“I didn’t know he was a musician or even had an interest in it,” said Spooner. “I always saw him as a skier, a jock guy.”
So it might be surprising that this winter, two decades after leaving Colby, the two came together to hole up in Hearst’s Camden, Maine, recording studio and create what could be a breakout record for Spooner.
Built in a barn attached to Hearst’s 19th-century home, the studio was selected as the best new studio of 2013 by Mix magazine. Spooner said it was the perfect space for the Jason Spooner Band to get away from their home base in Portland, Maine, and focus on making new music. His rapport with Hearst—not to mention the palatial and well-equipped facility—made the process of creating the album both easy and enjoyable, Spooner said.
“It was just kind of a perfect stars-aligned scenario,” said Spooner. “With me looking for that [destination studio] experience and Jason looking to co-produce his first record in this studio. It really worked out.”
Chemical is Spooner’s fourth record. He played in bands at Colby and connected with street musicians and other artists while studying abroad in London and Seville. Today he works as a graphic designer in addition to performing and recording. In recent years he has shared stages with some big names, including Brandi Carlisle and B.B. King, and the Jason Spooner Band is a mainstay on the national festival circuit.
In addition to skiing at Colby, Hearst played Ultimate Frisbee and spent time in the sculpture studio. He started recording at age 12 with a cassette four track and enrolled in a music production program at the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2006. He lives in Camden with his wife and two children and built his studio to be both a world-class facility and a place to learn and expand his recording skills.
Colby set both up for success in music, although in different ways. Spooner said that as an independent artist, being a generalist—such as his Colby experience prepared him for—is critical. “You’re a booking agent, a travel agent, a band-mate psychologist, an accountant, and then you’re a crazy artist above all. You try to find the time to get out there and find the things that inspire you and write and all those things. So I think a place like Colby was a really good place to get that going.”
Meanwhile, Hearst said his time in the physics lab at Colby translates nicely to audio engineering, where the scientific method frequently proves valuable. “It’s problem solving, and I always really enjoyed setting up the problem. If something blows up or a microphone breaks, suddenly you’re troubleshooting—it’s basically like a science lab. Try to change one thing and keep everything else consistent and ask, ‘Did it get fixed?’”
In collaborating on a record, those different approaches are an asset, both said. Spooner said that when he articulates an abstract need (an “airy guitar” for example), Hearst is always ready to step in with a concrete solution, like boosting a particular frequency range or changing a microphone placement. That kind of complementary skill set is working well for them in the studio, and it’s the foundation for a friendship that started at Colby.
“We’re buddies, and we’ve become friends through this process,” said Spooner, “closer than we ever were.”
The Jason Spooner Band
“Fireflies” by the Jason Spooner Band