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Caitlin McCullough: The Quality Controller.

March 27, 2015

Caitlin McCullough03Text by Vince Bellino. Images by Rachel Del Sordo.

Caitlin McCullough is the manager of MilkBoy The Studio, home of The Roots and a destination for countless other artists from Philly and beyond.

Tracks by the likes of Kanye West, Jazmine Sullivan, Pissed Jeans, Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, LL Cool J, Jill Scott, Chill Moody and Dave Matthews have been written, arranged, produced and/or recorded here.

Trained in music recording and production, McCullough has been a guiding hand in The Studio’s operations since 2007, when it was still owned by the legendary Larry Gold.

She has done and seen a lot during her time at the famed space, some of which she can speak about. Some, she cannot.

Caitlin McCullough02What’s the most memorable thing that you’ve seen or experienced here?

Before [Late Night with Jimmy Fallon], The Roots were really present here at The Studio, really present in Philadelphia. Dice Raw came up to me and he was like, “Yo, Caitlin, we need a female to read the script and if you could just come back.” I went into the studio and I was asked to go sit next to him [Tariq Trotter, also known as Black Thought]. Basically, the skit was reading “Casablanca” but with Auto-Tune. It was me and Tariq just sitting, reading with Auto-Tune. I just remember kind of being in the middle of that and being like, “I can’t believe this is my job, like this is Wednesday…”

You look on the walls to see Grammy-nominated or Grammy-winning albums and triple platinum selling albums. How is it working somewhere that does stuff like that?

It’s a privilege to be a part of something like this.

What makes MilkBoy a place that artists from everywhere want to record?

I think it’s a level of quality. It all goes back to that saying, “You get what you pay for.” It’s definitely a combination of the work and the people that we have doing the work, in a respected place.

What’s the most rewarding thing you experience working here?

When all these rooms are filled and there’s music pouring out of all these rooms.

How does your background in recording and production help you manage the studio?

I can’t even call myself a musician. I’ve always been a fan of music. I was the kid who was buying CDs and reading liner notes and seeing where things were recorded. I always wanted to be a part of that but I wasn’t really sure how. How my training has helped me is just being able to have intelligent conversations about booking rooms.

Do you have a vision of what you would like to see come out of the studio?

Philly is a great music scene but as far as being able to live here and work in this field, it’s really hard. To have these artists move forward, as much as I would hate anyone to leave, that, to me, is more important.

Would you ever be afraid that this would be seen as a stepping stone studio for engineers, like where they’d be before going to NY or LA?

I think it could be looked at that way but I also think that if we’re a part of a story that’s much bigger than that, then I don’t take it as a slight by any means.

Caitlin McCullough01You’ve been here for eight years. How has music and the way things are recorded changed?

The whole music business itself has definitely changed. Even from when I started until now. We do get a lot of label artists in here but not with label budgets.

People walk around with portable studios. There’s GarageBand. People record in basements.It’s definitely a challenge for a studio like this to maintain itself when it is so tangible, so accessible, to just go anywhere. As far as the business side, it’s been a challenge to figure out where we fit in this world where people don’t have to pay anything to record.

What’s been your favorite thing recorded here?

I’m very partial to what Larry [Gold] has done here, as far as his arrangements. For me, being a part of The Studio and being able to see what Larry has done – and how long he’s been in this business, the level of artists he’s worked with – whenever I hear anything he’s done, I’m always amazed for sure.

I get excited when the producers are here. Like we had Salaam Remi, who did Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album. I kinda get more excited when I hear the producers and the people who are really creating the music. That’s what’s really important to me.

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