Photos courtesy of Dan Stringer and Jordan Brooks.
BLACKWOOD DRIVE is where Dan Stringer and Jordan Brooks grew up in Lake Highlands.
It’s also the name of their studio space in Brooklyn, New York.
For Brooks, Blackwood Drive is a place to rehearse with his percussion gear. In Stringer’s world, the space is his production studio, a home away from home for artists to work on their music.
They reconnected as the pandemic set in. They pooled resources to purchase the studio with plans to build it up and share it for their separate and combined arts.
“It’s become almost like a WeWork for Jordan and I,” Stringer says.
Inside Blackwood Drive is a professional vocal booth, as well as an open recording space with windows overlooking the street.
Blackwood Drive brings with it a sense of Lake Highlands community in New York. Their co-ownership even stems from Stringer’s little brother being childhood friends with Brooks.
“I think that we definitely have that personality and like friendliness and kind of open mindedness that we get from Lake Highlands, and I think that’s something that definitely sticks out in New York,” says Stringer.
Stringer and Brooks made their way to New York in different ways, but started off similarly. Both took part in the Lake Highlands High School jazz band and headed north for college. Brooks and Stringer even place credit on where they are now from the support of their LHHS music teachers.
Brooks spent his high school years on the drum line and in the concert and jazz bands. He went on to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and in the master’s program at New York University, earning two degrees focusing on percussion performance.
In 2016, Brooks auditioned for STOMP, an internationally known percussion group, and earned a place on the cast. He worked the New York show for three years before joining the touring cast in 2019. By 2020, Brooks and the rest of the cast had been laid off due to the pandemic.
Now, Brooks is back on the road with STOMP as rehearsal director, and he’s booked to tour until May 2022. In his role, he runs each rehearsal, creates the casting for each show and helps with the direction of the show.
“From night to night, show to show, it changes quite a bit. A lot of the humor is improv. There are a lot of solo moments in the show, which is typically the performer’s discretion on how they improvise that musical moment,” Brooks says. “I screen all of that and comment and make sure that the show has the integrity that it needs to have as we tour.”
On breaks from STOMP, Brooks expects to work drum gigs with up-and-coming artists and continue rehearsing at Blackwood Drive.
For Stringer, the space gives artists a return to the studio age.
He got his start producing with an internship at Electric Lady Studios in New York after getting his degree in music and studio production from the State University of New York at Purchase. At Electric Lady, Stringer loved to see artists walk in for a studio session, stay in the booths all night and only leave when a song or album had been finished.
Shortly after he started producing, studios began to close.
“The technology was kind of shifting to where everyone was kind of working from home, and studios weren’t making as much money. So I’d kind of been on the tail end of that,” Stringer says.
Stringer freelanced awhile, working with Ex Ambassador while they were still in college. After getting their first album out, he began working with singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill. He continued working with those artists and others for the next 10 years. In that time, he produced for the most part from his home.
When the pandemic hit, Stringer felt the need to have a studio space and found a new home at Blackwood Drive.
Even with the brick-and-mortar setup, Stringer says he still has the freedom to move around. Thanks to technology updates, he can remote into his studio desktop to work on production. Wherever he is, he’s able to collaborate with others, like when he paired the musical group Loyalties with artists across the world.
Stringer says he focuses on serving as a mouthpiece for the musicians he works with at the studio.
“What I really like to do as a producer is not so much to try to make whatever thing it is that I want. But it’s to find an artist and figure out sort of what their vibe is or how they are and really get a feel for how they are as a person and empathize with them,” Stringer says. “Like how do I translate this person who I’m in the room with to all these people?”