The business of making the right record finally spins success

Ady Hall and Lee McCarthy who set up Sugar House Productions
Ady Hall and Lee McCarthy who set up Sugar House Productions
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Producer Ady Hall knows a thing or two about music, he also knows something too of failure. However, the hard-working 38-year-old, who lives in Leyland, could well have finally broken through after the production company he co-runs landed an exciting new deal.

Sugar House, run by Ady Hall and Lee McCarthy, has been added to the roster of Big Life and 140db – two major management companies representing some of the biggest names in the producer world, making tracks for top artists.

Merseyside based Panda Cult have worked with Ady Hall and Lee McCarthy of Sugar House productions

Merseyside based Panda Cult have worked with Ady Hall and Lee McCarthy of Sugar House productions

Ady knows all to well how difficult it is to get your foot through the front door of the music industry after spending nearly 20 years throwing his weight against it.

The signing isn’t just a breakthrough but has also marked a distinct shift for opportunities to wannabe musicians living outside of London.

Ady says “This deal is something we want to shout out about - it isn’t just a breakthrough for me and Lee but it is opening a new gateway to the music industry at large for musicians in the North West.

“Working with these really experienced people means we are now in a position to put the tracks we are producing directly into the hands of the right people, which is just such a great thing and a real benefit particularly for musicians in the north west.

Funk Groove four-piece Larkins from Glossop who have been working with musical producers Ady Hall and Lee McCarthy

Funk Groove four-piece Larkins from Glossop who have been working with musical producers Ady Hall and Lee McCarthy

“There has always been that difficulty in the industry of a north/south divide - it has been a bit of a closed door, not just for bands but production too.

“And it’s just fantastic to know the hard work is finally paying off and those in the industry are beginning to see what we’re producing.

“It’s taken a long time but it shows things are changing and we now have this unique selling point.

“It really is that classic case of not what you know but who you know, we’ve worked really hard at making these great relationships to be in the position where we now have that dialogue with some really influential people.

“Just meeting the likes of Ros Earls and Tim Parry has changed everything for us.”

Ady grew up in Burnley but moved to Leyland with his wife 12 years ago.

He played the circuit in bands in his teenage years through to his 20s, working full time as a musician.

He started up Sugar House with fellow musician and producer Lee McCarthy from Atherton in 2008.

Blackburn based four-piece Violet Youth have been working with Sugar House productions Ady Hall

Blackburn based four-piece Violet Youth have been working with Sugar House productions Ady Hall

Today they work from Catalyst Studios based in St Helen’s and in the last 10 years have worked with artists and bands from across the north west.

Notably rock band Viola Beach, from Warrington, tragically killed in a car crash in February 2016.

Ady and Lee worked with the band members on the recording of their first single “Swings & Waterslides”, which they recorded at Catalyst Studios.

The track was added to the BBC Radio 1 playlist in September 2015.

“They were really great lads and it was a great pleasure to work with them and help them with what they were trying to create, really good music.

“But part of their legacy has been inspiring more musicians, especially around these parts to stick and work hard at their craft and it’s really gratifying for me and Lee to work with so many good local bands wanting to have their shot and actually be part of that platform.

“It’s a huge thing for us but also a great opportunity for bands in Lancashire and the north west who now have this gateway without having that cost and upheaval of making the move to London, which is the same for us too.

“Making the right record is everything and hoping the right people like it.”

Dad-of-two Ady says it was growing up watching Top of the Pops, which inspired his love for music.

He adds: “I’ve been doing music a long time, I played in different bands in my early 20s but that never really worked and ultimately how I ended up going into the production side of things.

“But I’ve done everything as a musician, drumming to wedding singing. It’s been far from easy and the time does come for many, when you think ‘right it’s time to give it up, so many do.

“I could have given it up but the failure just seemed to open a new route for me with the production side I’ve just been fortunate to have been able to stay in this world.

“Lee has a musical production background through his studies at Salford University, it was more of a natural process for me.

“I never did music at school or college. I always studied art. Music was something I did on the side.

“I started drumming more and from the age of 25; it was a full-time profession. I earned enough at the weekends to dabble with music production during the week and it came from there.

“It wasn’t my plan to be a record producer when I started out in bands but I am really proud to have done something like this .

“And after all those years ploughing away we’ve earned that link and respected players like what we’re doing.

“Last year I got to stage where I didn’t need to gig at the weekends anymore.”

Big Life Management was established in 1986 by British music manager Gordon ‘Jazz’ Summers, who co-managed Wham! He died in 2015 and the company continues through his long-time business partner Tim Parry

Together Big Life Management has been instrumental in the successes of artists as diverse as Lisa Stansfield, The Verve, Coldcut, La Roux, The Futureheads, Klaxons and Snow Patrol.

Last year Tim, who now has full ownership for Big Life Management set-up a strategic partnership with Ros Earls of 140db and together they are co-signing new talent as well as managing their own.

Ady says: “140db had been on a radar for a while. We had a meeting with them and they liked the work we had been doing and the fact we were up here in the north.

“It all started really when we started getting bands played on Radio 1 and Radio 6,

“It led to more and more making connections in London. And so we knew we were doing something right.

“We always thought at some point we would have to move to London so it’s great that we can carry on doing what we are doing here.

“When you’re working with unsigned bands, the biggest thing obviously is getting them heard. Now we have this gateway to London, it makes that process easier and Ros and Tim have been fantastic.

“Both companies have been responsible for some of our favourite records/artists so it’s a massive honour to be working with them and we owe them a lot of thanks for taking a punt on us.”

Some of the acts Ady and Lee are currently working with include, funk/groove four-piece Larkins, who hail from Glossop, Violet Youth from Blackburn and another band on the BBC introducing radar Merseyside based Panda Cult.

“There are a lot of our bands who are on the verge of doing big things. It’s an exciting time. A lot of people think guitar music is going to come back in a big way.

“There are so many good guitar bands around at the moment. And who knows with all that’s going on we might be forefront of it?

“That’s still the dream and the search is on. We’re about getting the right song and that’s in knowing what people are looking for.”