Tucked in the heart of the Downtown Charleston Historic District, you can find two of the most hilarious, creative, and lovely human beings who just happen to record, mix, and produce some of the biggest sounds in West Virginia. “Big River Records is a full-service audio production studio that offers in-studio recording, mixing, mastering & live streaming for bands, voiceover & podcast production, as well as a premium space for videographers & photographers.” The men behind Big River Records are none other than Brad Kinder and Tony Daniels.
If you work in music, you probably know these two talented men. West Virginia natives, these two have tons of hippie friends, rock friends, just all kinds of friends in WV. Some say you should go to college, but sometimes, just sometimes, you do what you love and learn by way of apprenticeship or teaching yourself - which is exactly what these two men have built with Big River Records. Tony interned with Doug Gent and Mike Simmons at the tender age of 15, while Brad just decided he loved music, playing music, and taught himself all about sound engineering.
While Brad got a business degree from Marshall, he’s been playing in bands since
college. Once a financial advisor, the drummer decided to go all-in four years ago and work full-time in the recording industry. Tony attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and received a graphic design degree, after which he pursued a degree in the audio program but followed his dreams as a bass player for Rusted Root and left AIP to go on tour. Tony then left the band to work for a few recording studios and moved to Austin, Texas but soon found his heart and soul was in West Virginia and decided to move home.
While these two are no strangers to the industry, the industry is no stranger to them either. The two met around 2013 when they worked with the Illusionary Film Unit on the Ground Hog Gravy record. They also worked together with Fayetteville, WV-based band Black Garlic. Brad and Tony worked so well together producing these albums that one day the two said, “Let’s just build a studio and go to Charleston, WV.” Since the birth of Big River Records, the pair have worked with bands like Berth, The Settlement, Bad Keys of The Mountain, Hurl Brickbat, Red Audio, The Mediogres, Threes Company Blues, Beggars Clan, The Zack Griffith Band, Spencer Elliot, Buddha Grass Spaceship, Fool The Crow, Static Fur, and Boldly Go!
Tony and Brad started in another building and produced only one record in that studio; they decided they wanted a bigger space and looked at a few online listings to find the building they are in now. In July 2019, they moved into a space just behind Nosh on Summers Street. When you find your way into the little tucked-away door, you’d be amazed at the space they have. The studio’s first floor consists of soundboards, an audio booth, and guitars line the wall; there’s even a cozy seating area that makes you feel at home, which is exactly what you want when recording in the entertainment industry. When you tour the downstairs of the space, there are full rooms for recording an entire band live and an Isolation sound booth. Which the pair joked that “It looks like 2050 futuristic murder room.” Tony claims, “It’s a dungeon. Something from Escape Room. Complete with a creepy little window.”
However, Big River Records has a big move coming up. Brad and Tony have acquired 2205 Washington St East. They are buying the building where the Isolation booth came from. “Me and Brad have always had this weird luck thing. Brad says the two are “very fortunate.” Tony told me, “It just falls into our lap. We got into audiobooks, and the booth showed up.” While they are ironically moving the booth back to its original location, Brad and Tony could not be more excited about the new space in which Big River Records will be located! “It’s a 1940s building with original crown molding, cape cod style mahogany and walnut walls, and hardwood floors.” The two are looking into the possibility of renting the top floor to bands because there is a full apartment on the second floor. The house features a full basement. It’s Handicap accessible. They’ll have a live room, a studio b for mixing and post-work, and the house even has two kitchens. “We wish it was happening faster, but we hope to be in by October. We’ll take a break to focus on the new venue and anticipate opening [the] end of October/Early November,” Brad tells me.
Big River Records doesn't just focus on music; they let their space for rehearsals like Live on The Levee. Brad and Tony also record live albums for bands like The Settlement, Black Garlic, Arlow McKinney, and events like Funktafest. In addition, the pair recorded an audiobook for Leah Messer from Teen Mom 2. Recently, Tony finished mastering a radio play from Media Monarchy out of New Mexico about a true story in Martinsburg, WV. Not only did he record the play, but he also did the sound design, soundtrack and mixed it. The pair also record with community radio station WTSQ 88.1 FM The Status Quo for most of their sound design needs.
When asked what the future looks like, Brad claims they “want to do a lot more video
and a lot more live recordings. We want to help the music scene in Charleston and West Virginia as a whole. We love collaborating with these musicians and putting them together.” Tony tells me, “I’m mostly production, and Brad is engineering. I want to do a bunch of tribute records in the coming years.” The two also want to get into commercials, graphic design, advertising, voice-over work, more youtube videos, and content as a team. They plan on being more of a full production media company than a recording studio.
Brad, “Me and Tony always talk about how we are two sides of the same brain. That’s what makes us such a great team.” To which Tony replied, “We don’t talk about things - we just do them. We are really good at solving problems, too.” Brad agreed, “We truly are problem solvers.” Above all, they are genuinely talented and run one of the most professional recording studios in the world. Having recorded albums, radio plays, and commercials myself, in cities like Nashville, L.A., and London UK - Big River Records might be located in little Downtown Charleston. Still, the professionalism, creativity, and sound you get from Brad Kinder and Tony Daniels are just as wild and wonderful as these two creative West Virginians.
Big River Records is open by appointment only.