Q&A: Mason Jar Music's Dan Knobler And Jon Seale On Finding Space In New York And Rearranging Their Collaborators' Work


We tend to think of recording technology in terms of linear progress—from Alan Lomax lugging 150 pounds of equipment around the world, to plush professional studios like the Hit Factory and the Record Plant capturing rock history, to the Pro Tools-fueled rise of the home studio built with affordable digital gear.

But while all these innovations have sent those pursuing the perfect sound zooming off into the distant horizon, they've allowed others to come full circle. As the digital explosion has allowed artists to make professional-sounding records at a fraction of their former cost—wiping out dozens of studios in their wake—the relentless drive toward smaller, lighter, and cheaper gear has also sent artists back into the wild, so to speak. There, they've started rediscovering what the Lomax generation always knew: you don't need a pristine environment in order to create something beautiful.

It's this kind of thinking that has helped fuel projects like the Playing for Change series or Béla Fleck's documentary Throw Down Your Heart. And it's taking new root through Mason Jar Music, a Brooklyn-based collective dedicated to, in their words, "preserving analog principles in the digital age." The ways they pursue this ideal include Mason Jar Music Presents, a video series that places recording artists (the Wood Brothers, Abigail Washburn (above)) in unfamiliar environments—both musically and literally. We spoke with founders Dan Knobler and Jon Seale about the impetus behind the collective, how they pursue their vision, and—perhaps most importantly—the Kickstarter campaign they hope will provide some financial stability.

Let's start off by talking about Mason Jar Music in general. In broad terms, how would you describe what you're doing?

Dan: Well, Mason Jar Music itself is a larger organization that's sort of a collective of a lot of young creative professionals—you know, musicians, producers, and filmmakers. A lot of us went to NYU together—Jon and I went to the Clive Davis Department there—and we put ourselves together under the idea that rather than being a bunch of freelancers, we could create one name, one reputation, and attract larger-profile work than we would have been able to as individuals.

We do all kinds of things, from the big Mason Jar Music Presents series, to production for bands, to film scores and music for TV. The MJM Presents series is kind of our "big deal" project, so to speak.


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