“I was thrilled,” Dewey Boyd says, reflecting on his acceptance to the Recording Academy, the organization that presents the Grammy awards. “It’s kind of bizarre to read the qualifications and to realize I am actually qualified now to do this.”
Boyd is the producer, engineer and owner of Forty-One Fifteen, a recording studio in Nashville. He joined the Recording Academy last year, and for the first time, he had the chance to vote on the recording industry’s most high-profile awards, which were announced on April 3.
But Boyd’s path to the academy wasn’t a straight one.
As a Clemson undergraduate, he studied mechanical engineering — but continued to gravitate toward his longstanding passion for music. He would spend hours in the Brooks Center practice rooms, “always banging on a piano.” When a friend connected him with Professor Bruce Whisler in the Department of Performing Arts, Boyd discovered Clemson’s audio technology classes.
“I more or less begged my way into one of the entry-level courses that someone who wasn’t in the major shouldn’t have been able to get into,” Boyd says.
Those classes exposed him to Pro Tools editing software and multitrack mixing, and he was able to find a way into more advanced audio technology courses, eventually completing the capstone project, a 45-minute CD. And his Honors College thesis focused on analog-to-digital signal converters.
After graduating, Boyd began a master’s in mechanical engineering but soon realized he needed a change. He and his wife, Natalie, took a leap of faith and moved to Nashville, where he says he floundered for a couple of months.
“My first paid gig in Nashville was cleaning out Charlie Peacock’s attic, so I stumbled into the making of the Civil Wars’ first EP, ‘Poison & Wine,’ that sort of launched their career,” he says.
Soon after, a chance to help producer Paul Moak move his equipment turned into a job that had him mixing for Country Music Hall of Fame legend Ricky Skaggs.
“I found that it was advisable to do manual labor for people in the industry,” he quips.
In 2012, Boyd purchased a historic home in east Nashville that he converted into a recording studio: Forty-One Fifteen. The studio promises “a safe haven for musicians, bands and songwriters who seek to push boundaries and create honest, genuine, out-of-the-box content, unconstrained by clinical atmosphere or oppressive rates.”
Grammy-winning Shani Gandhi, an engineer who rents space at the studio, prompted Boyd to apply for the Recording Academy. Boyd submitted his application along with recommendations from Gandhi and fellow engineer Russ Long. As a member, he’s now considered among the ranks of the world’s top musical professionals.
Boyd’s success in the music industry has come full circle; he regularly returns to Clemson to work with audio technology students and encourage them. And he lends them some advice: “First of all, practice. Keep trying. Keep moving in the direction you think you ought to go.”