“As a songwriter and someone who values certain recording aesthetics, I really appreciate working with Rick at Handwritten Recording: he is not just an engineer (though he’s a really good one!), he is a collaborator and a resource. Rick knows music and he is interested in what works best for the song rather than putting some personal stamp on the recording for the sake of it. He is a great listener and gets just about as excited about projects he takes on as the projects’ creators themselves. He encourages experimentation; he is easy to work with; and he makes the whole experience of recording relaxed and enjoyable. I look forward to the next time I am able to work with Rick.”
Andrew Robert Palmer, The Mother Z’s
“Recording and mixing at Handwritten Recording was the perfect balance of comfortable and professional. Setup was a breeze; we never encountered any problems staging our gear. Rick is super prepared with all of the right tools, which helps eliminate those “uh, what now?” moments I’ve had in other studios. Being able to setup easily really sets the tone—on recording days there are always nerves, and I felt like I was able to stay focused on the performance, not the cables.
When we started recording our album, we often nailed it on our first or second take, and I think that speaks to the comfort level of performing at Handwritten. I had a good mix in my headphones and was able to deliver my best performances right off the bat. This is what I alway hope for when I record—to deliver the final take right away, not after playing the song 20 times and losing the feeling. I felt like Handwritten enabled me to get into the zone right away.
When I headed into the mixing room, I was absolutely blown away at the rough mix Rick had for playback. I commented on how awesome we sounded, and I remember Rick turning around smiling and saying, “This is what you guys sound like.” It was this beautiful moment of connection; having the right recording engineer to bring out the best in your band. I’m really particular about vocal treatment, and Rick nailed it immediately. I am still amazed by our sound every time I listen to our album.
When we had our tracks mastered, there was actually very little left to do—and that again speaks to the skill and vision that Rick contributed to our project. Beyond being my favorite recording engineer, Rick is a hilarious, authentic, and insightful person. My band has since relocated to Portland, OR, and we both agree that we’d fly back to Chicago just to work with Rick again. Vowing to travel halfway across the country to work with a recording engineer pretty much sums up how I feel about my experience at Handwritten Recording.”
Laura Mariposa, Lore City
“Handwritten Recording has become my band’s secret weapon. Great quality audio, awesome recording experience, and very reasonable rates…perfect for independent musicians.
Despite being incredibly knowledgeable about all things recording, Rick maintains a very comfortable and collaborative working environment…without an ounce of the audiophile pretentiousness that seems to come standard at many studios.”
Kevin Frank, Acadian
“The moment I walked into Handwritten Recording, I knew I wanted to record my album there. The space is simple, adaptable, and efficient and the instruments and gear on hand are excellent. I couldn’t be happier with the sound quality. Rick Riggs is an all around awesome guy. He is fun, relaxed, and incredibly knowledgeable about the process. He always has very helpful input without ever taking anything away from my own creative process. He helped me out by jumping on the drums, guitar, and keyboard for my project when I needed it and brought some amazing ideas to the table. He genuinely cares about the projects made in his studio and is very accommodating to help you get your final product exactly where you want it. I will definitely be working on my future projects at Handwritten Recording and I would recommend it to anyone!”
Carolyn Reynolds, Femme
“Here’s the thing that’s most important about Rick: he doesn’t care who you are or what you’re bringing in. He said as much when we first spoke (in 2008). I was really hesitant, being as I had no idea what I was doing, and explained that I was really just some guy who wanted to try to get some professional recordings. Rick said that I was exactly the kind of person they were looking for. The point of Handwritten was not to be a place that only “professionals” went to, but a place people like me—kids just learning their craft—could come and explore. And I did.
Rick and I have cut probably over fifty songs at this point. Some of them good, some of them probably pretty terrible (I never really got better at guitar). But he’s given me the freedom to explore and really learn not just how to write a song, but produce it. Throwing some words over chords is one thing. Bringing it all together in a multi-layered piece is quite another. I learned through trial and error, and Rick was there to help shepherd (and sometimes hassle) me through.
Rick will be as involved as you want him to be, but I think you should have him be involved as much as you can. He’s been sitting behind the mixer for a decade for a reason, and I have some pretty damn good songs out there because of it.”
“I’ve been fortunate enough to make not one, but two albums at HR with Rick at the helm each time. Making an album is not an easy thing, so it’s pretty cool (and reassuring) to know that the guy who’s job it is to make you, your band, and everything else, run, sound & flow as good as possible is someone of such awesome caliber as Rick. Hands down, you couldn’t ask for anyone better.
Rick is there to help YOU make YOUR record, not his. He offers idea’s, suggestions, advice, and a good dose of comedic relief & insight during the process of recording–all of which are warmly welcomed during what can be a pretty intense time for an artist cultivating their craft into reality. Rick knows what he’s doing, is well connected and established in Chicago’s independent music scene, and is there to make sure your music sounds as good as it can be. He wants you to succeed, and will make sure that you do.
F, Dry Wit
“I randomly walked in to Handwritten Recording back in 2006 after finishing a self-released album that I was very proud of. I just wanted to check the place out. Had a nice chat with a guy that turned out to be Rick Riggs. He told me to bring the album by the next time I was in the neighborhood and he’d tell me what he thought. I was excited about our conversation, but never expected to hear from him ever again.
About a month later I get an apology from Rick for the delayed response and an email telling me exactly what he thought about the album. In the email he never talked down to me. He never blew smoke up my as. He never tried to sell me his services. He straight up told me exactly how he felt about the album. And mostly what he had to say was positive.
I’ve worked with him ever since. We’ve completed two albums since then, and we’re in the process of wrapping up a third. Rick treats the work I’m doing with the respect I believe it deserves. And we have a mutual respect for one another, plus a work efficiency that I can honestly say that I’ve not found with anyone else.
