WESTFIELD – Mike Freedman, a local musician, wanted a place for musicians to connect and be inspired. Rather than look for this musical safe haven, Freedman created one.
Riverside Productions opened at 77 Mill St. earlier this year. Freedman offers music lessons, retail and a recording space for local musicians – first timers or professionals.
Tucked into the old mill, Freedman, a contractor, built the interior of the space. He created rooms with soundproofed walls, painted bold reds and blues and used scrap wood as trim, leaving it exposed for a rugged look.
“I like to have everything a little different, especially in the music world. It keeps people interested and inspired,” Freedman said.
The idea for Riverside Productions took off when Freedman and his former bandmates began having problems with their practice space. Things were being stolen, and it was not a good situation, Freedman said.
So he worked to create his own space.
Like his décor, Freedman wants to keep things about Riverside Productions a little different. This means allowing not limiting those who can come in to a specific genre.
“I’ve been recording for years before this for my band and other bands, and I figured why not bring a place around here where it’s kind of friendly to everybody? I try to get all genres. It’s not just metal. It’s not just rock. It’s not just country,” Freedman said. “It’s everything. Basically, I’m using this place as a networking hub for musicians where they can meet and have a safe place to come and play.”
While Western Massachusetts has a vibrant local music scene, Freedman said not everyone can and is willing to make the trek to Northampton every weekend, especially younger musicians.
He has even taken to hosting events in his studio for local musicians to play back to back and enjoy each other’s company and music.
Freedman said last summer he had played more than 50 shows, and it wore him down.
“It takes a toll. It’s tiring,” he said. “That why I decided to open this place, too. I’m getting a bit older, and I don’t want to be on the road all the time. It’s a lifestyle that can eat you alive. I’ve seen too many guys go down the wrong roads.”
Though this has been a dream for Freedman, it has also been a lot of work to take up on his own. He has started to train a few employees to help with producing and as studio musicians. Freedman said he wants to get more people involved and eventually help to provide and set up equipment for shows in the area.
Expanding means working more with other studios, which Freedman is happy to do. He has already started to talk with another production company to provide audio for their videos. This partnership will also allow Riverside Productions to create music videos for those who come in.
Even in a new age of music, Freedman said he likes to keep things traditional. Instead of having musicians take the easy way out with excessive editing, he would rather them spend more time practicing.
“I’m a little old school when it comes to producing because… I don’t like to sit there and autotune somebody and tell them they sound great even though they need a little more practice,” Freedman said. “I don’t knock anyone. Everyone just needs more practice if they’re at that point.”
Though it can be tough, Freedman said ultimately that will make musicians work harder and keep motivation going.
“I want them to have a recording that’s going to inspire them to keep going. Even if it’s, say, a song they don’t think is good, I want them to get it the best it’s going to be for them so they can be proud of it,” Freedman said. “But at the same time, I want them to come back, obviously. I want them to not give up on it. Music is one of those things where I’ve gone through many phases, months without playing. Then I go back to playing more than I ever did. It’s one of those things you need a break from sometimes. Some people just take a break and never go back. I’m trying to make it inspiring for people.”
It’s a challenge that is not always easy, he said, but as Riverside Productions continues to grow, that mission will be at its core.
While Freedman’s dream is a reality, he doesn’t want it to stop progressing. There is always something to work on, something to fix.
In his stock room, Freedman points to the walls he built himself and the shelves that need to be filled.
“And I’ve got my contracting tools here,” Freedman said smiling. “Just in case.”
For more information about Riverside Productions, visit www.riverside-productions.com/.