Citizen Vinyl has Perfected the Art of Sitting and Listening

 Citizen Vinyl has become a beacon of art, culture, and history for the region.
The lobby at Citizen Vinyl | Gar Ragland

In a seismic move further propelling the Asheville and greater Western North Carolina music scene into the national spotlight, Citizen Vinyl has become a beacon of art, culture, and history for the region.

Situated in the historic Asheville Citizen-Times building on O. Henry Avenue downtown, the property is home to an extensive artistic collaboration. At the heart of this musical project is Citizen Vinyl, a record manufacturing facility (the first ever based in the state).

The collaboration also includes Session (Citizen Vinyl’s adjacent bar/cafe), Coda: Analog Art & Sound (an immersive art gallery and retail space), and Citizen Studios (WWNC’s former broadcast station, now an in-house recording/mastering facility).

At the core of this artistic beehive is Gar Ragland of Citizen Studios. A longtime professional musician, record producer, and label head, Ragland brought WWNC’s legendary Studio A back to life. And with that, he helped a piece of American musical history currently enter its next bountiful phase.

Citizen Vinyl plays into something we love not only about Asheville, but Western North Carolina: the idea of collaboration.

Exactly. I think that this project is a great case study for that. We feel like it’s a tremendous privilege and responsibility to be doing what we’re doing in that building. Our whole team has so much reverence for it and the architecture.

Our whole approach with this project has been to be as minimally invasive to the building, to our design, and our concept, as we possibly can be. And frankly, it’s to our advantage because [the building] has so much to offer. Why would we mess this up and try to reconfigure it into something that it’s not? This [building] is beautiful art.

Obviously, our number one goal is to be a successful business. And we want to earn the reputation nationally for being the go-to for quality record manufacturing. But, as a collective under this building, we want to symbolize—and remind people of—the deep, historic, and artistic history of Asheville.

Two of the pillars of American music, Jimmie Rodgers and Bill Monroe, both got their starts in WWNC’s Studio A.

Studio A is where Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys played live on the “Mountain Music Hour.” So, that for me is a total added bonus. It was always my dream that, with a project like this, I would have an onsite room where I could continue to do the work that I love—as a producer, a mixer, and a record label guy.

Also, we ended up with a building that had a history of manufacturing. The Asheville Citizen-Times printed the newspaper in the building [for many years]. So, we’re honored to be able to bring modern-day manufacturing back to this amazing building.

And not only that, but we now have a first-class, state-of-the-art analog recording studio upstairs where we’re celebrating the history of that radio station.

It’s a very intentional experience. We want people to come in and feel as included, invited, welcomed, and inspired by good sound and food. It’s a multisensory celebration of life. We hope that we can be the community resource that we have built this to be.

In a very endearing way, it feels like a love letter to Asheville.

Yeah, I mean, Asheville has been really good to all of us. This is a way of celebrating and honoring that. I think all great art is created in part by a sense of gratitude and grace. And if this is it, this is the way that we are manifesting that, then that’s a wonderful thing.

If we can use this project as a way to really reaffirm our artistic identity as creative forces in Asheville, and to help those new audiences that Asheville continues to attract learn about our rich cultural history and manufacturing—if we can serve that role as kind of an inspiration to the creative community, kind of a landmark in that way—then we would love that to happen to the benefit of Asheville.

This post is adapted from our annual Welcome to Western North Carolina magazine. Click here to read more online, or click here to request your free copy.

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