Updated: May 5
GRAMMY-nominated producer and engineer Dave Maggard is living his dream come true. From his recording studio next to his home in the country, some of his bluegrass idols have come to his place to record music. “It is such a joy for me,” he says. “My ambition has always been to pursue peoples’ creative side.”
Dave grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. “I actually grew up with bluegrass music because of the Gillespie family.” The Gillespie family was from Greasy Creek, Kentucky, and relocated to Louisville. “When I was 15 or 16 years old, it was not unusual for people like Bill Monroe, Keith Whitley, and Ralph Stanley to visit their home. Doug Gillespie would take all of us to bluegrass festivals. I learned to play by hanging around them. I remember they traveled in an old blue bus that broke down a lot. They called the bus ‘Blue Dammit.’” Dave recalls that music was a big deal where he was from.
In 1979 Dave moved to Gatlinburg, where he played for tips in bars. “I eventually bought a farm that had a big metal building I used as a place to practice and record. I just moved the knobs to where it sounded good.” In 2014 Dave decided to get serious about the recording side of the business.
"I attended RECW, an intensive five-week school in recording and engineering, located in Chillicothe, Ohio. I learned the technical side of music, and my head almost exploded. I wanted to do something with my newfound knowledge.”
Dave started Sound Biscuit Productions in Sevierville, Tennessee intending to be a studio that works with songwriters. His studio is situated on his ten-acre farm. “I love the location,” he says. “Part of the success of the studio is the location and the relaxed feeling here. It’s a comfortable place to be creative.”
Some of bluegrass music’s greats have done work at Sound Biscuit. Dave had the opportunity to edit, mix, and engineer Doyle Lawson’s Roundtable album. “Doyle commented on how comfortable he feels here,” says Dave. “I have also had the opportunity to work with Dolly Parton. I got a call from David Dotson at the Dollywood Foundation about Dolly doing narration for a children’s show. She was very gracious.”
As time went by, Dave began thinking about how he could expand the studio. “I busted out some walls and added four isolation booths. The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys and CJ Lewandowski were the first artists on the Sound Biscuit label. We worked with the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys on God’s Love is So Divine and with CJ on his Ozark Mandolin album.”
Looking back on the artists he has worked with, Dave says most of them have become good friends. “The people I’ve worked with is insane. The time we spend together in the studio is intense, and you get to know people fast.” Dave recalls the time Darrell Webb with Appalachian Road Show called asking if he would donate some recording time for a tribute to Steve Gulley, who had recently passed away, to benefit his wife, Debbie Gulley.
“The day came for them to record, and Doyle Lawson came in with a Who’s Who of bluegrass artists and recorded “In the Resurrection Morning.” The song tied with Dale Ann Bradley for IBMA’s Gospel Song of the Year in 2021.
Sound Biscuit had the pleasure of laying down some tracks for Billy Blue Records for the Gospel Project that was distributed to Cracker Barrel stores.
When Doyle Lawson came to Sound Biscuit to record his last album, Roundtable, before retiring, he spent weeks in the studio. Dave had a front-row seat to the history of bluegrass from Doyle’s perspective. “That was priceless.”
Dave is accompanied at Sound Biscuit by Shane Reman, who works at the recording studio. “Shane is irreplaceable. He is a monster, and we work in cahoots with each other. He did most of the engineering on Doyle’s album.”
The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys recently did some production and engineering at the studio. “We never slow down,” says Dave. “We are a full production studio, and we will make just about anything happen.” That includes videos, which they have been doing more frequently.
“I love working with young people. So many of them want to learn. And with artists like Greg Blake, Dale Ann Bradley, Jesse Brock and Corey Zink, we’ve got great role models.” Dave says his business platform is to create something people want to be a part of. “This business made its way to me. I am committed to excellence, but we want to have fun as well and have people talk about it.”
Dave came up with the name Sound Biscuit after he discovered his original name for the business, Sound Farm, was already in use in Utah. “I was eating a biscuit for breakfast, and the idea of Sound Biscuit popped into my head. As it turns out, back in the old days of sound recording, the blob of ‘wax’ used to press a record was called a biscuit. As time when on, they called making a record ‘cutting a biscuit,’ so the name really works well.”
After several years of working in the business, Dave still marvels at his charmed life. “I don’t have to pay to go to shows,” he laughs. “The artists come to me. I feel kind of like a cheat because I get to hear the best do their best without leaving my farm.”