Sonic Circumstances: Nico Rivers Records in an Abandoned Hospital Theater

July 6, 2017 | by Jon Simmons

Nico Rivers - Abandoned Hospital 4

Nico Rivers | Courtesy of Live from Nowhere


Gone are the days where musicians had to record songs in a studio. Sonic Circumstances is an interview series that features musicians talking about unique places they’ve recorded and how location influenced their experience. In this chapter, singer-songwriter Nico Rivers shares the story of when he recorded at an abandoned Massachusetts hospital theater with the Live from Nowhere crew.

What he recorded:

A one-man band performance of the song "Tidal Wave" off of upcoming album, Tiny Death.

Where he recorded:

My performance was recorded in the remains of an abandoned theatre located in the middle of an old state hospital. The choice for this location was mostly visual, but the sound is always a consideration for the Live From Nowhere videos. This room had some nice reflections and since the ceiling had collapsed and large piles of snow had accumulated, it wasn't as overbearing as an empty theatre may be.

It was the middle of winter and snow had just fallen. We packed up our gear and spent the next forty minutes or so hiking through the woods in knee-high snow, and it was totally worth it. There were some other explorers in the complex of buildings that day and it seemed like the music brought them to us and we had a private concert in that theatre. It was really magical—especially with the snow falling through the ceiling as I played.

Nico Rivers - Abandoned Hospital - by David Manch

Photo by David Manch

Nico Rivers - Abandoned Hospital 2
Nico Rivers - Abandoned Hospital 5
Nico Rivers - Abandoned Hospital 3

How the location affected his recording process:

It was cold—probably thirty degrees—so things were done in a timely manner. There's something magical about performing in a space like that, though. Once I was performing the song, I'd get lost in the surroundings and forget about the cold. I started to play off the reflections built into the space and let the setting become part of the song.

This spot had some good reverb without getting overbearing, which made my job as a mixing engineer easier in the end. I didn't have to add a lot to the track.

Learn more about Nico Rivers on his official website, and check out the other Live from Nowhere videos here.

Be ready to record your song ideas when they hit. Download the Spire app, a free, multi-track recording app for iPhone.

Sonic Circumstances: Nico Rivers Records in an Abandoned Hospital Theater