Recording engineer Keith Hanlon and writer Amy Turn Sharp collaborate with Secret Studio, a multi-use arts space coming to Franklinton sometime in the near future
In the 1999 Tom Waits song “What’s He Building?” the narrator stands outside another’s dwelling, mystified by whatever is taking place inside. “Now what’s that sound from underneath the door?” Waits asks in his Crypt Keeper drawl as the music mimics the various bangs, moans and creaks that are giving the central character pause.
When recording engineer Keith Hanlon first set about developing his own studio space, he envisioned a similar feel. “I had it in my head I wanted this nondescript warehouse somewhere out of the way where no one would know what was going on in there,” said Hanlon, who does most of his work as a freelance engineer at Musicol Recording.
But about a year ago, Hanlon was drinking at Dick’s Den with poet Amy Turn Sharp, and the conversation turned to one of collaboration, with the two envisioning a multipurpose space suited not only to their own needs, but to those of the arts community at large, comprising a recording studio, a room for writing workshops, readings or music performances, space for visual art, plus a booth for creating podcasts, which combine the worlds of words and recording within which they each dwell. Befitting the Dick’s Den location, the pair thought, “Why not?”
Those boozy dreams have more recently become reality, with the two signing a lease on a Franklinton space on Walnut Street located near the Vanderelli Room and the new, recently announced expansion of Wild Goose Creative. Dubbed Secret Studio, the name and location exist as a middle ground between Hanlon’s initial vision of a hidden lair and input from Turn Sharp, who, seated next to Hanlon for the interview, said of the early brainstorming sessions, “Keith, we’re going to have a giant sign!”
The concept for the space is in continual development, too, fueled both by the pair’s collective imagination and the suggestions of friends. Turn Sharp noted that one acquaintance emailed, writing, “I want to have a record club instead of a book club,” during which participants could listen to and discuss a particular album, to which Turn Sharp responded, “You may!”
“I think it will focus on art, but I would like it to focus on a lot on the written word — that might be songwriting or poetry workshops,” Turn Sharp said. Recording will also be central to the space, with Hanlon building out a studio equipped to capture musicians in either digital or analog formats. Hanlon will also continue his relationship with Musicol, and sees the two spaces complementing one another.
“I have my clients and sometimes we do things at Musicol and sometimes we do things elsewhere a little more DIY,” he said. “Musicol has been around for 50 years, and still people call every day to book time there. … I’m not trying to compete with that. [Secret Studio] will be supplemental.”
Though the lease is signed, the space is currently a blank canvas, and the two aren’t sure how long build-out could take, though both sounded optimistic it could be up and running early in 2020, if not before.
In that time, both envision ideas for the space to continue to evolve, which is a part of the allure of the venture.
“We’ll be adapting to the music and arts communities,” Hanlon said. “We arrive with something we have in mind, but we’ll also learn what people want to do and see if we can accommodate them.”
“I think right now we’re just getting over the hump of realizing, ‘This is happening. We’re doing it,’” Turn Sharp said. “The train is in motion, and now we get to spend time creating and ideating and brainstorming.”
What are they building in there?
What aren’t they?
Correction: Wild Goose is expanding with a second location in Franklinton and not relocating.