By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Brick Road Studio owner Scott Leader has recorded vocals for pop star Dua Lipa and helmed voiceover work by Michael Phelps and restaurateur Craig Culver.
But the Airpark producer’s passion is in Jewish music and singer-songwriters.
“I love real instruments and songwriting,” he says. “I do the computer stuff when I have to. I produce rap and make beats for people, but for me there’s nothing like getting in with a good songwriter, taking their song and bringing it to life with production.”
Leader is being forced to move in mid-March because the building in which his studio is located was sold. Also relocating is his neighbor, Jeff King, and his studio Scottsdale Music Company.
“I was very unhappy about it at first,” Leader says. “But I turned that energy into figuring out how to create a new space. Jeff and I have separate businesses, but we share a space. Now, we’re going our separate ways. It’s a little bittersweet. I didn’t want to leave here, but I’m excited for the new place.”
In mid-March, the Brick Road Studio will be found at 7430 E. Butherus, Suite C.
Music is a longtime love
Raised in New Jersey, Leader experienced a recording studio for the first time with his high school grunge band in the 1990s. He fell in love with the process of making music.
“I felt like I could express myself more musically than I could just by playing,” he says. “I just got bit by the bug and loved it.
“I knew I wanted to learn how to do that. Luckily, I’ve had good mentors along the way who helped me get started. I feel really lucky to have been able to make a living at it all these years.”
His father was in a band in the 1960s, while his grandfather was a concert pianist.
“When I was about 7, he played piano, and I remember him identifying that I had an ear for music,” Leader says.
“I can remember him sitting at the piano and he would play a few notes and I would play them back. The piano wound up at our house, and I taught myself piano.”
Playing music is still in his blood. Leader, whom King calls a “Jewish rock star,” is in the trio Sababa. A cantorial soloist, he is an accomplished pianist and guitarist.
He earned a master’s degree in education from ASU and degrees in science and Judaic studies from the UA. As an undergraduate, he taught music at Temple Emanu-El in Tucson with friend and music partner, Cantor Billy Tiep.
Leader taught science and music at the Austin Jewish Academy in Texas; was director of Camp Isaiah in Los Angeles; became cantorial soloist at Temple Sinai, Denver; and now serves as the music director of Temple Gan Elohim in Phoenix partnering with Rabbi Tracee Rosen.
Leader’s solo discography includes “Lift my Eyes” (2003) and “Gates” (2006).
Sababa is well known in its field. Leader calls it “a random, little niche of music to be in.”
“We do original Jewish rock music,” Leader says. “You hear ‘Jewish music’ and you think ‘klezmer.’ It’s not like that at all. It’s guitars, drums, rock and vocal harmonies. Pre-COVID, we were playing all over the country at places for years.
“Now it’s three years later, and I’ve become really busy in the studio. Everyone’s lives have changed. Now we’re considering doing another album, but we’re not sure. It might be over, but not for any negative reason.”
His resume is impressive, having worked with George Benson, the aforementioned Lipa — before her three Grammy awards — and several voiceover clients. Craig Culver of Culver’s stopped by and did voiceovers — but Leader had not heard of the fast-food chain.
“Michael Phelps did his voiceover work here for his documentary, too,” Leader says. “Bubba Watson, the golfer, was here. Because he was here for the WM Phoenix Open, he came over and did a voiceover for ESPN. He was super nice. I had no idea who he was. My wife said, ‘Did you take a picture?’ After I said no, she told me to Google him and I saw he was one of the most famous golfers ever on Earth. I thought, ‘Holy crap.’
“But places like this don’t really work with celebrities. They have their own team and their own space. But if they’re coming through town and they need to do a quick vocal or voiceover, they can come here.”
Leader says Lipa’s team spent “thousands” to overnight pricey equipment, like a $10,000 Sony C800 microphone, to Brick Road Studio for the “Levitating” singer to use for two hours.
“In addition, they sent a vintage Neve 1073 preamp for the mic,” he says. “They had sent a handful of other united as well ‘just in case.’”
Versatility is the key to Leader’s success, he says.
“I’ve seen other studios open and close,” he says. “I engineer, mix and master. I can do the full production when it comes down to it. I like the versatility because it’s necessary.”
Leader partners with Rashied Arekat, whom he dubs “an unbelievable producer and songwriter.”
“He works with only a handful of artists — unlike me,” he says. “I want to bring in a big group. He’s very selective. He also works in real estate, so he understands construction and our new studio.”
Jeff Harris of Artifact Studio Services designed the new space.
“We really had to maximize the space we have here,” he says. “In the new spot, we really created a very high-end vibe. We’ll have guitars everywhere. It will be a place you can go and just work on your songwriting. When I say ‘high end,’ I mean ‘high end’ like the equipment, quality and build. It’s not a stuffy LA kind of place.”
Leader says he knew the new spot was perfect when he laid eyes on it.
“There just so happens to be a path from the parking lot to the front door that’s all brick. I said, ‘Oh, my God. There’s brick. It’s perfect. We have to say yes.’”
Brick Road Studio
7430 E. Butherus Drive, Suite C, Scottsdale