When I’m wrapping up an album it can be an intense and obsessive time. I have lots of questions and concerns. Rick is my guy. He is solid. He gets back to me right away. He sends me mixes as soon as he can. Obviously I know he is working on other people’s records, but I always feel like his top priority.”
“In order to keep from getting long-winded, I will cut right to the chase. The best part of working with Rick is the way that he approaches every project with equal amounts of respect, enthusiasm, and professionalism. Making music and taking it seriously is not something that a lot of people really understand or appreciate, and I will occasionally struggle to maintain optimism and motivation in the face of all that indifference. That is why it was so affirming when my friend David and I went to have my last band’s album mixed and mastered at Handwritten. Up to that point, everything we’d done felt just self-indulgent, but when we met with Rick for the first time, he approached our project seriously and made us feel like what we were doing had some value. He had a real conversation with us and treated us with respect in discussing some of the recording mistakes and outlining the ways that his mixing/mastering process could improve the sound of album (this kind of transparency and clarity about the process is also greatly appreciated). Most importantly, he was never condescending, but also did not (and never has in my experience) refrain from being honest in his critiques. The thing is, when he is talking about his ideas and the sounds that he’s hearing, it’s always from a place of trying to educate and help you understand and grow, and not just making you feel bad about something you did wrong. So when I was doing some home recording and failing miserably at mixing and mastering the tracks on my own, I immediately thought to contact Rick for help (other great things about Rick are that his prices are very reasonable and he is incredibly flexible with his time, both of which were also benefits when working on this project). Once again, he was open to sitting down and listening to the music together and providing ideas and listening to feedback on his work. At the risk of sounding corny, just the few times I’ve worked with Rick so far have been invaluable to my learning process. And this is largely because he is easy to talk to and never makes you feel like you just asked a “dumb” question.
Michael Garrity, Nora Marks
“I first started recording and working with Rick in 2011 when i first moved to the city. Since then he has helped record three different projects of mine. We instantly connected on what music is about. He is a friendly guy, with a great and unique perspective on what recording music is all about. He is also willing to teach you anything you want to know while you’re doing sessions with him. Take advantage this while you are there.”
Blaine Welsh, Press
“Rick aims and works toward the quality of sound and musicianship necessary for any successful project; it actually amazes me he takes on so many projects from all genres and is able to complete them all at the same high standard. It’s also nice to work with someone that will tell you if a note, measure, or entire song isn’t up to par and will work with you in a positive manner to reach the desired end result. I don’t record anywhere else because I trust Rick so much with my sound and if I decide to move from Chicago someday Rick is coming too! He just doesn’t know it yet…”
“If you’re going to work on music with Rick, go ahead and throw away everything you’ve heard about the difficulties involved working with professional recording studios. Rick runs his studio with the audio quality of professional studios, but the attitude and tastes of the guy you actually WANT recording/mixing/mastering your work…not just the guy you can afford. Places like this aren’t just hard to find, they barely exist anymore.
All of my musical snob friends who are too cool to record anywhere else in the city will always record with Rick. This is a mind-blowing endorsement in itself. I don’t play in bands anymore, but still do composition for film and stage. Even though I have a pro studio at my house, I still go to Rick for my mastering. Yes, I could do this at my house, but the fact that I don’t properly illustrates the importance of a Rick-like character in the creative process.
Don’t book the guy who doesn’t give a shit.”
“I’ve recorded music in my own studio forever but always wanted to have SOMEONE ELSE at the controls. I was apprehensive about it going in, being quite used to doing my own thing, listening to my own advice. My fears were squelched the day I met, Rick. Good vibe. In the end he helped get what I heard in my head OUT of my head. What more could you ask for? A great experience all the way around.”
“The SpitBalls Project last year met and exceeded our expectations. Rick was very thorough in his approach to our recording project. The most useful aspect of the project was that he took a careful listen to the “rough” cuts we presented prior to recording. It was very helpful to us that he understood the sound and feel of the music we were trying to achieve. His close attention to those details made our recording time much more efficient and enjoyable. We would highly recommend his services and feel free to use us as a reference any time.”
Tom Buckrucker, SpitBalls.
“I first worked with Rick in 2008 when I was only 18 and a very green artist. I was so nervous that I thought I was going to pass out, but Rick was always so reassuring and encouraging. Our paths crossed again around 2010-2011 when I recorded my first demo with my college band. The nerves were gone by then, and we had such a fun weekend recording live with Rick and co. Finally, one of my best experiences with Rick was when he mixed a song I recorded for a wedding this year. I live in Berlin now and Rick was so patient and accommodating with the international transaction. He mixed my home recording to perfection and once again was encouraging and reassuring throughout. We did everything via email, Dropbox and Chase QuickPay—easy as pie! It’s been a pleasure, and I hope we work together again soon!”
“2004-2011, I ran Joey’s Brickhouse with my asshole brother. West on Belmont was Uncle Fun, where we stocked the restaurant with whoopee cushions. West of Uncle Fun was Handwritten Recording. I was lucky. Even though I didn’t know how lucky, at the time. Typically you don’t recognize how lucky you are until someone dies or you’re asked to write a review for their blog.
Family Values with an Oy Vey was a radio show we did on the weekends, after brunch and before dinner. I recorded all of my dumbass songs at Handwritten.
Rick is a genius!!! I’ll tell you why he’s a genius. Early on, he recognized I cared just as much about making payroll and running an honest business as I did about my dumbass songs.
The universe is more balanced with Rick on the soundboard. It’s been damn near 6-years since the days of Joey’s Brickhouse. I miss the neighborhood. I miss Rick. Most of all, I miss the whoopee cushions.”