By Natalie Rickman
My working day experience at Crown Lane Studio, as part of our 25th birthday celebrations – finding out about our members from the inside!
John and Ruth Merriman, owners of Crown Lane Studio, kindly let me join them on a Tuesday afternoon, and what a lovely experience it was! I had never been to Crown Lane before and walking from the station I wasn’t sure what to expect, having been told it was in the back of a café! But I was pleasantly surprised. Walking through the doors of Tariro Coffee House to the smell of fresh coffee, the lady at the counter greeted me with a smile as I made a swift exit behind her once I saw the Crown Lane Studio sign in big writing on the wall.
Once inside the studio, John introduced me to Hannah, who was recording for the day in their intimate studio. She is the singer in London band Palomino Club and was laying down her vocals, alongside previously recorded instrumentals from the rest of the band, recorded the week before. My first duty of the day was to accompany them to lunch. Something I definitely didn’t object to!
Being a family run studio and right on the doorstep of lots of eateries in Morden, John and Ruth like to take the time to treat their artists to lunch and get to know them better, which I think is a fantastic touch and something that I doubt many of the bigger recording studios in London do.
John and Ruth Merriman pictured either side of recording artist Hannah
It was also great for me because I got to chat to Ruth in detail about the background of Crown Lane, their offer and overall ethos. Their story is a unique one, after being involved in a car accident over 10 years ago, where their car ended up sinking in a river, John and Ruth decided that life should be made the most of and they needed a change! John had always wanted his own studio and with the support and backing of Ruth, they decided to make this dream a reality for him. Ruth continued her job as a PA for several years, until she too joined John working full time at the studio.
With my marketing hat on, I asked Ruth what they do in terms of trying to get clients in and publicising themselves, her answer was quite a refreshing one – word of mouth and repeat clients. No fancy marketing campaigns, adverts in magazines or flyers cluttering up doormats. Their reputation is so good that people find them, tell their friends, and keep coming back.
This was extremely apparent whilst I was talking to Hannah during lunch, her mum used the studio years before, recommended them to Hannah, and since then she has been back several times!
Back at the studio I was given a little tour- a main room where they do the vocal recording, a rehearsal room towards the back, which they hire out until 11pm every night, and a small office where Ruth works, they also let out another desk in the office to an independent freelancer which I think is great for supporting small business and one man bands in the community.
I was also lucky enough to be able to sit in whilst John was recording Hannah’s vocals, and I found it fascinating. John is extremely positive, patient and creative! Exactly what you need when you’re vulnerable inside a recording booth.
A week and a bit later, I was invited back to Crown Lane for an all together different experience! A year six class from St Theresas school were in the last weeks of term , moving on to high school in September. They had written songs during their music classes about how they felt about leaving school and what they had learnt during their time there. It was very moving and admittedly at times, extremely funny, to watch the way they behaved during the session.
It was also very apparent from the way that John interacted with the kids that he used to be a teacher himself. By witnessing this slightly more chaotic recording of the children, showed me the diversity of their job at Crown Lane – from a very calm, professional solo singer, to a more frantic group of excited kids in the space of one week!
In conversation, I found out from John that not only do they do vocal recordings for singer songwriters, bands and schools, but also they have DJs and MCs, the London Gospel Choir and even the National Youth Music Theatre who recorded a brand new musical there for 30 days! I think this diversity of cliental shows that Crown Lane’s reputation is now a really strong one, they can pretty much handle anything that they are faced with and Merton is very fortunate to have them as a thriving, independent business in our borough.