Boston to Mid Coast, Maine


Jason Hearst considered many cities before moving back to his childhood stomping grounds in Mid Coast, Maine. Jason, an audio engineer with a degree Berklee College of Music, knew that it would be nearly impossible to find any recording studio work outside of the city, but decided that living in a place where his kids could have an idyllic childhood outweighed working in the music industry hubs of Los Angeles, Nashville or New York City.

With the mantra, “If you build it, they will come,” Jason set out to transform an old barn on his property into a state-of-the-art recording studio. After several years of construction, and a lot of troubleshooting, Hearstudios opened its doors in 2013. Beyond serving a need for local musicians in his community, Hearstudios has also worked with a number of national musical acts.

It is an inspiring, quiet and unique way for musicians to make an album – writing and recording in a historic barn in Maine during a snowstorm. Now Jason doesn't have to compromise between working, pursuing his passions and spending time with his family. He can record a music session in the morning, coach his kids ski team in the afternoon and finish out the day with some sledding and hot chocolate. Looking back, he feels rooted and grateful that he made the choice to forgo chasing his dreams in the city and build his own studio in the rural reaches. (Click to jump to his interview)


What inspired you to move to the country? 

I grew up in this area and always wanted to come back here. I was finishing school at Berklee College of Music and my wife and I were trying to figure out where to go. It had to be a place where I could find work as a sound engineer. We considered Los Angeles and New York City and strongly considered Nashville. While we were trying to figure it out, my mom passed away and that really made me want to move back to this area. 


When my wife was pregnant with our second child we sold our place in Boston and moved to the suburb of Wesley. It was a temporarily lease and we were grateful for that. We immediately knew that suburban life was not a good fit. It felt like we were in the witness protection program. Everyone would come home from work and drive straight into their garages and we never saw or met anyone. We couldn’t walk anywhere, except for around the development. There were nice people there but it seemed homogenous and hard to break into the social scene.


To me, coming back to Maine was the perfect place to raise our kids. It seemed safe, people's values were in line with my own and I could actually get my kids into school without needing to be on a wait list. We could buy a nice house here, something that we actually wanted. No traffic. No pollution. In San Francisco you could easily leave the city but in Boston it is a full-day adventure to go hiking. Living here you can just walk out the door and go for a hike. 



Initially what was the hardest part about making the move? What challenges came later?

From an emotional standpoint, there were no challenges moving to the country. I was happy to get here and get away from the crush of humanity. From a business standpoint, a destination recording studio was a roll of the dice – would it work? Can I build a nice enough studio that will bring people here from outside of the area? We had to crack into the larger market because keeping it entirely local wasn’t work long term. The hardest part of coming to Maine was not having a group of professional peers that I could collaborate with. 

Would you ever go back to an urban existence? 

I would say yes but it would have to be when my kids are grown and out of the house. Raising kids up here can’t be beat. My mom used to say, “It is a lot easier to grow up in the country and learn how to live in a city, then to grow up in the city and learn how to exist in the country.”  



What do you appreciate the most about life in the country?

There is so much I appreciate. I think it is a tie between the slower pace of life and getting to be part of a community where you can make a difference. People here are kind, real and they are willing to help when you’re in a bind. There is an underlying calm that you get living here that isn’t attainable in the city. 



What advice would you give to someone thinking of moving out of the city?

You have to be pragmatic and weigh your pros and cons. What goals do you have in your life to give your life context? You could work your way up the corporate ladder, save a nice 401K and retire to a beach somewhere - if that is what will make you feel fulfilled. If you want to look back at your life and see the hard work of living in the country, do it. If you measure your worth on amassing wealth and power, maybe this life isn’t for you. 



When you go back to visit the city, what are the first three things on your to-do list?

When I’m driving to the city – I have to put on my defensive driver hat; a hat not necessary on country roads in Maine. There are not a lot of things I feel like I have to do when I go back, which is why I don’t live in a city anymore. There’s nothing really in the city that pulls me in anymore. I might go for an event but I’m not dying to go unless there is something specific going on. There is a mindset that I have to get into just to deal with that many people. 



Where do you draw your inspiration and passion from for your work?

The musicians I get to work with at Hearstudios inspire me. I feel privileged to be a part of their creative process. Artists come in with work they have spent a lot of time developing and it is my job to ensure they leave with a recording they are really proud of. It is like capturing lightning in a jar – it is a total rush. 



Have you noticed a change in yourself or your work since moving away from the city?

It has been more of an evolution. I see my family happy and it feels right being in this place so that makes everything else easier in my life. 



Walk us through a typical day in your country existence? How does it compare to the day to day in the city?

It is kind of all over the place. No two days are the same. In the morning I get my kids off to school, then work and do family stuff around the house, then maybe some exercise and then I pick the kids up and run around to their various practices and appointments. It is busy and varied, which I like, I don’t like monotony. My social time is just being out in the world, running errands. In the city I felt like I couldn’t get as much stuff done. Although it is hard to compare the two, as my life was so different then. Most of my city life was single and working and now with kids so much has changed. 



Are there things that you are able to do here that you wouldn’t have dared to try before moving from the city?

Internally I feel less intimidated here so I am bolder to try new things and start my own business. Also, I have gotten really involved with some of the local area non-profit organizations and I feel like I am really helping make a difference in this wonderful community I call home.  



Do you have a specific space or place that helps you feel inspired? 

My studio. I still can’t believe how good my space is sounding now. You can throw a mic anywhere and it works really well. I feel like the luckiest guy I know because I have this amazing studio attached to my house. 



What are some common misperceptions about life in the country? What do you want people to know/understand about life in small communities? 

You get a really interesting group of people who are making a conscious choice to be in the country. They might be sacrificing urban conveniences, higher incomes, etc. to live here but I would say that, on the whole, people are happier and kinder here. There is a different energy and vibe in the country. In a city you are anonymous, you can do whatever you want and no one is going to call you out for being terrible. In the country people treat others how they want to be treated. If you are a bad person here, you aren’t going to be well received. 



What are your future plans/goals for the coming year?

Clean my basement (laughs). This year I want to take on some good projects that will help to grow my business but balancing that with my parenting, as that is my ultimate priority right now. I have a five to six year window before my kids are teenagers and don’t want to hang out with me anymore. I’m going to be running this studio my entire life, I’m never going to retire, so creating balance - weighting towards spending time with my family - is my goal for the year.