If you frequent New Haven’s Ninth Square, you’ve probably noticed it: an Orange Street space with tall, wide windows that’s very quiet unless it’s very not.

It’s Baobab Tree Studios, and Kevin Ewing is its founder and CEO. The real estate it occupies is the original home of The Grove coworking space, which, when it moved around the corner, transferred the remainder of the lease to Ewing. Though there was no official partnership, the name The Grove Studios was used until the change to Baobab in 2015.

The Tree’s seed was planted when The Grove was the temporary home of WNPR’s Where We Live, hosted by John Dankosky, who helped Ewing realize the space could be ideal for broadcasting, filming and recording on a longer-term basis. “It really wasn’t what I was working on at the time, but sure, why not,” Ewing says of his reaction to the prospect.

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At first intended to be a membership-based coworking space for digital media professionals, the monthly subscription model didn’t work, Ewing told me. People would use the equipment and services once, then cancel their membership.

When the business name changed in 2015, the model also changed. Now the services—providing professional tools and spaces for recording, editing and mixing—are available a la carte. “Some months are good, some months are okay. We might start appraising this stuff now because we might have to sell everything and give up. But we’re making it,” says Ewing, who worked in insurance before becoming a reverend—he’s the minister at Center Church—as well as an entrepreneur.

He says Baobab Tree boils down to one thing: “This is a creative space for telling your story. It all comes back to story.” If someone comes in with a good idea for a podcast or song, but few funds to produce it, Ewing says Baobab might just be willing to discount or even waive the fee. If money’s no issue, you can produce whatever you want. But if Baobab is helping, Ewing’s a little strict. If you “come in here with a song about how much money you have, or how big you ballin,’ and you’re living in your mama’s basement,” he says you probably won’t get any special consideration. “If you want to talk about how that’s what you aspire to, that’s fine, but this is about keeping it real.”

Along with one-offs, Ewing says, the studio regularly helps produce the work of a number of local podcasters, musicians and spoken word artists, along with two ongoing video projects. One of them, a Baobab Tree original, is called Barbershop Debates, where a crew goes into a local barbershop and records the discussions happening over haircuts. “They get pretty heated, they get pretty loud, they get pretty raunchy, they get pretty deep and very real,” Ewing says. The project consists of video clips as well as a more in-depth podcast.

For studio manager Brendan Linehan and audio engineer Alex Moore, both content creators themselves, it’s been a chance to use their skills—as well as to become reacquainted. Childhood friends who had grown apart, Baobab Tree brought them back together. As one of Moore’s songs plays over Baobab’s speakers, Linehan explains that the title of his forthcoming podcast series, Panda Talk, came from a nickname Moore had given him as a child.

“Coming into this space actually helps a lot because I’ll sit down with and listen to something I made and just come up with a whole bunch of ideas. I have a good support system here,” Moore says. Linehan adds, “When I look back at being here and learning all this, I realize I could never do a 9-to-5 job. I like the ability to be creative and help other people grow.”

Ewing echoes that sentiment. “It’s been a place where people who normally didn’t have access to this kind of resource have a space where they can come experiment,” he explains. ”That’s what this is about, creating opportunity.”

Baobab Tree Studios
71 Orange St, New Haven (map)
(475) 227-3581

Written and photographed by Anne Ewbank. Photo 4 depicts Brendan Linehan and Alex Moore.

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