Music scene jumping in Middleburg

Christina Kelso         July 27, 2013         The Florida Times-Union
Christopher Würth, co-founder and chief engineer of CNA Audio, adjusts audio equipment in his Middleburg studio.

MIDDLEBURG | A walk along the dusty backroads of Middleburg can be a silent one. The wind seems to stir the sleepy small town air, carrying only the occasional hound dog howl or engine rev.

But for local musicians, it’s clear that the town is, in fact, in no short supply of sound waves. They weave just under the surface of the community, through a flourishing underground music scene. At any given moment, an eclectic population of musicians, armed with guitars, drums, violins, bass guitars and the occasional cowbell, is tuning up, ready to make some noise.

It’s a scene that studio artists Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Würth aim to capture.

“Middleburg has a pretty diverse musical environment,” said Würth, co-founder and chief engineer of CNA Audio. “There are always new musicians springing out of the area.”

Working from a home-based studio off Hibiscus Avenue, affectionately dubbed “the red room,” Würth and Sullivan operate CNA Audio, a small business that specializes in tracking, mixing and mastering services for local musicians.

Born and raised in Middleburg, the childhood friends developed a love for music early in life.

“It’s where my heart lies,” Würth said.

Inside the walls of their studio, they send sound waves spiraling. Using them like paint against an invisible canvas, they slam them into the studio equipment.

“The nicest thing about working out here is the privacy and the freedom,” Würth said. “I can sit there until 4 in the morning and mix and master as loud as I need
to. I couldn’t do that in a city.”

The duo have recorded all types of music, from the rhythms of rock and rap to the twangs of country.

Andrew Sullivan (left) and Christopher Würth help local bands record in their studio.  (Christina Kelso, The Florida Times-Union)

“You never, ever do the same thing twice,” Würth said. “It’s always a different method of recording, a different mix. You’re helping somebody create something. When they hear it, the end product and are really excited about it, it’s pretty awesome.”

Within the past year and a half, a variety of musicians from as far away as Jacksonville Beach have traveled to record with CNA Studio. These include Jacksonville Beach-based punk band Poor Richards, alternative rock duet Surviving September, Christian rap artist Jonathan Edens, acoustic country cover artist Zeb Padgett and praise music artist Aaron Reeder. Würth has also worked on tracking and initial audio engineering with alternative rock band The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

“I think — actually, I know — that when some people who don’t live in Middleburg think about the music here, they want to throw it all into a stereotype that we are all just a bunch of hillbillies and all we play is country music and banjo music, but that is really not the case,” Würth said.

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus is the biggest band to come out of the Middleburg scene. Band members found their musical beginnings in the Wilkinson Junior High School and Middleburg High School bands, and within a close network of local musicians.

“There’s always been a cool rock scene just on the underground level,” said Ronnie Winter, Middleburg resident and lead vocalist for Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. “You’d be surprised.”

Since forming in 2003, the band has frequented the Billboard charts, released four full albums with “Don’t You Fake It” certified gold in 2006 and toured throughout the U.S. and Canada. The band is preparing to kick off its first world tour in August.

Christopher Würth, co-founder and chief engineer of CNA Audio, strums a guitar in his Middleburg studio. (Christina Kelso/ The Florida Times-Union)

Before hitting the road again, the band members are enjoying a summer off and the sense of calm and home that Middleburg has always provided for them, Winter said.

“It has one of the best night skies all over the country and all over the world,” Winter said. “You can really see the stars. I always miss that the most. The first thing I think of is Black Creek at night, with the stars. There’s really nothing else like it. That’s pretty radical to me.”

For the musicians getting their start, whether they are strumming guitar strings along the Black Creek shore, playing at a local dive bar, or scribbling down a composition on a fast food napkin, both Würth and Winter encouraged upcoming musicians to not see their surroundings as a disadvantage but to embrace them, and use them to their benefit.

“If it’s not you then it’s somebody else,” Winter said. “Whether you grew up somewhere like Middleburg or New York City, there are always so many slots, and once you realize it has to be you or somebody else then you’ve got to make it you, no matter where you’re from.”