After 10 years of work as a software developer, Grant Howarth combined his technical skills with his passion for music to develop a successful business in the recording arts. But the flood of 2013 destroyed his recording studio, leaving him to rebuild from scratch.
Howarth’s passion for music began in his early life, and carried through into his youth. As a teenager he played guitar, drums and occasionally did vocals in various bands, with genres ranging from punk to folk. However, turning this pastime into an entertainment career was something he never looked into.
“It was just something we kind of did for fun. And you know, we played shows in our little community and stuff like that, and it was nice, but certainly never considered it as any type of a money-maker career.”
Eventually, Howarth decided to take computer programming at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary, Altta. This program led him to a career in software development, which he remained in for 10 years.
“I worked for a really small company and then we made mapping software for the oil and gas industry. It mapped out seismic lines, well locations. Long and boring stuff. I worked with that for quite awhile, and then that company got purchased by a larger company, and very quickly I got to a senior software developer role.”
Despite that success, he eventually came to the realization that he did not want to remain in this industry forever.
“I just kind of got pigeonholed into a lot of the same work” he said. “You can start to burn out if you don't have enough changing going on in your world.”
This need for a change caused Howarth to explore work that related to his interest in music. After he made a few visits to some smaller recording studios with his band, he knew that he had found his new career path.
“I didn't start doing it with the intention of running a recording studio, I did it with the intention of being able to record my own material. But that just opened up a can of worms and I just realized, that even more so than creating the music, I enjoy the production side of the music, of recording it, and then the mixing and the mastering and the whole thing. So it just kind of led its way down that path for me.”
From that point on, there was no turning back. Howarth set up his own studio called, The Outhouse, and he acquired an extremely diverse client base while working with both local and international artists.
“You know, one day I'm working with a folksinger, the next day it's a full out metal band, the next day it’s a hip-hop artist and then a country band or something even more obscure, and it's really neat because it's so many different personalities and it just keeps it very interesting.”
However, after just 10 years of running his business successfully, something happened that Howarth’s unpredictable day-to-day schedule could not have prepared him for. The flood that coursed through Calgary in 2013 ran through his neighborhood, and caused significant damage to his home and studio.
“The flood just completely annihilated everything” he said. “I walked in my furnace room and my deep, like a full sized deep freeze, was actually suspended up in the air kind of wedged between the wall and the hot water tank with the door hanging open, because the water had risen so high that deepfreeze floated up. And then when the water receded it had wedged up there.”
Josh Nadeau, a drummer with an interest in audio engineering, had been working with Howarth at this time. Thinking back on seeing the damage first hand, he recalls being completely shocked.
“You could see the watermarks on the walls pretty much as tall as we were.” Nadeau said. “And Just anything that had been left down there was strewn about, and everything was covered in dirt and grime.”
In the aftermath of the flood, the music community showed their support by putting on a fundraising concert to help Howarth. Michael Hill, a loyal client who had done work with
Howarth with his band, Septembryo, took the initiative when it came to organizing this event.
“We got a great response,” Hill recalls. “Grant is such a nice guy, but he's also very good at what he does. So, the mutual respect and admiration for him in the music community, you know, was just very apparent. So I just contacted a list of artists I knew recorded there, and everyone was you know, without hesitation, ‘Yeah, I’m in. I'll do it’.”
Thanks to this event, as well as other support from the community, Howarth was able to rebuild both his residence and his business from the ground up. His new home is situated in a brand new location, and he enlisted the help of a professional studio designer to create his new studio, which he named The Audio House.
Overall, Howarth does not view his past experiences as discouraging.
“You know, you can dwell and feel bad about it, or you can just utilize the support that we had from our family and from the community, and just use that energy to just totally move forward, and that's exactly what we did. We just moved forward.”
With the worst behind him, Howarth intends to continue to utilize his new space to the fullest by taking on new challenges. His future goals include undertaking the production of music videos, as well as being heavily involved in the creation of a movie soundtrack. But currently, he is just enjoying getting back to his work, and utilizing his in-house studio to the fullest.
“In retrospect, you know, obviously it wasn’t a great thing that happened, but it is one of the best things that happened, because the new studio space is so much better than what I had before. We're so much happier with our new home. We've got two happy kids. It's a real treat to be able to work from home and just to be able to see my kids often.”
- By Nikale van der Vlis