It’s barely April, and Cynthia Daniels’ busy season is “really kicking in.”
The Grammy and Emmy-winning recording engineer, record producer and studio owner says her desire to live and work out east “has come together like a field of dreams.”
Alec Baldwin, Dame Julie Andrews, Sir Paul McCartney, Steve Martin, Blythe Danner, Jimmy Fallon, Christie Brinkley, Nile Rogers, Rufus Wainwright, John Leguizamo, Mercedes Ruehl, Chris Martin, GE Smith, Taylor Barton, Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julianne Moore, Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé and Jay-Z are just some of the over 400 celebrity and local clients who have recorded at Daniels’ state-of-the-art recording studio, MonkMusic Studios, in East Hampton.
“Everything I’ve done has prepared me for the next job without knowing it,” says Daniels, who worked and trained with some great producers like Phil Ramone. “I was exposed to live concerts, jingles and cast albums…during the golden age of recording in the ’80s.”
It all started with her first great love—music. “I’m an artist, and I had always wanted to be in the service of music somehow. I enjoy electronics and science, and in this profession I thought, ‘I can express myself, and make a living.’”
Her first studio engineering gigs were for Phoebe Snow and Dr. John. She soon fell into recording major jazz artists “because of the piano I had—a nine-foot Steinway in a small Upper East Side studio.”
Jazz work lead to work in TV and film. “We did all the music for 20/20 and World News Tonight. We remade the theme music to Wide World of Sports…at one point we did every game show and soap opera [incidental music]. Then came opportunities to do large orchestras, the Great American Songbook, pop vocals and Broadway.
“The first Broadway show I ever recorded was Black and Blue. It was a revelation,” she says, “because I was presented with some of the greatest singers—Linda Hopkins, Carrie Smith and Ruth Brown—and some of the greatest music that spawned jazz blues and ultimately rock ’n’ roll.”
After buying a house in East Hampton in 1998, she began splitting her time, and constantly commuting.
“I’ve been in love with the East End of Long Island since I was 30, when I was first introduced to it,” says Daniels. The weekend getaway house quickly became “How can I be here all the time?… I had a small studio in my house and because of digital editing, I realized I could do some of my work out here.”
She saw “a need for film and voiceover work, film post for sound, mixing of films and mostly ADR, which is looping [re-recording sound for TV and film].” She developed a celebrity clientele.
At the same time she developed a strong local clientele. “Nancy Atlas heard of me and came to work on some of her music. I met other local artists (Inda Eaton, Mamalee Rose, the HooDoo Loungers, Klyph Black and many others). I had no idea that would happen.”
Daniels worked from home, and at another studio out east, World Cottage, which became 91 East—when they moved, she “basically took over that part of the business.”
“Every room in my house was a recording studio,” she says with amusement. “It was a dream home…until I met my partner [Cori Krane]. We met in late 2006, at East Hampton Indoor Tennis—just one of many romances that have come from the club,” she jokes. They married in 2011. “Within a couple of years Cori said, ‘We’ve got to do something about your loud career and parade of clients.’”
The plan to bump out five feet from the house turned into a 2,000-square-foot addition. Daniels enlisted renowned architect John Storyk to help create her dream studio.
“John had designed many of the studios I’d worked in in Manhattan.… He has an affection for the East End, and had designed the Ross School auditorium. I thought, ‘If I build it and they don’t come, that’s okay—this is what I do, and this where I belong—on the East End with my own recording studio.’” They came.
The studio was completed in 2011, the same year she won a Grammy for The Julie Andrews Collection. Last August, Jimmy Fallon recorded a duet with Dolly Parton at MonkMusic (Parton did her tracks in Nashville). During the height of the pandemic, Scarlett Johansson recorded a duet with Bono for the animated movie Sing 2 (Bono sang his part in Ireland).
Today, Daniels is recording with Alec Baldwin (Boss Baby 2). She’s excited about finishing up an album by local musician Fred Raimondo called Cinema, and working with “Midnight at the Oasis” composer David Nichtern, on an album called Pandemoonea.
She describes her career path as “a confluence of 16-hour days, a whole lot of luck, and hopefully some talent. When I won a Grammy as engineer and mixer for The Producers, it reminded me that ‘every overnight sensation takes about 20 years,’” says Daniels with a smile.
Have a story idea, event listing or resource for Out East End? Email [email protected]