Emily and Ryan Ordway in the mixing room at The Recording Club at The Studio. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and audio engineer Ryan Ordway has been obsessed with the art of recording for many years. Now, he and his wife, Emily, run a world-class studio in downtown Portland called The Recording Club at The Studio.

In New Hampshire and then Maine, Ryan designed and built three recording studios. Then, during the pandemic lockdown in the summer of 2020, he made a cold call that changed everything.

Ryan reached out to Dave Hembre who owns the building on Casco Street that houses The Studio, a then-mostly-dormant recording space. Ryan explained who he was and what he and Emily’s hoped to do. Hembre liked what he heard enough to let the Ordways sign a long-term lease and take over the space.

“Over the last few years, we have put everything, all of our savings and a lot of sweat equity on the line and into our dream,” said Emily, who also is thankful for the help of their business partners, Thorn and Amanda Dickinson.

Their biggest purchase was an elite $150,000 API digital recording console – an enormous piece of equipment with hundreds of knobs, buttons and circuits that help make an album sound the way it should. Another $20,000 worth of cables is part of the setup, which is similar to what bands like Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac used to record some of their albums.

Close-up of the console at The Recording Club at The Studio in Portland. Photo by Ryan Ordway

Ryan said he chose an analog console over digital because it provides a more three-dimensional recording. “When you listen to playback on an analog console, it’s round, it’s warm, it’s clear and it’s focused without being harsh.” The output is recorded digitally, but the gear recording it is similar to what was used in the ’60s.


Thankfully, the Casco Street location has the square footage to house everything Ryan envisioned.

“This has got enough space that you can put the kind of gear and equipment that we have here that you would find in studios in Nashville or New York,” said Ryan.

The Ordways studio also has a state-of-the-art system of monitors (speakers) that make recording sessions all the better for the musicians laying down the tracks.

The Studio has been around since the mid-’80s. Although technically still in operation before the Ordways took over toward the end of 2020, it was mostly dormant and in need of major updating. The Ordways kept The Studio as part of the name to honor its history.

“We were fortunate to have partners step forward to help us undertake an ambitious remodel of the studio because they believe so strongly in both our mission to serve the community and in the viability of the music catalogue we are building,” said Emily.

Emily credits Ryan with being mastermind, foreman and crew of the remodel project and for working around the clock for several months with a dedicated crew of students and a team of studio regulars, including bassist Stu Mahan and student/assistant engineer Logan MacDonald.


The mixing room where producers and engineers work during recording sessions at The Recording Club in Portland. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

The Recording Club occasionally hosts nationally touring artists who perform acoustic shows for radio station WCLZ. When Grace Potter walked in last month, she couldn’t contain her joy, Emily said. “This looks like a place people come to get (expletive) done,” said Potter, who regretted that her husband, well-known producer Eric Valentine, wasn’t there to see it.

Grace Potter at The Recording Club at The Studio on January 19. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

There’s another reason why the Ordways stocked their space with high-end equipment. “We’re training future engineers and producers, and training on equipment like this is going to help them understand the sound, principles and dynamics of what they’re doing,” said Emily.

Ryan shared that, later this year, two high-profile acts that he wouldn’t divulge will be using the space to record their next albums.

But it’s not just the established, national acts that the Ordways hope to attract.

“Our studio is designed to work with artists who are at the highest level of their craft, along with emerging and aspiring artists, engineers and producers,” said Emily.

Some Maine acts who have recorded in the space include King Kyote, 12/OC, The Mallett Brothers Band and Griffin Sherry.


Live recording room at The Recording Club at The Studio in Portland. Photo by Ryan Ordway

Last year, 20-year-old South Portland singer-songwriter Antoinette Hinitt, who is now studying at New York University, recorded her single “Casco Bay” at The Recording Club. Ryan, a longtime singer-songwriter, co-wrote it with her. Emily said these kind of sessions are part of the studio’s artist development program. Up-and-coming artists are offered a special package where they come in and Ryan works with them to instill confidence by hands-on help with things like lyrics and song arrangements. “We can take an artist who has never worked in a studio but has great talent and is starting to write good songs,” said Emily.

“Working with Ryan and Emily at The Studio has been incredibly grounding. I could tell right off the bat that they created an environment for me to be authentic and to comfortably explore new sides of my artistry,” said Hinitt. “I feel like they really care about the music I’m making, and I never feel like my ideas aren’t worth chasing. I am grateful for Ryan’s patience and assistance in crafting my sound and image as an artist.”

“It’s really important to convey that the reason we’ve taken this insane endeavor on ourselves is to foster community and to foster collaboration because some of the best records that were made in the ’60s were done where all of the people who were making music were coming in and out of the same spaces,” said Emily.

Ryan said he hopes to inspire the kind of musical cross-pollination that he’s seen first hand in Nashville, where studio owners, producers and others involved with music regularly collaborate.

The Recording Club at The Studio sure seems like a a solid step in that direction.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.