Goat Mountain Studios – Landers, California
By Lisa Lynn Morgan
Photo Credit: Joe Barrett & Sandra Goodin
Building a destination recording studio in the middle of the California desert may not have been plan A for Pat and Susan Kearns. After all, Pat was a third-generation Portlander, making his living playing music and running a studio for the better part of his life. Born and raised in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, his artist/musician wife Susan moved to Portland in 2003, where she met and married Pat. Pat was a busy radio personality and sound engineer, producing albums for bands like The Exploding Hearts, The Soda Pop Kids, Jerry Joseph and The Jackmormons, and Pat MacDonald and The Nice Boys, while recording and touring with his own (Blue Skies for Black Hearts). Susan worked long hours as a beautician, but as hard as they worked, Portland had other plans for them.
The gentrification of Portland began in the early 2000s, and by 2010, the face of the area had changed drastically, along with its cost of living. The Kearns duo worked hard and constant, but eventually a change had to be made. In 2017, with a willingness to take a giant, risky leap together, Pat and Susan moved into a small cabin at the basin of Goat Mountain in Landers, California. Side by side, they labored over details and dollars to build Goat Mountain Studio. They succeeded in building an incredible creative space, and they created it completely off-grid.
While building the solar-powered studio, Pat Kearns recorded his album, Down in The Wash, in their 550 square foot solar-powered cabin that rests upon the same five acres as the studio. The album was released in 2019 and Kearns played shows across the UK and Scotland as well as California, Oregon, and Washington.
When the pandemic hit and locked things down, it may have knocked the wind out of the couple, but only for a moment. They regrouped quickly and set about perfecting the details of the studio, side-by-side, running cable, sanding floorboards, and treating walls. Meanwhile, Pat put his radio skills to work, with the only radio show in the Morongo Basin fully dedicated to airing local music. The show, which was recently bumped from one to two hours, broadcasts Sundays at 4pm on KCDZ 107.7FM in Joshua Tree.
In May of 2020, Kearns released a pandemic-inspired, missed connections single, “Bird on A Fence.” He tracked the song live in the bare, untreated live room of Goat Mountain by running cables to microphones from a recording setup in his cabin. Susan Kearns filmed the recording process, and the footage was used for the song’s video.
November 3, 2020, Goat Mountain held their first recording session once the studio was complete. “It was election day,” Pat recalls, “and we were recording Jimbo Mathus.”
As soon as Goat Mountain was operational, Kearns began working on tracks for what would become Getting Lost with Tim and Faith Chinnock (The Adobe Collective), Mark Breitenbach (Blue Skies For Black Hearts), Josh Sonntag (Draco Rosa, Gustavo Galindo), and Denny Weston Jr. (Santana, KT Tunstall, Robert Palmer). Susan Kearns plays upright and electric bass. The album opens with a cover of Gene Autry’s “Riding Down the Canyon” and takes the listener on a journey through self-destruction (“If Living Don’t Kill Us”), the joys of listening to the radio (“Music on the Radio”), and the difficulty of writing songs (“A Good Love Song”). The loneliness of the open desert is present in the music and lyrics throughout the album. Getting Lost will be released summer of 2022.
Walking into the studio, you are transported immediately. The artistic design touches, the high ceilings, and pristine, cool ambiance would make you forget you just drove down a long dirt road to get there. However, beautiful picture windows and glass walls celebrating their unique and unhindered view of the desert, are an inspiring reminder. A small sink and workstation create a beautiful space for Susan to work her hair salon magic. As you continue walking through the building, you’ll find yourself in the engineering room where you’re greeted by a massive mixing board and all the accompaniments. This is where Pat works his magic. It is a room that looks like it could double as a command deck for the Spaceship Enterprise. Spacious and well-equipped, it is a far cry from the typical walled up engineering booth built for just a few people. A sliding glass door leads into a huge room, acoustically-adorned and decorated with everything you could possibly need to create great music. It has more than enough space for a full band to play and record together. It is a space you don’t tire of being in, with a comfortable seating area that beckons you to take a breath as you gaze out into the desertscape Greater Joshua Tree area is famous for. With ceiling to floor views, it is the next best thing to recording out under the desert sky.
The studio is built on the idea that old technology and new technology, plus room to create, results in great recordings. “We have an AMEK Angela console (that’s the one that first caught Rupert Nerve’s ear) that was built in 1985 paired with the cutting-edge tech of BURL digital converters,“ shares Pat. “We can record or play back 24 simultaneous channels of audio. For recording, we specialize in capturing the true, live interplay between musicians. Our large live room plus two sizable, isolated rooms give us plenty of room for both performance and separation of individual tracks.”
To date, the studio has been the creation station for several projects:
Bright Brown, a NYC based songwriter and progressive rocker who plays Chapman Stick (his band includes Seal’s band leader and session whiz, Jamie Muhoberac)
Power pop/punk rock artist, Terry Six (Exploding Hearts lead guitar player and Nice Boys’ front man)
Louise Goffin – singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, Grammy award winning producer, and daughter of Carol King and Gerry Goffin.
Gabriel Hart – singer, songwriter (of the band Jail Weddings)
Leslie Jordan/Travis Howard – radio show hosts/producers
This Lonesome Paradise – Western noir music, produced by Taylor Kirk (Timber Timbre) and engineered by Bart Budwig.
Pat MacDonald – Formerly of Timbuk 3 (Pat recently remixed the 2007 album, Troubadour of Stomp. He engineered and produced the original recording.
There is a warm and unique kind of charm to Goat Mountain Studio, which starts with the booking process. “To book a tour or discuss studio time, it’s best to call,” Pat says. “We like to get to know you before you make the journey all the way out to us. You can also reach out via email or IG messenger.”
Phone: (503) 962 0321
To learn more, go to goatmt.com