CANFIELD, Ohio — Michael Estok gave his wife, Emily, a nudge when they first laid eyes on the indoor swimming pool room of a house being shown to them by a real estate agent.
“It was as if to say ‘This is the place!’ ” Emily recalls.
The large, old house at 17 Court St. in Canfield proved the perfect place for their home and music industry business. Since buying it three years ago, the Estoks have built a thriving company called Court Street Recording.
The Estoks are Mahoning Valley natives who had been living in Nashville, where Michael also had a home studio. Since returning, they have transformed their spacious Canfield home – the historic Charles Ruggles house – into an ideal lifestyle situation.
Built in 1846, the structure has imposing pillars and a detached guest house where visiting musicians stay when they are in town for a recording session.
The Estoks have turned the pool area – an addition built in the 1960s – into a recording studio, with an adjacent sound mixing room and an upstairs lounge.
The pool, of course, has been filled in; the performance area sits where it once was.
The whole space is a juxtaposition of warmth and technology. Exposed wooden ceiling beams, wooden walls and a brick fireplace contrast with the electronic equipment.
While the house was perfect for the Estoks, it was hardly in demand.
“This house was just sitting on the market,” Michael says. “It’s such a unique space but not really practical for most people. I told Emily, ‘If we get this, and move the studio in there, I have a feeling [business] will come.’ ”
Today, Court Street Recording studio maintains a busy schedule. It is booked into June with artists from the Mahoning Valley, Nashville – where most of its clients live – and beyond.
Local artists that have recorded there include veteran rock acts The Vindys and JD Eicher, who just finished an album at the studio.
Eicher was impressed.
“Court Street is a real deal recording studio and Michael [Estok] captures world-class sounds,” Eicher says. “My band and I cut our newest project at the studio, and we believe so much in Michael and what he’s doing that we decided to call the record ‘Court Street’ as a tribute to the experience. Such a lucky thing that this gem has popped up in Canfield.”
Eicher says the album will be released in April.
The Vindys released two songs – “Want Your Heart” and “Are You Ready” – in the past year that were recorded at Court Street. The band will wrap up recording its next album at the studio some time this month.
“Michael works fast and makes the recording process seem easy,” says Jackie Popovec, singer for The Vindys. “His studio lends to a really comfortable creative space that [we] thrive in.”
Michael Estok grew up in the Poland area and is a 1999 graduate of Mooney High School. He learned his craft at Recording Workshop in Chillicothe and Full Sail University in Florida.
Emily Estok graduated from Columbiana High School in 2002 and attended Youngstown State University. She is the business manager for Court Street Recording, and is also a dental hygienist and a real estate agent.
They couple moved to Nashville in the mid-2000s when Michael landed a job with Sony Music. There, he opened his first home-based studio in 2008 working another job before going full-time into his own business in 2013.
Over the years, he amassed his own client list and did contract work for Sony.
Although the couple was doing well enough, circumstances began to turn their thoughts homeward.
Their son was a toddler, and Michael’s contract with his primary artist, for whom he had high hopes, had fizzled out.
Nashville was fully into its growth boom at that time, bringing with it increases in traffic and the cost of living.
Then came the sudden death of Emily’s father in 2016. The couple knew it was time to move closer to family.
While home studio businesses are commonplace in Nashville, that’s not the case in Canfield. Michael says after he explained his plans to city officials, they were very supportive.
On his quiet street, Michael provides a full-range of recording services: recording, mixing, mastering and even playing background instruments.
He specializes in indie-pop, folk and Americana music.
“My niche is singer-songwriters,” he says. “We have worked on bands though. They are a different dynamic because they often try to do a lot of songs in a short period of time.
“For singer-songwriters, I like to do one song at a time,” Michael continues, explaining that most people nowadays consume music that way, rather than by the album.
“My model is to focus on the single, giving each song the attention it deserves,” he says. “Then, when [the artist] has 10 or 11 songs completed, release it as an entire body of work.”
Michael and Emily are also musicians and were part of a trio when they lived in Nashville.
They rarely perform these days but have gotten on stage at Birdfish Brewing Co. in Columbiana a few times.
“I’m not someone who likes to be out in the spotlight a lot,” Michael says. “But we love Birdfish and play there every once in a while.”
They’ve also developed a working relationship with the craft brew pub.
“We plan to have our artists perform there when they are in town,” Michael says.
Pictured: Emily and Michael Estok work in their home-based recording studio, Court Street Recording, in Canfield.