Caren Kelleher of Gold Rush Vinyl - Still Austin Whiskey Co.
seven questions by still austin

1. What gets your motor running, artistically?

I find the most creative and artistic energy when I keep a good workout schedule and carve out time for quiet, uninterrupted thinking. That’s harder and harder to do as the world becomes more digitally connected, so I have to find ways to disconnect and make time for my mental and physical health – even if it means letting my phone battery run out. I love spending aimless afternoons sitting in the downtown library or being on a two-hour airplane ride without WiFi.

2. Tell us about a work of art you feel is woefully misunderstood or underappreciated.

Honestly? Nature! I’ve always been a city girl who preferred the indoors to the outdoors, but the pandemic forced me to get outside a lot more. It’s amazing what surrounds us every day and how it all works together. That appreciation has definitely compelled me to find more ways for my company to grow its sustainability efforts.

3. How would you explain the art of making vinyl? What part gets you really excited?

People always come into the factory and say something along the lines of, “It’s like Willy Wonka built a music factory!” We’ve been at it for four years now, but it still blows my mind that you can press music into a piece of plastic. The high demand for vinyl is giving our clients more room to be creative and, in turn, giving our team the chance to try more crazy things, like hologram etchings in the vinyl. Our press operators really are artisans, and I love seeing new color blends and process improvements they think up every day.

4. You have an MBA from Harvard Business School. Did your business background move you toward making vinyl, or were you just following your heart?

I started casually collecting records in college, but it was really the business of vinyl that attracted me to the industry. From all of my years in the music industry, I knew the real impact that vinyl could have for independent musicians, especially compared to the fractional-penny royalty rates they were earning from streaming music. The heart-led part was believing I could actually help the situation and taking the big leap of building a factory in Texas. It’s one thing to be interested in something and another to turn your life upside down to pursue it. I’m a big believer in chasing your curiosities – even if they lead you to a dead end – so I started researching the industry and what it would take to build a new vinyl factory. When I visited Austin on a scouting trip, every door felt like it was swinging open for me so I kept going, even through the many tough parts.

5. What makes a good vinyl record?

We can only make a vinyl record sound as good as the music we’re given to work with, so it has to start with excellent songwriting, recording and mastering. It’s elevated even further by thoughtful packaging and liner notes. Vinyl, itself, is a very inconvenient medium for listening to music, so a good vinyl record needs to offer fans something beyond what they can find for free online. It has to feel good in your hands and when you drop the needle on the record to hear that first note of the album.

6. You’re a huge Beatles fan. What’s the greatest Beatles song?

I would argue that gapless playback of “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End” on Abbey Road makes it the greatest Beatles song of all time, and that is a hill I am willing to die on.

7. How do you take your whiskey?

Sitting around a fire pit with friends, and hopefully one of them brought a guitar.

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