We had the good fortune of connecting with Kolton Lee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kolton, how do you think about risk?
I feel like by nature of the business I am in I think about risk differently than others. What some may see as risky I may see as simply necessary. In 2013 I was running a studio in Cave Creek, starting to make decent money and making a name for myself as an engineer. However, I felt stale and stagnant. I knew that the situation I was in had very limited upward mobility and that the path to success was going to be much harder here. So in January of 2014 I packed up all my stuff and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Everyone thought it was risky. I’ll never forget running into my high school principal just before the move and the look on his face when I told him what I was doing. That look of “woof, good luck” still fuels me to this day. That “risky” move got me to Nashville which then got me face to face with Grammy award winning producer Jacquire King. Before I knew it I was interning for Jacquire at one of the greatest studios in the world, Blackbird Studios. I worked my way up from intern to being one of Jacquire’s most trusted engineering and mixing partners. After 7 years with Jacquire I decided to make yet another risky decision and move back to Arizona. Seems crazy to give up a gig working for one of the greatest to ever make records in a town known for record making. But I have always wanted to bring back that level of skill I honed and sharpened in Nashville to my home. So in May of 2020 I moved back to Arizona and in August I opened my own studio called Red Jack Recordings. A risky move in the middle of a global pandemic but, a necessary one. All the greatest moments I have had in my life were all a byproduct of taking a risk. If you don’t take risks you’ll never fail which is the worst thing you can do in life. If you never fail at something you’ll never learn how to be great at anything. I’ve failed so many times that they don’t even register as failures anymore, just another opportunity to be better than before.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
In August 2020 I started my studio Red Jack Recordings based in Sunny Slope, Arizona. Named in the spirit of the old west after an outlaw gang that used to rob stage coaches in what is now Globe. I have always loved the American Southwest and the history here. Arizona has always been such an outlaw state to me. You can’t really put us into a box. We’re not California and were not Texas, but we kinda got a bit of both in there. It seemed so counterculture to leave Nashville, a place artists and engineers flock to for music, for Arizona. Thats what Red Jack Recordings is for me. You can’t put it into a box. A small studio in Sunny Slope putting out Nashville quality sounds seems out of place but that’s the point. One of my goals in coming back was to bring the Nashville level of professionalism and quality out west. I am extremely excited about the opportunities the studio has afforded me and what is to come. Nothing in business is ever easy. Especially in the middle of a global pandemic that has disproportionately impacted my particular clientele. It’s been a ton of hard work and requires serious dedication. The build out alone took me just over a month since I had to do it by myself. I wouldn’t have it any other way though, I have a deep sense of pride and appreciation for what I have because its been so difficult. I recently started a podcast called One More For Safety where I talk to artists and engineer/producers about this very thing.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh boy this is a tough one. There are a lot of fun things to do and see here. The pandemic makes this a bit different BUT I think going up to Sedona and Flagstaff have to be on the agenda. Most people think of Arizona and they don’t really think about the fact you can drive an hour or so change and be in the pines. So I would schedule a day and maybe an overnight either camping or at an Air BnB up there. I know for a lot of people the Grand Canyon would be on their agenda but for me unless you are going to spend a some real time up there it’s just a lot of time in the car to get out and go look at a big hole in the ground. If anyone has the time I recommend going to the North Rim and camping out up there. THAT is worth it. Other than that I would take them up to the Buffalo Chip in Cave Creek to watch the bull riding. I grew up in Cave Creek at it will always hold weird little spot in my heart so I think we would go up there for a night of fun and do the Cave Creek bar crawl.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Man there are so many! I’ve been so lucky in life to have had so much support and encouragement. My parents have always been super supportive in my career in music. My wife Kelly has been the best partner in this journey that anyone could ask for. Without the mentorship and now friendship of Jacquire King I don’t know where I would be at this point in my career. I really owe much of what I have now to him and time he invested in me. There are two books I would recommend that really helped me when I needed it. The first being Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Lieif Babin. Reading this book really helped me in understanding leadership and what it takes to be successful. The second book is Own the Day, Own Your Life by Aubrey Marcus. This book was extremely instrumental in learning how to take care of myself and have a healthy relationship with work.
Grey Shed Studio