This is a feature from the January/February 2017 issue of Guitar Aficionado magazine. For this complete story and more photos, plus features on the unique artistry and dedication of Tokyo’s ESP Custom Shop, Kentucky Headhunters lead guitarist Greg Martin and his fine vintage guitars; producer/guitarist Daniel Lanois and his passion for pedal-steel guitars, motorcycles, and recording technology… plus much more, pick up the new issue of Guitar Aficionado at your newsstand, or online by clicking anywhere in this text.
GIANT STEPS: MLB pitcher JAKE PEAVY is a two-time World Series champion, but to local musicians, disadvantaged youths, and military veterans, he’s a world-class hero.
By Dan Epstein | Photos by John Fulton
“Music, to me, is the polar opposite of playing baseball,” San Francisco Giants pitcher Jake Peavy says. “It’s not competitive; it’s something to be shared. Playing music is just as intense as baseball for me, and I take it just as seriously, but it’s also been a noncompetitive release for me at the end of a lot of days.”
A three-time All Star, two-time World Series champion (earning rings with the 2013 Boston Red Sox and the 2014 Giants) and winner of the 2007 National League Cy Young Award, Peavy has more than made his mark in the big leagues. Now, the 35-year-old right-hander is trying to make a musical mark on his hometown of Mobile, Alabama.
A passionate music fan, avid guitar collector, and occasional performer with his band, the Outsiders, Peavy recently opened Dauphin Street Sound, Mobile’s first world-class recording facility. Designed by Gavin Haverstick of Haverstick Designs and Dauphin Street Sound chief engineer Keylan Laxton, the facility’s two studios feature Acoustical Fulfillment’s Flex-48 Adaptive Treatment System, which provides customizable variable acoustics in its live rooms and isolation booths. Outfitted with recording desks, monitors, and microphones hand-picked by Trina Shoemaker, the three-time Grammy-winner (Sheryl Crow, Stephen Curtis Chapman) who has joined the Dauphin Street Sound team as producer and engineer, the rustic-feeling complex also houses an impressive array of vintage guitars. Among the instruments are several rare axes from Peavy’s personal collection, including a 1955 Fender Telecaster (possibly the first Tele with a sunburst finish), a 1954 Fender Stratocaster previously owned by Eric Johnson, a 1956 Strat with original blonde finish and ash body, and a 1969 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe gold-top.
“This is not a guitar collection that sits hoarded at my house that I just share with my buddies when they come over,” Peavy explains. “These are workingman’s instruments, and they’re meant to be played and shared. If you record here in the studio, you can play ’em.” (Many of the guitars are also available for purchase via the Dauphin Street Sound website.)
If this all sounds like a recording musician’s dream, well, that’s been the intention since the spring of 2015, when Peavy bought and began renovating the storefront property at 651 Dauphin Street, in the heart of Mobile’s downtown entertainment district. Having recently moved back to Alabama (his home is the Southern Falls Plantation, a few hours drive from Mobile in Hartford, Alabama), Peavy needed a local office for the Jake Peavy Foundation, the charitable foundation he established in 2012 that primarily works with (and raises money for) disadvantaged youth and military veterans. The sprawling single-story building on Dauphin Street turned out to be the perfect fit. And, as it happened, the structure had formerly housed a small recording studio. “Of course, my team’s gonna find some offices with half of a makeshift studio in there already!” Peavy says, with a laugh. “I was like, ‘We could put a little money into it, and have a great one.’”
“There’s an incredible amount of talent down here,” says Dauphin Street Sound studio manager Ben Jernigan, a veteran of the Mobile music scene who plays lead guitar in Peavy’s band. “It’s a really thriving creative environment, but every time something really cool starts happening, it runs off to Nashville or Atlanta or New Orleans. We realized that if you’re going to keep musicians in Mobile rather than just have them passing through, you’ve gotta have a place for them to capture the music they’re making.”
“It’s a 300-year-old city,” Peavy adds, “so it has some history, soul, and spirit. But musically, we really haven’t had anything other than [Seventies southern rock band] Wet Willie coming out of here that’s a bona fide rock star. You have to have a place for music to be born out of, and I want this studio to be a home for artists of any genre. Come in and be yourself, and you’re going to be surrounded by people who want to let your artistic juices flow and make real music that you’re proud of.”