Meet The Staff
Though it began as Michael Connolly’s singlehanded labor of love, the Empty Sea family has since grown a bit! More than 180 concerts and 45 recording projects later, the studio now employs a small, scrappy staff to help share the workload.
Michael Thomas Connolly - owner, principal engineer
I am a performer, engineer, and producer based in the Seattle area. I’m originally from Memphis Tennessee, and spent some time living in the Midwest before moving to Seattle about 8 years ago.
Although I long ago played in funk and rock bands in Memphis, my primary interest over the past 12 years or so has been playing, teaching, and recording acoustic music. I teach fiddle and mandolin, and perform on a number of other instruments including accordion, upright and electric bass, Hammond organ, piano, guitar, uilleann pipes, and others.
In terms of hands-on experience, I have been engineering multitrack recordings for around 16 years. I’ve done orchestral “hall” recording as well as work with singer-songwriters, folk musicians, a cappella, jazz, bluegrass, Irish, Scandinavian and Americana / roots artists. As of November 2012, I’ve engineered more than 48 full-length, publicly released albums.
My experience is heavily informed on the aesthetic side from having been a musician in a number of genres including classical, jazz, folk, Irish traditional, and bluegrass music. As a performer, I have toured with Coyote Grace, Girlyman, and the Indigo Girls, as well as sharing the stage with Lucy Wainwright Roche, Brandi Carlile and others, and my playing is represented on more than 40 albums in a wide variety of genres.
Complementing my recording discography is a deep experience in live concert sound; I have overseen more than 190 concert productions at Empty Sea since its opening in 2009.
The technical side of engineering and audio production is bolstered by my degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of Michigan.
To get a taste of some projects I’ve worked on, you can view a selected discography here.
Jordan Cunningham – staff engineer
My work at Empty Sea consists of both live sound engineering and recording/mixing. I am from a small town in the mountains of California but moved to the northwest after college and my internship at Prairie Sun Studios in the San Francisco bay area.
I am an active musician in my professional life and in my personal time. I play guitar, mandolin, percussion and other various string instruments in an eclectic mix of genres. My love for music as a lifestyle and a career has been accentuated by the opportunity to work with Michael Connolly. Empty Sea is a gem among modern facilities, one that cares for the essence of sound and how it is delivered.
Caitlin Romtvedt – promotions director, studio manager
I grew up in a house full of music in Northern Wyoming. The Pacific Northwest has always been a second home to me since I have come to the Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend all my life and then had the good fortune to work for Centrum.
I play fiddle, saxophone, and guitar and have played a variety of genres from Zydeco to Klezmer to Quebecois, though I mostly play Latin American music and old-style swing, jazz and blues. I love acoustic music and the communities that it is able to build and maintain. This fall, I moved Seattle and I’m so happy to be working for Empty Sea.
Heather Askeland - show host & contributing author
Raised in Minneapolis, I moved to Seattle after almost a decade living in New York City. I am a classically trained violinist who took an extended hiatus from making music, focusing instead on holistic healing and channeling my creative energy into poetry. Only recently have I picked up the fiddle again, this time diving into non-classical styles such as bluegrass and Irish fiddling. My time away from the violin brought to light just how integral music is to both personal and community healing. Empty Sea’s uniquely intimate setting brings community audiences and expert musicians together in conversation, and I feel privileged to help facilitate that exchange.
RJ Mattingly - staff engineer
Empty Sea Television Staff
Paul Cranefield – technical director
Paul been blessed with a fantastic career in the media. A Seattle native, his career has taken him from Washington, to Idaho, to Hollywood (and literally around the world), but he is happy to call Seattle “home-base” again.
Paul has PA’ed on commercials and feature films; written, researched and edited for primetime network TV shows; shot and edited documentaries; directed daily newscasts and feature films; and produced award-winning films and public service campaigns. Regardless of the project, he notes, it always comes down to great story telling. And that’s what we do every night at Empty Sea Studios. Our musicians have deeply personal stories they want to share and we help them do it in a uniquely intimate way.
For audiences who cannot attend Empty Sea Studios performances in person, the video productions of the shows are like jelly to peanut butter: they are each great on their own and yet, somehow, compliment each other perfectly.
Tom Gilbert – camera operator
As a kid, I was raised on a healthy diet of MTV and VH1 (you know, back when they played music videos). Despite their unfortunate change in format, I retained my fascination with how video and music can complement and sometimes even elevate one another. Since choosing a career in video production and training at Seattle Film Institute, I’ve shot, edited, and/or directed dozens of live concerts, music videos, and documentaries. My love of music and film, as well as my view of the internet as the future of content delivery, make working with Empty Sea Studios an exciting adventure that I’m proud to be a part of.
Curtis Enlow – camera operator
Curtis comes to Empty Sea Studios with an eclectic mix of video production experience. Beginning his second career as a research assistant on History Channel programming, Curtis honed his writing/research/post-production skills on National Geographic Channel documentaries such as San Quentin Unlocked, Bounty Hunters, Cowboys of the Sea and Alaska State Troopers and A&E’s Hoarders. In the field, Curtis is a skilled camera operator as well as a field audio mixer on a wide variety of projects, including television commercials, independent films, documentaries and theatrical & musical productions. Among his many ongoing projects, Curtis acts as a studio director for a news service that provides guest video feeds to media outlets all over the world, including MSNBC, CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera. With formal education in both audio and video production, live shots at Empty Sea are an enjoyable, rewarding and challenging outlet for Curtis’ skills and interests.