Kevin Rose has been an instrumental force in the Savannah music scene and community for over thirty years. He is the owner of popular recording studio Elevated Basement, does sound engineering for the Savannah Music Festival, and also owns his own fishing charter company called Telecaster Charters.
Here, he talks about his musical influences and those who helped him learn guitar, his three main gigs, and a bunch of upcoming projects.
My favorite records are the ones where the artists just make it happen and you are the clerk capturing all of the goods to the recording medium
What are some of your earliest musical memories?
That’s a tricky one, I grew up with four much older siblings and a mother that loved jazz. She had the most amazing voice, that’s the primary influence in my life but when I finally landed on guitar after trying drums, trumpet, piano and a few other instruments a few guitarists influenced me considerably. Mike Campbell, Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd and Robert Quine were all guitarists I let into my filter but horn players were always my inspiration for phrasing and melody. Robert Fripp deserves mention as well, he’s a complete polar opposite of most everyone out there.
How did you learn to play guitar and/or who taught you?
I learned guitar by locking myself in my parents basement and ignoring cries from my roommates to stop. My first official guitar teacher was this crazy good guitarist named John Varney. He was very religious (refused to play out) and introduced me to Majavishnu Orchestra and could play anything in their catalog. So he’s one of those people with immense talent and the only people who heard him play were his students and his mom. Later on, I took lessons from Buddy Owens who’s a phenomenal guitarist from Savannah.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
As a lover of music, I think it all has an influence on me, my taste is all over the map and that filter sees all of it. Coltrane, Sun Ra, Eastern European music and anyone who plays with passion is an influence on me. There are so many threads between genres and weaving between them has always interested me and is occasionally injected into my compositions.
Live recording isn’t easy, it’s flying by the seat of your pants and craziness can happen at any moment
Talk a bit about Elevated Basement Studios …
Elevated Basement Studio has been a part of my life for a long time, I’ve been fortunate to have been blessed with great coworkers, amazing clients and a town where the scene continues to grow and diversify. The goal for the studio is to have a great sounding room, great mic collection and recording/mix chain and a respectful approach to every artist who walks through the door. In my 32 years doing this I’ve found there are two types of engineers: The ones who magnify the artist and their music and the ones who put their stamp on the artist like some sort of production cookie cutter. It takes a hell of a lot of selflessness and experience to learn to be the magnifier and every day that’s part of our lesson plan at the studio. Being as hands on or as transparent as possible depending on the artists wishes and needs is a big part of the philosophy and my favorite records are the ones where the artists just make it happen and you are the clerk capturing all of the goods to the recording medium.
Talk a bit about being a recording engineer for the Savannah Music Festival …
Recording the artists playing the festival is a complete dream. Capturing performances by virtuoso musicians and composers is something I am eternally grateful for. Live recording isn’t easy, it’s flying by the seat of your pants and craziness can happen at any moment. After 17 years I’ve been privileged to track some of the worlds best musicians, essentially getting paid to listen to amazing music. Working in the trenches has helped me immensely in the studio but since I spent a lot of time in live sound and studio settings both of those skill sets come into play whether it’s tracking down line noise or fixing a Rhodes Piano with a part from a hi-hat stand. My unofficial job title is Swiss Army Knife, in a live setting everyone has to be ready to make the show go on, no matter what it takes.
Talk a bit about Telecaster Charters …
Telecaster Charters was born out of the necessity to support my family after the 2008 recession took hold. Fishing has been in my blood since I was a toddler and learning the waters here has been an amazing challenge. It offers me a chance to get outside, meet people, entertain them and get out of the windowless room for a while. It’s a passion and a profession, just like music.
After that the rest is history, I’ve been a proponent and foot soldier of this scene ever since
How did you get your start in the Savannah music scene?
My start in the scene was through a band I started in 1986 with some friends, one of which I still play in a band with to this day. We were called Mr. Green Genes and that band later went on to morph into a more serious group called City of Lindas which made some pretty cool music and toured quite a bit. After that the rest is history, I’ve been a proponent and foot soldier of this scene ever since.
Are there any Savannah artists you haven’t worked with, but would love to collaborate with?
It would be easier to name artists I don’t want to collaborate with. The part of the artistic process that interests me the most is the collaboration and when it leads to a sum greater than the sum of its parts. My goal in 2020 is to play more music and so far that’s been working out great.
The scene has never been more diverse and strong
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Savannah music scene?
The scene has never been more diverse and strong. It’s been fascinating watching the scene grow, morph and change over the years, so many bands I’ve seen lately have been so amazing. I love to see the roots planted by others in the past growing into strong trees of the present.
Any upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
I always try to remind people they can hear a lot of the Music Festival shows on their website and NPR but I’ve been tracking some cool stuff that deserves mention. The Etienne Charles Quartet record is in the final stages before pressing, it features four virtuoso’s from all over the globe making a wonderful blend of Jazz and World music. I’m currently recording, producing and playing guitar on Eric Britt’s new solo record, we’re getting into the mix stage here soon, it’s a great homage to his old band Hazel Virtue while visiting more recent compositions, it should be out fairly soon. Tonight, I’m heading into the studio with Laura Pleasants (ex Kylesa) to work on a tune on her upcoming vinyl release under the name The Discussion. It’s been stimulating to work with someone who has recorded in a lot of different environs and knows what she’s after. That should be out soon.