Flames from a bonfire glowed just brightly enough to light up the side of Jeremy Caruthers' face as he gave a pep talk to some of the singers and musicians he works with gathered at his home for a meeting. He read off a list compiled of the things he has learned in the music industry since he began recording when he was 15. Now 27, Caruthers is a self-employed producer at his home-based recording studio, Imagind Audio.
For him, music is more than just entertainment and good lyrics, or a catchy tune.
"Music, to me, in its most simple form, is expression," he said. "I know when I sit down to write or perform, it's almost like there's an internal soundtrack going on and the music that I play is actually an expression of what's inside of me."
Caruthers said one of his favorite quotes, by Albert Einstein, is that "Imagination is more important than knowledge." They are words he said he clings to, because he is self-taught.
It all began for him in the Virginia suburbs outside of Washington, D.C., where he grew up.
"I did my first recording when I just figured out that I really liked to rap and I was starting to get attention from all the kids in the neighborhood — we had a very high-population neighborhood and after school everybody threw their book bags in the door and there were 50 kids at the park," Caruthers said.
He started rapping because most of his friends listened to rap music.
Goofing around as many youth do, he would sometimes make up raps that made fun of the neighborhood girls, and everyone would laugh. After a while Caruthers said he started getting attention and realized nobody else was doing what he was doing. Upon this realization, he focused his efforts to write one song about pretending to be one way around "good friends" and another way around friends who "do the not-so-good things." He recorded the song rapping along with a hip-hop beat from a cassette tape with a microphone at his dad's church. It was the first song he ever recorded. Caruthers said it was about three years later — when he had graduation money — that he invested in recording equipment and became more serious about it.
He moved to attend Lee University, where he graduated in 2012, and has been working relentlessly in Cleveland to make his dreams happen. After working jobs where he was unable to pursue his passion, he decided to quit and do what he loves full time. He said it takes discipline and hard work.
A normal day starts with his new puppy, Koa, waking him up around 7:45 a.m. After he takes care of him, he does two to three hours of promotional work using the Internet and sending out mail. Then comes editing some of the music people have recorded in his studio, work which he says can be tedious. He fills his time with promotional and post-production work until people get out of work or class and can come to his studio to record in the afternoons. Once they arrive, a recording session takes place. By the time that is finished, Caruthers has usually put in 12 hours of work for the day.
According to Caruthers, it is the interaction with people that he enjoys most. When he can connect with a person who comes in the studio who he never previously talked to, he is reminded of what music can do.
"What other thing besides music can bring two people that don't know anything about each other [together], and immediately you click?" he said.
What's next for Caruthers? He's getting married in June and is planning to continue to record and mix audio at an even higher level, among some other possible music jobs.