Music State Music Maker: Casey Combest
Growing up in Mississippi, there’s nothing worse than seeing a fellow Mississippian pay way too much money to a Nashville, LA, or New York producer for a carbon copy of a record they made last week.
That is the sentiment from recording studio owner and producer Casey Combest, whose business, Blue Sky Studios, is located in Lefleur East.
“Growing up playing music, I believed the lie that I had to be in a ‘music city’ to make something world class,” he continues. “It’s just not true. Why make something in a music city, when you can make something in the music state?”
Mississippi is the perfect place to make records, Combest believes, and thankfully, “I now get to spend my days helping people make world-class records right here.”
How long have you been recording others? When did the studio come into existence?
My beginnings with recording are pretty similar to most. I started making recordings in my dorm room. After a few years of making my own music, I finally released my first self-produced project in 2008. While it was certainly nothing to brag about, a few people really liked it and began asking me to help them record their music.
After producing a few projects for friends, by mid-2009 I started to see there’s really some potential here… a real opportunity to bring a modern production style to the people I was working with. I continued to grow the studio part-time until 2013 when I transitioned to full-time running Blue Sky Studios.
Over the last eight years, I’ve been walking with people in unlocking what’s unique about them as an artist or band and crafting it in a way that is familiar to what’s current so they can build a lasting career. Both extremes are dangerous. Too unique and you can’t actually sell records, too familiar and it’s boring.
Tell me about some of your favorite projects.
Man, that’s like saying, ‘which is your favorite child!’”
We’ve had seven projects chart on the top 25 of iTunes, and one of our songs has over 4.7 million streams on Spotify. One project recently landed at number one on the Singer-Songwriter charts too, which was nuts.
Talk to us about your recent plans for studio expansion. What was the goal, how did you accomplish the financial goal, and how is the idea progressing?
I seriously have the most gracious wife in the world. She’s allowed me to run the studio out of our home, and running a home studio is not for the faint of heart. Especially since our daughter, Addison was born 2 years ago. A 50+ hour a week business being run from your home is about as crazy as it sounds. With our second child on the way in March, we’re finally making the studio a stand-alone, dedicated music space.
The full studio build-out will cost well over $25,000, but we recently did a crowd-funding campaign that raised a little over $13,000 of that. I’ve helped several artists coordinate their crowd-funding campaigns, but this was my first experience with running my own campaign. It was a lot different than a thought, a lot more emotionally taxing. While I viewed the Kickstarter campaign as a way to pre-sale anything from studio sponsorships to T-shirts with our logo on them, it really raised a lot more awareness of what we’re trying to do than I thought it would. That being said, (I want to) shift the perspective that music in Mississippi is all about heritage. Yes, our heritage is amazing, but let’s build on that. Let’s look at our music future.
You’ve started a very successful podcast, too?
I studied Sociology at Mississippi College. Which, contrary to popular belief, is not as helpful for running a business, or being a music producer (sarcasm implied). I listened to a ton of podcasts early on to learn about how to build and run a business. But over time, I felt fatigued with the same old stories about Silicon Valley entrepreneurs building the newest gadget. So I started a podcast called ‘Made In Mississippi’ that focuses on entrepreneurs who are building and have built successful businesses right here in our state.
We’re launching Season 3, sponsored by C Spire, in February 2018. The podcast started as a labor of love but has really morphed into its own entity. Through partnerships with other awesome creatives, we’re really focusing on telling the stories of our entrepreneurs (which is the new tagline.) It’s also lead to producing podcasts for C Spire, MWG, BankPlus, and Navitas Wealth Management to name a few. Season 3 is going to be incredible though. Seriously.
Learn more about Blue Sky Studios and their available services at blueskystudios.org.