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Master of Mastering

The TreeCave, Justin Marra’s recording studio in Rumford, draws artists from across the Northeast

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Justin Marra is laying tracks – a lot of tracks. An active singer-songwriter, Marra has a good deal of experience producing his own albums, but he’s recently taken his engineering skills to a new level: Marra owns The TreeCave, a full-service recording studio in Rumford, with his wife, actress Elise Arsenault.

“I’ve been playing music throughout New England and writing music since I was fifteen,” says Marra, who has dramatically expanded his creative network since opening TreeCave. “I’ve been fortunate to work with good friends who’ve become collaborators and collaborators who’ve become good friends. A career as a gigging musician was always just out of reach until right about the same time my wife and I opened The TreeCave.”

The TreeCave doesn’t just focus on music, though. The couple does a range of audio recording, including voiceover work and audiobooks. “My passion is still getting instruments in the room,” says Marra. “We’ve got the perfect setup for a three-piece to come in and track, but I’m really having fun recording voiceover demos; every project is different and it’s a really quick process.”

Audiobooks have seen a new level of popularity, but the process of audiobook recording isn’t so streamlined. “Today, most narrators self-record. For a five-hour book, it could take anywhere from two days to a little over a week, depending on the narrator and their schedule. They send that off to a proofer, who checks the performance against the manuscript and sends any corrections back to the narrator to re-record. After that it gets sent to me [the editor] who takes out any errant breaths, scrubs the audio clean, and masters the book to specs. Most people think you just sit down, hit record, and 200 pages later you’re done. It’s a process.”

The TreeCave is located just outside Providence, but most of their customer base comes from beyond the Ocean State. “Yes, most all our clients are from outside Rhode Island,” marvels Marra. “It’s mind-boggling to me. RI artists tend to run to the major markets for something they could have done right here at any number of studios – but then all these really talented artists from NYC and Boston come out here. I think it’s a case of expectations and the grass being greener in their mind.” Rumford