Step inside St. Joe Music and you’re bound to see a new face.
That new face belongs to David Farrell, who purchased St. Joe Music, located on Williams Avenue in Port St. Joe, from former owner Tom McEniry last month and has big plans for both the store and attached recording studio.
A classically-trained pianist, Farrell grew up in Trinidad and came to the U.S. 18 years ago to pursue a career in the music industry.
He spent time as a music minister in Washington state and Michigan before transitioning to building home recording studios and theaters in California and Texas where he handled every aspect from design, acoustic treatments and construction.
Ultimately, he achieved his goal of becoming a touring musician, playing keyboard and piano for artists like Gloria Estefan, Tom Jones and Grover Washington on tours across the U.S., Australia, Europe and Asia.
With a degree in economics from Temple University in Philadelphia, Farrell said he’s always had a passion for business and after settling down in Tennessee with his wife and two daughters, ages 18 and 19, he got into the mergers and acquisitions business.
That’s when he received the phone call that would change once again change his path.
In April, Farrell spoke with a broker in Orlando who told him about a small music store and recording studio for sale situated in the Florida panhandle.
Always interested in music-related opportunities, Farrell said he considered the purchase but initially passed.
In July, Farrell noticed that facility was still for sale and decided to do some research. Farrell said that once he realized it was the only recording studio within a 75-mile radius, he saw opportunity.
After a visit to tour the facility he signed the paperwork and moved his family to town less than a month ago from Cleveland, T.N., excited to begin his latest adventure.
“Cleveland is small town U.S.A.,” said Farrell. “But this small town has a beach, and that is good.”
Farrell said his main goal is to bring more and better music equipment to the store so area musicians can get what they need without having to spend gas driving all the way to Panama City.
“My goal is to give people a big city music store in a small community,” said Farrell. “If we revamp the store well, the community will rally around it.”
In addition to giving the store a facelift with new paint and a new look, Farrell plans to redesign the online store, add rooms for private music lessons, construct a live-in suite for traveling artists and modernize the recording studio, which has been renamed to Port St. Joe Recording Studio.
The process of modernizing the studio includes new sound treatment for the walls and installing the same gear that major label recording artists use for their own albums.
“I don’t want people to feel like they have to go all the way to Atlanta to have a quality recording,” said Farrell. “If we give artists a good, quality product, they’ll want to come back.”
Farrell will act as producer for recording sessions but welcomes artists to bring in their own teams if they desire. He also has a solid network of studio musicians and photographers and has the experience to put together any size project to meet any budget.
“I can give artists real industry advice,” said Farrell. “I’m going to bring in my expertise where I can, but I’m not a know-it-all.”
In addition to recording and producing local artists, Farrell plans to help promote them as well.
Later in the year he’ll travel to an artist symposium in Los Angeles where businesses gather to find music and jingles for television and radio commercials.
He hopes to present those in attendance with a selection of music from Port St. Joe that could be licensed for commercial use.
“Port St. Joe is a music town and my goal is to expose the music to outside areas,” said Farrell. “I want to show that St. Joe music can infiltrate the music scene positively.”
Farrell said that residents have already come into the store to welcome him to the community and been very encouraging. He plans for the St. Joe Music to be selling a lot of gear by the time the Christmas season rolls around. Everything in the store is currently being sold off to accommodate the new stock.
More than just providing many different types of instruments Farrell said he wants to foster an environment where a child interested in music can spend time in the store plunking around on guitars or banging on some drums to help find the right instrument for them.
“(Former owners) Tom and his father did a good job in what they wanted to accomplish with this store,” said Farrell. “Hopefully, we can take it to the next level.”