit by deciding to maintain the space as a studio. That's when Roll got the call.

"At that point I was recording so many people in my Ypsilanti basement that I already had enough business to get up and running out here," Roll says. "It was total craziness as soon as I moved in." The Peterses didn't have to sell him on the space. "It's a little oasis out here. It's pitch dark here at night and there's all kinds of wildlife. Right now we've got 80 rabbits running around here."

For more Jim Roll, go to myspace.com/jimroll.


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