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Food truck turned mobile recording studio opens doors to musicians

From the inside, American University's Humanities Truck may look like a typical recording studio – but from the outside, it’s far from it.
Painted bright red on its exterior, American University’s Humanities Truck is a mobile recording studio that is aiming to capture local music, which may otherwise not get recorded.
For several months now, the Humanities Truck – a converted food truck -- has been rolling into communities and musicians’ lives, allowing them to record their music for free. The program is called "Out of Their Shells."
Inside the soundproof truck, guitarist Quintin Knox lays down his track for the song, "I like it Raw," written by Ronald Scott from a local band called "Raw."
Posted at 1:18 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 13:18:17-04

HYATTSVILLE, Md. — To bring a song to life, a musician’s smooth sounds meet a sound engineer’s high tech.

From the inside, it may look like it’s happening in a typical recording studio – but from the outside, it’s far from it.

The song recordings are all taking place on four wheels.

“This is so cool, man,” said guitarist Quintin Knox. “I want one.”

Painted bright red on its exterior, American University’s Humanities Truck is a mobile recording studio that is helping to capture local music, which may otherwise not get recorded.

“Our engineer, Neil [Perry], worked at The Hit Factory in New York for over 20 years, where he recorded David Bowie and Mariah Carey and Prince,” said Aram Sinnreich, a professor at American University. “We're trying to take a sonic snapshot.”

He came up with the recording music program called “Out of Their Shells.” For several months now, the Humanities Truck – a converted food truck -- has been rolling into communities and musicians’ lives, allowing them to record their music for free.

“The idea is musicians - we've all been locked up in our homes for two years now, not playing shows, not going to recording studios, not being able to interact with our communities,” Simmreich said, “and this truck is kind of pulling people out of their shells.”

One of those coming out of their shell is Ronald Scott.

“It sounded really, really good,” he said.

Scott, along with the musicians, are part of the band called “Raw.” He wrote the song getting recorded, called “I like it Raw.”

“The fact that we've been shut down for so long, this is almost like sort of a busting out, if you will,” Scott said.

Inside the soundproof truck, saxophonist Sharon Thomas lays down her track for the song.

“This is the first time that I have recorded in a van,” she said. “It's pretty cool, though!”

Sinnreich says he would like to see the program expand to musicians in more states, with the idea of giving as many different musical styles as possible a chance to shine.

“We're also recording Ethiopian music. We're recording Muslim Women's music. We're recording jazz and hip hop and kids’ music,” he said.

And the sound quality?

“Awesome,” Scott said, after listening to the recordings through a set of headphones. “I was very pleased with it.”

It’s a reaction that is music to the ears of those making it happen.

“I want to give the musicians a sense of hope for the future, a sense that there's life after COVID and that they can jump start their musical lives again,” Sinnreich said.

As musicians reach for a new beginning, it gives them a chance to hit the right note once more.