Tom Ware keeps building on his successes on the control room side of the recording studio glass.
Ware and his wife Terri have owned the Warehouse Productions for almost 20 years now, Ware says.
“We’re still here beating the odds,” Ware says.
While Ware says there’s always been the thought he’d eventually have to grow up and get a real job, he’s still making a living behind the recording console.
“This is not the business for stability,” he says. “I’m hopelessly addicted, like a meth addict.”
Right now, the spotlight is shining on the multi-faceted studio at 206 S. 44th St. and Ware himself, thanks to Lady Gaga and a Grammy Award nomination.
The vocal and piano takes on Gaga’s “You & I” were recording at Warehouse in a daylong session engineered and mixed by Ware. It will be up for “Best Pop Solo Performance”, which will be awarded Sunday, Feb. 12th during the televised portion of the Grammy Awards.
Locally, the accolade has meant renewed attention to what has become one of Omaha’s premier recording studios. The midtown studio space has hosted countless local bands, produced tons of commercials and even provided audio for nationally-broadcast cartoons.
Ware worked for the studio prior to owning it. Then it was called DigiSound and owned by Jim Morgan.
The studio was originally built in the mid-1960s by Don Sears and legendary studio designer Bill Putnam. In the studio, Chip Davis sowed the musical seeds that would grow Mannheim Steamroller and American Gramaphone. Along the way, Davis brought in Mason Williams to remake his “Classical Gas” in 1987 and co-wrote “Convoy”, the trucker song sung by C.W. McCall.
But when Morgan died unexpectantly, Ware was able to keep the studio thriving by purchasing it himself.
“My wife and I took everything we could beg borrow and steal and bought the business,” Ware says.
Before Ware started working at the studio, he drummed in bands and then starting learning how to run soundboards at live shows. Eventually, he ended up working at Aksarben during shows on the race track.
Ware still continues to work on his own jazzy prog-rock music, a highly-synocopated mix of synth sounds and live drumming. His Tom Ware Publishing arm has also licensed background music written by Ware and keyboardist Andy Street to Fox’s American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance?
In addition to music, Warehouse has the space for recording voice tracks for broadcasting in its Studio B space. Actor Danny Glover has worked in the studio and so as Warren Buffett, who records there for the yearly Berkshire Hathaway shareholder cartoons. Larry the Cable Guy has recorded there for Pixar animated shorts, as well.
The diversity of jumping between music, commercials, radio spots and other vocal work has been a boost to the studio, Ware says.
“It’s one of the reasons i’ve been able to stay here,” Ware says.
The Gaga session ended up coming up just as she was finishing up work on 2011’s Born This Way. Gaga had to get the song to producer Mutt Lange, so she booked the time around her March concert in Omaha.
At first, Ware said no to the sessions, after Gaga’s team presented him with a lengthy non-disclosure agreement for the session. Ware says he agreed to have the session after calling back to say no. In the end, the session turned out wonderful, he says.
Once the time was booked, Lady Gaga’s sound team sent Ware a schematic for how they needed the studio space set for the recording process, with the idea being that they would provide an engineer for the session.
After seeing Ware’s meticulous set-up, Lady Gaga’s team decided it would work best if Ware engineered and mixed the entire session.
Ware says he had an open mind about what to expect from Lady Gaga, but was pleasantly surprised by the laidback, but professional session that ensued.
“Anything could have happened and I wouldn’t have been shocked,” Ware says.
Now, Ware is back to a steady mix of local and regional work, including a Monday morning session with Little Joe and Big Trouble, an Omaha blues band.
Ware hits buttons and adjusts computer screen recording levels with speed and accuracy, as if the sound board is dialed into muscle memory.
“It’s just kind of become second nature,” Ware says.
Ware and the album’s producer Steve Dallas toss out encouragement as singer Joe McCarthy adds slide guitar onto “That Don’t Work For Me,” a honey-stole-my-money blues banger. The band works in the same 40,000 cubic feet Studio A as Gaga did nearly a year previous.
Dallas says the band feels lucky to have the studio time now, as they anticipate Ware’s schedule getting even busier in the coming days.
“(Soon) We don’t know if we’ll even be able to book time with him,” Dallas quips.