A Detroit native returns home to create an all-encompassing recording studio dedicated to helping bring music back to Motown
Roger Goodman would not have chucked his life in L.A. if he didn’t have faith in the musical eminence of the Motor City.
Since he opened Royal House Recording in Royal Oak in 2016, the 36-year-old Bloomfield Hills native has been producing local talent, including Detroit female rapper Dej Loaf, and is on the lookout for artists who might usher in a Motown revival. Goodman wants to help them record high-quality work at a lower cost than they’d find on either coast.
Goodman’s got the bona fides: He put in 15 years as a sound engineer and producer in Los Angeles, running his own studio for eight years. He worked with rap performers like Lupe Fiasco (with whom he worked on a Grammy-nominated recording), rap/crooner Chris Brown and Lil Dicky, a profane but witty Jewish rapper from the suburbs of Philadelphia.
Established performers like R. Kelly and rising rap stars like Lil Yachty and Post Malone have laid down beats at Royal House, a Victor Saroki-designed modernist building that occupies a former street cleaner maintenance and repair shop in a semi-industrial block in the northeast part of Royal Oak.
Since he opened, Goodman says, the studio’s been booked solid. Still, he finds time for goodwill work, like helping to produce a Purim-themed song for Temple Israel, his spiritual home. He had his bar mitzvah there and went on a teen mission to Israel through the temple. Goodman recently returned from a trip to Israel with Friends of Israel Defense Forces. A chet yud (“chai”) tattoo on one hand and a Jewish star on the other — both remnants of his early 20s — announce his Jewish pride.
The son of Gary and Enid Goodman of Bloomfield Hills found his redemption from a rather fast life with Beit T’Shuvah, a faith-based residential treatment center in L.A. that helps kids 13 to 18 recover from substance abuse through Jewish prayer, thought and meditation. Goodman learned with rabbis there and volunteered by talking to private school Jewish kids about real-world issues from a Jewish perspective.
“I’m covered in tattoos, from the neck down,” he says, on this day covered up with a track suit. “These kids saw me and knew I wasn’t a square.”
Beit T’Shuvah was a milestone in Goodman’s zig-zaggedy life path. For high school, he left Michigan for a boarding school in New Hampshire (to get out of the “bubble” of his hometown, he says), did a stint in the family steel business, studied at UCLA for a short time, and then enrolled at the Los Angeles Recording School, where he learned music production. He’d already been writing music on his computer, and that’s what he really wanted to do.
“I got a bit of a late jump. Then it was full force,” Goodman says.
Leaving L.A., building Royal House — and getting married two years ago to Hailey, now pregnant with their first child — has rooted Goodman, in a good way. He didn’t like being one in a million sound engineers in L.A.; he also hated the traffic. When he’d come home to visit his parents over the years, he realized “there was nowhere for a normal person to get a professional sound.”
By the time he opened Royal House, Goodman says, people were banging at the doors to get in. He’s been booked solid for a year.
Goodman commissioned Saroki Architecture in Birmingham to design the main 5,500-square-foot building and an adjacent 2,500-square foot space he acquired for additional privacy.
“Victor is one of the best, but he’s very humble; I’m overbearing and difficult,” Goodman says. “So it was cool. They were great to work with.”
Goodman handled the interior design himself, adding dramatic chandeliers, granite and tile, and designing the exterior wall of the studio in contrasting slats of wood. He used local craftspeople to do the carpentry and acoustical work.
The artwork around is arresting — from multimedia “street” art to floor-to-ceiling murals. The piece de resistance is a large, kitschy oil painting Goodman commissioned in L.A.: a cardinal listening thoughtfully to a wealthy lady playing a piano, her bewigged husband beside her, sometime in the 18th century. It is flanked by Rococo chairs from Germany that Goodman found on eBay and had reupholstered in ruby red velvet. In keeping with a royal theme, Goodman covered a 35-foot wall with a deep blue velvet curtain. The plushness is contrasted with the stark simplicity of the building. A glassed-in basketball court faces out to a courtyard where speakers disguised as rocks deliver atmosphere to guests dining outside. Another glassed wall opens onto a garage where Goodman’s BMW and Ferrari take turns in the spot.
The studio is also a masterpiece, with equipment from Vintage King in Ferndale.
It took three years and $3 million to build this empire. As far as he knows there are few studios like his in the metro area. Goodman can offer assistants, sound engineers and, of course, a full kitchen, workout suite and shower.
If he’s doing the engineering, he’ll sit in as a musician. His goal is to help artists develop — a process that can take two years — and get them on the charts.
“There’s so much talent in Detroit,” Goodman says. “I’m trying to revive Motown.”
Julie Edgar Special to the Jewish News