Nanaimo musician Shawn Hall and his fiancée Lindsay Pugh in Hall’s Dress Shop recording studio. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo musician opens shop and recording studio to bring ‘vibrancy’ to downtown

Shawn Hall hopes to display local art, host artist residencies at new Bastion Street studio

A Nanaimo musician is hoping to contribute to the ‘vibrancy’ of the downtown with the opening of a new shop and recording studio.

Shawn Hall said he lost 99 per cent of his income as a touring musician due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and his fiancée Lindsay Pugh was forced to close her Wallace Street bridal shop.

“We were thinking about moving,” Hall said. “Maybe a lot of families probably felt the same during the first part of COVID that lost their jobs.”

Instead, the couple decided to move into the former site of Hill’s Native Arts at 76 Bastion St. and turn the ground floor into a kimono, jewelry and plants store named Pearl, after their dog, and the second floor into a recording studio called the Dress Shop.

“The aim was to see if we could collaborate forces and see if my world and her world could come together and we could make something greater than the two of them individually,” Hall said. “So everyone needs a romantic conceptualization and that was it and we really went for it.”

Converting the upstairs into a recording studio meant installing a new floor upon studs of synthetic rubber to reduce vibrations, double walls for soundproofing and even angled panes of glass to deflect sound toward the ceiling. Before now, Hall’s studio was located in the basement of his house, which he calls “the darkest of rooms.”

“Most musicians go there, right? They go to the darkest of rooms and they hide out and they make their beautiful, sacred art that only they know and only artists understand their pain and they keep it separate,” Hall said.

With the Dress Shop, however, he’s not keeping it separate. The studio overlooks Bastion Street and Hall hopes to have “music pouring out into the streets.”

“Let’s flood the streets with the magic that needs to go into people’s ears and hearts and to bring this vibrancy and stop complaining about what you think a town can or can’t be and just start being what you wish you would want to see,” he said.

Hall said he’s had the studio accredited with Creative B.C., meaning people can apply for grants to record there. He also plans to display local art and host virtual artist residencies in the space.

“Let’s look at using all these technologies that have really popped up and become so commonplace during COVID and let’s look at how we can get things happening here that are relevant to the arts community,” he said.

Hall said he feels like he owes the city he’s been living in for the past nine years and he hopes to take the best of what he’s absorbed over the years as an international touring musician and with Pugh, “put it right back into the community.”

“We were going to become pillars of our community and step into downtown, or not make a sound and get out. Just stop complaining. So that’s what led to this,” Hall said. “It’s like, ‘OK, let’s create some vibrancy.'”

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