Grayson Cedrone said he was tired of seeing local talent leave Philadelphia to make it big in the music industry somewhere else. So, he decided to do something about it.
The South Philly resident recently opened a multi-facet music studio and record label after completely renovating a property at 1118 Sigel St., a narrow inlet in the East Passyunk neighborhood off of 11th and Mifflin streets.
Cedrone’s goal was to grow local music talent and have them fine-tune their product without having to travel all over the country. He wanted to create a place where a fresh act can catch its first big break or where a polished artist can work on new material. All the bells and whistles are in place and the experienced staff of sound engineers is ready to help musicians take their art to the next level.
Over the summer, Obsidian Studios was born and it’s already thriving.
“Philly is an A-level talent market for music but has been a D-level for music business compared to L.A., New York, Atlanta or Miami,” said Cedrone, 28, who goes by the nickname ‘Shep’. “We have ridiculous amounts of talent here. Singers and rappers with real stories and real pain. It’s amazing. But we don’t have Capitol Records down the street. So they leave.”
Obsidian Studios aims to change that, offering a variety of tools and skill sets in-house, ranging from recording, mixing and mastering and any other need for any type of music.
“We have all the different pieces that are required for making music,” Cedrone said. “Getting instruments and song writers — Sometimes all those different things can be different services that you’d have to go to different places for. We do everything in-house.”
That includes resident photographer and videographer Chase Epstein, who works in the same building. He adds another wrinkle to the project that includes creating music videos for customers. Aside from recording booths and engineer rooms, there are lounges, photography rooms and areas for recording podcasts.
Multiple artists have been signed, and streams of songs have already been seen millions of times by music lovers. A steady stream of artists have been utilizing the studio.
“Something about this place is like home,” said Joseph Kuri, who is an engineer and is known as the recording artist Kain. “There’s no point leaving. It’s the best spot to be with working and making music and networking with the people that come in here. There’s something about the vibe here.”
Despite the heavy traffic, Obsidian has gone to great lengths to keep COVID out. Masks are mandatory, temperatures are checked at the door, and staff members say hundreds of dollars are spent in cleaning supplies every week as recording booths and microphones are sanitized after every session.
“We opened up a business during COVID,” Cedrone said. “I used my last few dollars to put this place together at the worst possible time but we made it work.”
Cedrone previously interned at other local studios and was a manager at Section 808 studio on Arch Street. Unsatisfied, he desired his own studio where he could form his own business model.
“As I kept growing, I realized I could just do it on my own,” Cedrone said. “When you’re not an owner, you can’t really pick who you want to work with and who you want to grow with and make the decisions that are much more beneficial for what we are doing.”
Forming good relationships with artists has come naturally. Cedrone spent significant time on tour with artist PnB Rock. Others, such as SimxSantana, Poundside Pop, D4M and Lil Zack, are just some of the names mentioned who recorded at Obsidian during its short life.
“The one thing that makes Obsidian stand out is the personal connection that the engineers form with the clientele,” said Parkash Sehgal, a PR intern from Temple University who works at Obsidian. “On my first day, an artist came in and greeted me so warmly. It turned out he was really well-known and I noticed how Kain, Shep and our other engineer Tokxic interacted with them. They are very encouraging and positive. That’s what makes them come back. There’s a lot of love here, and that makes it a successful business.”
The studio opened in July and has been flush with visiting artists, as the staff has worked extremely long hours to accommodate them. It hearkens back to the idea of keeping the local talent local by any means possible and making it easier for artists to be noticed without costly travel. So far, it’s proven successful.
“A lot of these guys come from horrible situations and they just needed a place to work safely and professionally and the industry noticed,” Cedrone said.
It’s not just about keeping talent in Philly. It’s expanded to being a hotspot for other cities to venture to.
“We started having artists from other states come,” Kuri said. “They heard we were good, and now people are coming down from New York every weekend. They’ll drive up from Maryland and Virginia. Now they’re coming every week. Artists are now moving to Philadelphia just because of this spot, which is incredible.”