Hidden in a rural niche in Denton is a russet, brick office building that looks vacant. The only identifying feature is the oversized 2408 above the door, but even that is brown and uninviting. But as any after-school program will tell you, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and on the other side of the unlit, unimpressive front is a cutting-edge sound studio with more flashing lights than a ‘70s sci-fi flick.
The studio -- ReelTime Audio -- is home to Eric Delegard, who has been laying down tracks in Denton since ’86. He’s recorded more artists than any other two Denton studios combined and without a penny spent on advertisement. Delegard’s hallway boasts his accomplishments with DFW bands; records from groups who landed on major labels and movie soundtracks line the walls. And the Grammy quietly shining beneath his 32-inch LCD computer monitor is proof he’s not just another joker with an 8-track. He finds the stuff that sells and puts in on wax.
But if the idea of Grammy nominations, hobnobbing with rockers and working your own hours sounds like sweet deal, Delegard will be the first to tell you not to quit your day job and blow 30 grand on recording gear. From the day he came to college in Texas back when Metallica still had long hair, he’s been paying his dues. Starting with a reel-to-reel recording rig set up in an old church converted into a duplex.
Now in the unassuming building at 2408, the days are long on average and “hell” on occasions when bands from out of town come to get their stuff done in three or four straight days of recording. The only thing that could make a 17-hour work day worse is if the band is crappy. Luckily, he has the luxury of turning down the crap bands.
With 400+ clients, including North Texas mainstay Brave Combo, who has been featured on countless movie, commercial and T.V. show soundtracks, business would seem to be booming, right?
“Sometimes it’s hard to pay the bills,” he says, motioning to the sprawling computers and recording gear that power his music-making haven. “I have to run the A/C 365 days a year in here. I never turn anything off, because stuff only breaks in that moment right when you turn it on. The bills get pretty steep.”
Aside from Brave Combo projects and garage bands, bringing in the cash takes a little extra care. “I have to have my fingers in a lot of pies,” he says, but the real trick is finding the right flavor pies. In the ‘90s, he plucked the one-hit wonders Deep Blue Something out of obscurity and convinced the group to put its only hit, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” on the album. With Delegard’s help the band got a lucrative record deal, but Delegard doesn’t mind pointing out that when the band left him to re-record the album under its new label, the band actually credited someone else as the producer. Delegard was practically erased from the Deep Blue Something pages, except that the band’s first album -- recorded for $700 -- still hangs by the front door as a reminder of the industry’s cruel nature.
Other bands Delegard scooped up and helped establish music careers include:
were pure entertainers,” Delegard says. “They were throwing picks around and everything.” Signed to Jive Records.
Edgewater Delegard saw the group play in Denton and recorded a jump-start album. The group was picked up by Windup Records and snagged a song on Punisher soundtrack.
Element Eighty “They sent me a cassette tape that I thought was crap,” Delegard admits. “I took them on as a lark, but they got better every time I heard them—like an inspirational Disney movie.” Snagged by Universal Records.
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The Feds Delegard saw them in Dallas, and they recorded one song together, “My Texas.” “It was crazy to see labels flock to Denton after that song got around,” he says. Capital grabbed them.
Submersed “They never even played a show, but they came in. I even played bass on the record,” Delegard says. “The demo leaked onto the Internet and the White Stripes’ manager picked them up.” The band had its pick of labels at SXSW a few months later.
Cross Canadian Ragweed “When we did Purple, Jason Boland, No Justice and some other bands from Oklahoma were coming down,” Delegard says. “We were on the front of the red dirt music scene.” CCR was nabbed by Universal South.
So who’s next on the radar for Delegard? He recently found a local Denton crew called Darcy who he says has music with “a lot of integrity and staying power.” We don’t know if Darcy is destined to go up on Delegard’s wall of major label pick-ups, but we’ll be listening. -- Dustin Aguilar