Walking into Sunset Sound in Hollywood, you can’t help but admire the history of the place. Platinum records from Led Zeppelin, The Who, Prince and Van Halen adorn the walls. Without the support of a major label, it’s unlikely that an artist can afford studio time here. But thanks to Converse Rubber Tracks, which provides a handful of independent artists recording time in iconic studios, emerging R&B songstress Arima Ederra was able to record at Sunset Sound without having to pay a dime.
Ederra, who was born in Atlanta and raised in Las Vegas, moved to Inglewood last year, believing that her opportunities in Vegas had dried up. She quickly met a slew of creative people, and they inspired her to continue following the musical aspirations her father first instilled in her.
Ederra's Ethiopian father, who drove a cab for a living, had introduced her to traditional Ethiopian music, Afro rock, Afro blues and jazz. He helped lay a foundation for his daughter's understanding of different genres and her willingness to explore and infuse different styles to create her own. In 2013, she self-released her debut album, Earth to Arima, which was influenced by jazz and hip-hop. During the recording of that album her father died, adding to her motivation to pursue music full-time.
Though she went to school for early childhood development, Ederra decided to head to California to pursue her musical ambitions. “I love kids, but music was what I’d do when I’d go home,” the dreadlocked singer explains as she sits in a chair in Studio A between vocal takes. “My dad showed me that life is short and gave me the courage and strength to get through that with my music.”
Back in April, at the insistence of her sister, Ederra applied for studio time through Converse Rubber Tracks. Not thinking too much of the application or the opportunity itself, Ederra started to work on material sporadically over the past four months. Then she received an email from a Converse rep saying she'd been selected to receive the free studio time — no strings attached. She was one of 84 musicians chosen from a group of nearly 10,000 applicants.
Converse isn’t acting as a label but merely as a facilitator, providing independent artists with studio time while allowing them to own all the rights to their music. Converse Rubber Tracks books the artists at three of its own studios and at iconic spots including Abbey Road in London and Tuff Gong in Kingston.
“For years musicians have supported Converse, and this is the least we can do to give back to them in a meaningful way,” Converse global music marketing director Jed Lewis says. “We’ve been so fortunate to be on the feet of so many artists’ journeys.”
Saying she hasn’t had the ability to record as much in Los Angeles as she did in Las Vegas, Ederra made the most of the opportunity Converse provided. “It’s given me confidence, because my expectations for myself weren't being met,” she says. “I’d been really down on myself and wasn’t creating as much as I wanted to. This was everything I needed and has inspired me to finally put my next project out.”
Unlike other artists, most of whom used their limited time to record one song, Ederra laid down the instrumentation before heading to Hollywood and recorded vocals for the eight songs on her soon-to-be released album, Temporary Fixes. The diverse sound that caught Converse's attention is apparent on the first listen of “In My Garden.” Spacey and vibrant, featuring delicate vocals, the chillwave-meets-PBR&B blares through the studio speakers as Ederra watches her friends and the studio staff nodding along.
“It’s been amazing to have my friends come and add elements to the sound that we may not have had without this opportunity,” she says. “Being able to be in this energy with these great artists who have recorded here … I’m like a baby still!”