At only twenty-five years old, musician and entrepreneur Zach Zurn is getting his feet wet in the small business scene in Rochester and learning on-the-go. Although young, Zurn is on the founding team of two other businesses: the tech startup Tinua and the entertainment franchise BubbleBall Rochester. Recently he’s launched his own business, a full production and recording facility called Carpet Booth Studios, to serve the emerging music community in Rochester.
Zurn, a Texas native, is inspired by many musical influences like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Bee Gees, and other golden oldies of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. His parents were themselves musicians and he hopped on his mother’s drum kit and started playing at a young age. At thirteen, Zurn became obsessed with the production and recording side of music and began experimenting with microphone placement and the creation of clean, unique audio.
He and some friends rigged up a makeshift production studio in his mom’s basement, tacking old carpet to the inside of a closet to create a dead vocal booth where they would record covers and original songs.
“And that’s actually where the name Carpet Booth Studios comes from,” Zurn explained. “It pays homage to [Carpet Booth’s] humble, humble, humble beginnings.”
Growing up, Zurn played in several small bands, toured, and most importantly, wrote songs. After graduating from Winona State University with a degree in Music, he worked at a church in Rochester in music and media and rented out various studio spaces around town for music production.
With the exit of friend Jim Fricker’s North Coast Productions last fall, Zurn saw an immense need for a full-time production and recording studio in Rochester. Three months ago, he opened Carpet Booth Studios on the corner of 2nd Street Northeast and Broadway to fill that gap.
Carpet Booth Studios is a full-service production and recording house, facilitating any type of audio recording service like voiceover, full EP and album production, podcasting, session work, and songwriting.
Word of mouth in the music community has organically helped the business grow so far.
In addition to running this budding business, Zurn is developing his own career as a solo singer and songwriter. He’s created works for several businesses around town, such as Nalu Float, where he was hooked up with an hour-long float session and wrote a twelve-minute ambient piece that “musically displayed how my emotions were feeling at that moment.”
Just this month, Zurn released his original single “Losing My Head,” which he calls a slow-roasted, crock pot tune addressing his self-confidence issues and fears.
“I’m kind of a melancholy person at heart,” Zurn said. “I think I’m a happy person because I don’t express my melancholy in my everyday life because I express it as a songwriter through my art.”
Zurn says he second guesses himself constantly, questioning if he’s talented enough to make it in the music industry. Everyone deals with self-doubt at some point, he explained, “especially if you’re an entrepreneur because your entire existence is a risk.”
Songwriting has been a healing process for Zurn. He says the oxymoronic pairing of despondent lyric with the bright music of “Losing My Head” should not work, but it gives insight to “the psychosis of what happens in my head.”
This fall, he plans to release a four song EP, including this single, which will be quite diverse in genre.
Zurn says for artists like himself concerned with “the craft of songwriting and the craft of creating this visual and sonic experience for a show,” there just aren’t many performance options right now in Rochester’s music scene. After Midwest Skate Park closed in late 2010 and Wicked Moose this year, there are a real lack of venues for concert-style performances in Rochester.
The recent opening of The Jive Mill near Carpet Booth Studios was a welcome addition to the scene, although this venue is tapped at about fifty people.
Open mic nights at places like Forager Brewery, C4, and The Rochester Art Center also provide an opportunity for emerging artists.
“But again, the thing that I see about the music industry, as far as live playing goes, is that other than The Jive Mill just opening up, which is so great, there are not places to play where you go for a show,” Zurn affirmed. “That brings the conversation to the Armory.”
The Rochester City Council is moving forward with discussion of two proposals for the former senior center, one of which would create a multi-use entertainment venue in the historic facility. This proposal- from Entourage Events Group, Fine Line Music Café, and local representative Sunny Prabhakar- would create space for both national and local music acts.
Right now, Zurn sees an entire music community germinating organically in the area surrounding the Armory building, which includes his own Carpet Booth Studios, The Jive Mill, Avalon Music, Northstar Bar, and Welhaven Music.
“We do have a little music compound, a little music district, popping up right here in Rochester, which is super cool. And I’m stoked to be a part of it,” Zurn said.