The folks behind one of Austin’s premier recording studios announced plans Tuesday to produce a new music TV show starring icon Willie Nelson.
“Inside Arlyn” – the first episodes will be recorded this month — will feature a mixture of live performance clips recorded in front of an intimate audience, interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of artists in the South Austin studio.
“The theory is that Willie will be the host and welcome everybody inside of Arlyn,” Freddy Fletcher, Nelson’s nephew and one of the principals at both ACL Live and Arlyn Studios, said Wednesday. He was sitting in one of the studio’s control rooms with Lisa Fletcher and engineer Jacob Sciba, who collectively form the brain trust behind the show.
Freddy Fletcher has an extensive background in television production that predates his days at ACL Live, which is home to “Austin City Limits,” the long-running KLRU-produced music show that is celebrating its 40th season on PBS. Fletcher says the new show’s concept, “eavesdropping in on (the place) where music is created,” has produced “a lot of chatter from a lot of people,” but there is no network deal secured yet.
“I’m shooting this show as a pilot, then we’ll figure out who’s our best distribution offer,” said Fletcher, who wants to maintain creative control and allow the show to develop organically.
The pilot will be a double episode: The first half will feature Nelson and Merle Haggard performing with a 13-piece band, and the second Nelson with local blues hero Gary Clark Jr. Both episodes will film at the studio in November. (People will be able to win tickets to the shows; information on that and a limited number of VIP tickets at www.insidearlyn.com). Nelson was already scheduled to record an album with Haggard at the studio, and the synchronicity pushed the show’s production schedule into overdrive.
“Ten minutes after I talked to Willie and said ‘Hey, here’s the idea,’ I got a call from Willie’s manager enlisting Willie and Merle,” Fletcher said. Clark, the first artist Fletcher approached about the series, was also scheduled to record at the studio later in the month.
The combination of Clark and Nelson fits perfectly with Fletcher’s overarching concept for the show: Preserving the musical history that built Austin and celebrating the fresh energy that will drive the city’s musical legacy forward. “Willie’s like the godfather and Gary Clark will be the guy who carries that torch,” he said.
Fletcher has owned the studio space since 1984, and he’s recorded everyone from Stevie Ray Vaughan to Bonnie Raitt. After a major remodel was completed at the studio in 2012, the Raptor Group and Roc Nation approached Fletcher about using the space for a private party during the South by Southwest Music Festival. With “funky Goodwill lamps and candles and rugs” leftover from a video shoot for Clark scattered around, the studio had a captivating vibe that visitors found magical. “Everybody, the musicians and the people here, were like ‘God, you should do this all the time,’” Lisa Fletcher said.
Overnight, it seemed, they were fielding requests to use the studio for events, and the idea for the show began percolating on the back burner. Now, Fletcher and company are scrambling to transform their audio production house into a television studio. While there is no broadcast timeline and the show certainly will not air before next year, the producers are already looking ahead to the next installments of the 13-episode series they’re planning.
“Willie’s got such a broad range of artists and friends that there’s some exciting things we’re talking about,” Fletcher said. “It will be really eclectic. Maybe people you wouldn’t think would be with Willie in a show.”
The broadcast recording schedule for “Inside Arlyn” has not been released, but there will be a limited number of tickets to the tapings available to the public. Visit insidearlyn.com to enter the drawing.