A midlife crisis usually means buying a new sportscar, but Bob Ledbetter is singing a different tune in his mid-40s.
Ledbetter decided to take on a new career as a sound engineer.
After working for years as an IT guy, he just wanted more out of life. With his daughter moving out and going to college, the single-parent was left with an open mind, musical talent and deep knowledge of technology. It all combined into a soon-to-open recording studio named MuthaSuckaSound.
Ledbetter has the beginnings of his studio up and running in his Maricopa home.
“It is functional,” he said. “I decided to paint and redesign as I am learning more about how sound travels through a room.”
His main studio is a nicely converted bedroom in his house, complete with a rack of guitars, a drum set, keyboard and computerized, multi-track sound mixing station.
A collection of electronic guitar pedals decorates the floor and colored LEDs backlight his MAC-based computer mixing station using Pro Tools software. He also uses other parts of his home as “sound rooms” including his living room and even a walk-in closet that is converted into a sound booth for “something more intimate.”
Ledbetter said he was motivated to open his recording studio by his love of music.
“I have always dabbled a little bit with recording – as a musician and as an IT nerd. I have always been fascinated by the process,” Ledbetter said.
About four years ago he decided to go back to school to get a degree for business management at Central Arizona College.
“I had been an IT contractor for 12-plus years and working in IT in some form for over 20,” he said.
Retirement just wasn’t a goal in his life.
“When I hit 40, retirement is not really an option, not as a contractor. I change companies every couple years, which means the 401Ks change every couple years. Some companies match, and some don’t. It’s a joke. By the time the government allows me to retire, Social Security will be gone,” he said.
Instead of looking at retirement, Ledbetter set his mind on doing something he loves to do that can sustain his lifestyle. While going to business management classes, one of the elective courses he took was the history of rock ‘n’ roll.
Ledbetter did very well in the class.
“The instructor said I would be very good in the EIT (Entertainment Industry Technology) program at CAC,” Ledbetter said. “I was just taking classes here at the campus. When I looked deeper at the EIT program – they had a recording engineering program. I thought, ‘There it is.’ What better way to take my 20 years of IT experience and my passion for music and put them together?”
Education in sound engineering is something Ledbetter takes very seriously.
“Bob Ledbetter is a shining example of a student who takes full advantage of what the EIT program has to offer,” said Dan Bush, professor of Recording Engineering at Central Arizona College and E.I.T. coordinator.
After talking to his daughter, Ledbetter jumped into being a recording engineer a little more than two years ago and changed his major at CAC. She has been part of his music since she was a toddler. While living in Washington, D.C., he would take her with him to perform at “open-mic nights” at local venues when she was 3 or 4 years old.
“A lot of them were family restaurants that just happened to have an open mic randomly on a Tuesday night. She’s sitting on a stool with an unplugged microphone singing along while I do a 20-minute set.”
As a musician, Ledbetter plays guitar and sings as a solo act. He’s his own recording client as well.
Recording is only one of the skills needed to be successful with a studio, according to Bush. “Bob has also learned the ‘business side’ of the music industry, particularly entertainment law, copyrights and how to actually make money by leveraging performance rights organizations to generate income from music royalties,” Bush said.
“My midlife crisis is a new career,” Ledbetter said. “I would rather get a sound board. My friends are out there buying all these really cool cars. Nah, I could get like an 8-track mixer and put it right here. Let me drop two grand on that. That’s my midlife crisis.”
This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.