On a hazy day in June, I pulled up on a dirt road next to a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck and a 1968 Pontiac Firebird convertible—the only signs of Joshua Druckman, owner of the Outlier Inn. He could have been anywhere on the 12 acres of his farm, a retreat, recording studio and also his own home.
Soon enough I found the 40-year-old producer and engineer, gathering a flock of chickens for their afternoon feeding. “Come on ladies,” he called, maneuvering through a muddy pen in Crocs and a vintage pinstriped shirt. The name Outlier is apt. What was not a traditional farm when he purchased the property 14 years ago, still isn’t. Outlier Inn is a demo of one way to live a life.
“Initially the Inn was just going to be my home, my own little hideaway. It was a place for me to come to be isolated, to do what I didn’t feel like I could do in the city, which is build something. I felt too distracted in the city, like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I knew I had to get out and start creating a real place.”
Druckman, who spent his summers as a kid in the Catskills, lived in New York City before “Brooklyn” was a thing, when the dream of making it in the city still seemed feasible for musicians. During his eight years there, he opened up a recording studio. With exorbitantly high costs and a flooded market, Druckman had to say “yes” to every project that came his way. What should have fed his love of music stifled it. After two years he shut the studio down.
On the farm, he initially had only one, tiny control room atop a two-story house. As more parcels of adjacent property came up for sale, Druckman purchased them and began to shape the environment into what it is today: a man-made escape for the creation of music, sustainable agriculture and leisure.
“At first I just invited bands and friends to come up and record, sort of as guinea pigs. I would do the occasional yoga or meditation retreat, but it was nothing like it is today. It all changed about three years ago when I produced a record with pop-folk singer, Luke Temple.”
Temple, a well-connected Brooklyn-based musician, spent five months living the Outlier Inn experience and recording in Druckman’s then newly-built live room studio. According to Druckman, bands were sick of recording in the expedited “Frankenstein” system: multi-tracking take after take, loop after loop, a consequence of the digital recording evolution.
“The whole experience of recording went from being a live, organic process to a highly programmed, quantized, auto-tuned process. Over the past few years, there has been a return of bands wanting to come together in a big space, be tight, play songs, record on tape and leave after a few days or a week with a record.”
Shortly after Temple, bands such as Parquet Courts, TEEN, Yeasayer and Delicate Steve ventured up to the Catskills to write, record and produce their albums, all the while swimming in the Inn’s fresh water pond, fraternizing with the farm animals and reconstituting in the hammock from a long day of work. “The amount of work a band can get done here in a week is likened to a month in the city. And that week is not only hyper-productive, but also incredibly enjoyable.”
I felt too distracted in the city, like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I knew I had to get out and start creating a real place.
“The studio, the animals and the farm are all very complementary. I always try and force the bands to take breaks and go for a swim and let the inspiration seep in. They get so much more out of stepping out of the studio onto the grass and into the fresh air than stepping outside to have a cigarette on the pavement.”
Besides the euphoric, familial atmosphere, the Outlier Inn also contains the consummate balance of new digital and vintage analog equipment. “The plight of the 21st century recording studio owner is that you have equipment from the 1930s up until yesterday, all in the same room. A microphone from 1930 was not meant to interface with a pre-amplifier, so it’s a gigantic technical challenge. I have to act as the recording studio owner, the technician, the engineer, the producer and also a shrink, host and confidant.”
Unlike most producers in the hurried and harried music business, Druckman prides himself on keeping the studio and space affordable. For him, it’s about sharing his space with musicians. With friends. With people who love the country air. And most importantly, with those who have misplaced their love of music somewhere within the red tape.
It’s not only Brooklyn bands who are setting up shop at the Outlier Inn. Local musicians such as Debbie Palmieri, The Human Lard Dog and Doug and the Backseat Drivers are pleased to finally have a place to record and produce music near their own homes.
“There’s such a great history of music in this area of the Catskills, Sullivan County in particular,” says Druckman, “but it’s mainly, jazz, folk and blues. That’s awesome music, but there’s room for more. The audiences of the shows around here tend to be older; I don’t see many kids out. When I was young, going to shows was the best thing in the world. I would like to bring some music to the county that young people want to hear.”
Although many of the bands that visit the Inn stay for weeks, even months, most of them travel back to play for city dwellers. In partnership with the DOWNTOWN Barn, a barn-turned-music venue in Liberty, NY, Druckman has set his sights on developing the upstate music scene to reflect the interests of younger audiences.
And he won’t stop there. Druckman’s next venture will be starting his own recording label at the Outlier Inn where bands will release music directly from Woodbourne. No matter how the business grows, the atmosphere will remain paramount. “The point is to make music, chill and relax. Simply put, bands kick ass up here.”