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Building Momentum: Brothers build up new Eau Claire recording studio, Journeyman

Eric Christenson

Brothers Gabe and Nick Larson of the band Waldemar built a recording studio called Journeyman in a former Eau Claire horse shed that was built in the 1880s.
Brothers Gabe and Nick Larson of the band Waldemar built a recording studio called Journeyman in a former Eau Claire horse shed that was built in the 1880s.

Now that Journeyman, a recording studio in Eau Claire’s North Side Hill neighborhood, is up and running – its owners, brothers Gabe and Nick Larson, find themselves nostalgic for the construction phase. The frozen nights bumping Willie Nelson while wiring outlets, teaching themselves to hang drywall, installing light fixtures, and dreaming of the music that would be made there one day.

“Building something is so objective. There’s an unfinished, and there’s a finished. It’s pretty clear-cut. Making music is the exact opposite of that in a lot of ways. It’s so abstract – just like people. People are constant works in progress.” – Gabe Larson, Journeyman

Between the two of them – not to mention the guidance of the building materials department at Menards West and the endless wisdom of YouTube tutorials – they remodeled a two-story, vine-blanketed horse shed in Gabe’s backyard that was built with the rest of the neighborhood in the 1880s. They fashioned a cozy studio out of it, with a ground-level live room and an upstairs control room accessible by an exterior staircase, or if you’re feeling adventurous, a ladder.

Artists themselves, Gabe and Nick are in a spacey folk rock band called Waldemar, which found some cool nationwide attention for their debut EP, Visions, back at the tail-end of 2016. Since then, they saved up a pile of money to record a full-length album by finishing hardwood floors and roofing houses (larsonbrothersflooring.com) – but when their plans to hit the studio got logistically derailed, they decided to take their hammer-and-nail skills to the next level and build their own, hence the name: Journeyman.

“Building something is so objective,” Gabe said. “There’s an unfinished, and there’s a finished. It’s pretty clear-cut. Making music is the exact opposite of that in a lot of ways. It’s so abstract – just like people. People are constant works in progress.”

The brothers each have in-studio experience, having assisted recording sessions with notable Chippewa Valley engineers in the past – Nick with Brian Joseph at Hive, and Gabe with Evan Middlesworth at Pine Hollow. They secured some solid recording gear, collected their instruments – they even got a mini grand piano – and just like that, their dream of building a studio in that old horse shed was coming true before their eyes.

Gabe’s house is a duplex; he and his wife live in one half and the other they list on Airbnb. He envisions the future of this place as a synergistic musical hub, where locals can pop in and out working on projects, while out-of-town bands could actually live in the Airbnb for a week, two weeks, a month at a time while they crank out music.

The live room of the studio is windowless and upstairs the view is mostly tree branches, which has a kind of magical transportive effect, especially at night. If you’re there working on music, even though you’re smack dab in the middle of a busy neighborhood, just a block or two from Sue’s Bake Shop, you feel isolated, almost as if there’s no city around you at all.

“The idea is to lose, a little bit, your sense of time. Especially downstairs,” Nick said. “It makes you really focused on what you’re working on. There’s times where I step outside and I’m like ‘I’m really in the middle of this city right now.’ ”

Since officially kicking off in October, Journeyman has its first few sessions behind it, and Gabe and Nick are hard at work polishing new Waldemar songs as well. As their client list grows little by little, so too does their list of Phase II construction projects, including a larger upstairs deck area and a separate isolated mixing room, meaning that two projects could ostensibly be worked on at once.

But that’s all in the future. For now, the brothers are proud of the work they’ve done, grateful for the opportunity to be a resource in this music scene, and ready to strap in and make some great music.

“I still haven’t gotten over this feeling of loving being in here,” Gabe said. “Every time I spend time in here working on stuff, writing music, even just playing guitar, it just feels so good being in here.”

To learn more about Journeyman, check out the studio’s website at
audiojourneyman.com.