Of the many selling points being proffered out there in the wilds of Northeast Florida’s scorching real estate market, the pitch that a particular home might be “perfect for entertaining” seems, if not the most deceivingly euphemistic, certainly the most relative. Such a notion would assuredly depend on the buyer’s idea of entertaining. A catered big-game-watch-party featuring chicken-chili dip, bags of Fritos, and an ice bucket of White Claws in the man cave? A CSA-box-cribbed charcuterie board, vintage wine, and the latest episode of The Bachelor in the parlor? A shaman-led, psychedelics-aided vision quest with your work friends in the backyard yurt?
Surely different spaces lend themselves to different entertainments.
Musician and part-time impresario Cory Driscoll’s Fairfax compound happens to be perfect for his distinctive vision of gathering. Set on an acre-and-a-half plot off the Avondale-adjacent neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, Driscoll’s filled the walls of his sunny, two-story, nearly one-hundred-year-old former law office with an impressive collection of local art—pieces by Dustin Harewood, Eric Gillyard, and Tony Rodrigues, limited edition prints acquired from Jax-based international artist-in-residency program, Long Road Projects. He’s opened up the home’s nearly 2,000-square-foot floor plan, while still making use of its many nooks and crannies, adding a home-office for himself and a crafts room for his 11-year old daughter.
But the magic really happens outside of the main house—specifically in the 500-square-foot detached structure that houses a well-furnished recording studio Driscoll’s dubbed Long Jump Records. Since purchasing the house two years ago from Jax musician Ben Cooper (Radical Face), who added the additional structure and originally furnished the studio, Driscoll’s played host-with-the-most to a handful of multimedia art installations, making use of the entire compound and leading guests through unique multisensory experiences. And while the pandemic certainly cut his ambitious soirees off at the knees, Driscoll’s made good use of the studio, collaborating on a laundry list of projects with local musicians including his own forthcoming album, the follow up to 2018’s well-received Tropical Depression.
I recently sat down with Driscoll in his courtyard, surrounded by the carnation-pink annuals blooming from the azalea bushes that dot the plot. As Driscoll’s two garden gnomes (Gnome Chomsky and Bergnome Sanders) listened in, we talked about the myriad selling points of this unique rad pad.
What’s the history of this house?
It was built in the early ‘30s. Architecturally it’s similar to a lot of the houses you’d see in Avondale. It’s kind of just a box on the bottom and a box on the top. It was an attorney’s office for a long-time before Ben [Cooper] bought it. I’ve taken some walls down and opened it up a bit. There were a lot of separate spaces.
And how’d you end up acquiring it from Ben?
I came here to record my last record with [musician] Jeremiah Johnson when it was still Ben’s place. Then, with [Ben’s band] Radical Face getting more into scoring films and being in Los Angeles so often, they were in the process of figuring out how to sell this place. And, you know, it’s kind of a sad thing when you spend all this money and put all this energy into building something like this, and have to move on. They were kind of begrudging the idea that somebody would buy this place and turn the music studio into a garage. Jeremiah was telling me about this when we were mixing Tropical Depression. And I was like, “Well, what’s the timeline for this?” I had a house in Avondale at the time and I just asked, “Would you be willing to wait for me to sell my house so I can buy this place?” Ben was just really generous with me. He really wanted it to be used for what it was intended for. A recording studio is either this big, great thing for somebody, or it’s this big pain [laughs]. If you wanted a garage this would be terrible.
Have you always envisioned your home as a place to entertain?
Not necessarily. Years ago when I lived in Tallahassee, I was playing in bands and working in venues and I sort of intended that to be my life. After my daughter was born, even though I took a different career path, that dream of owning my own venue just never really left. To get a place, a gathering place for people, that’s what I want to support. That’s what I’ve wanted to get back to. I bought my previous house with a detached apartment, so I could have a rent-producing property, with the hope that I could eventually buy something else. I was saving money to buy what I imagined would be a church, or a chapel, to turn into some kind of recording studio and sanctuary, with occasional shows. That was the goal until this [house] came up.
Did moving here open up new opportunities for the kind of gatherings you wanted to have?
This place has definitely opened up opportunities, but at the same time, you have to factor in that the pandemic has coincided with nearly half the amount of time I’ve actually owned this house. Definitely over the past year, with the recording studio, it’s been surprising how much this space has expanded the amount of people I know; even through interacting digitally. People will record here and then maybe we send the stems to someone else who works on it in their own studio. Those kinds of collaborations were something that I didn’t anticipate. The last 18 months we’ve put out a couple singles and two EPs. It might not sound like it, but that’s a lot of music.
And you’ve been able to use this time to work on your own new project right? Can you tell me about the record you’re working on?
With Tropical Depression, I wanted to make a movement of songs about the power going out. It was written around the time of the hurricanes [Matthew and Irma], and the idea was this tropical vacation that gets ruined. There’s a kind of movement to it, where it goes from this kind of full-band production to much more stripped back, acoustic with each song. I would say that this record intends to be significantly different but it has a similar kind of movement where we start in one place and are consistently moving throughout the record. The beginning starts off at the beach, back here. And it moves out west to a place called Eureka Springs; that’s the name of the record. So there’s this kind of journey to the heartland of America to find eureka; you know, your answer.
You got a release date? I imagine you are planning some sort of multimedia release show.
It’s very close to finished. We’re doing final mixes and stuff. It’s been nice to be forced to take time with it. I’m really proud of it. Still, if we were to do a show, there are nine musicians involved from other parts of the country that we’d maybe have to assemble. There will be something at some point. I’ve reached out to a few artists to participate in a mixed-media presentation of the music and I’m hoping to get more from our region. My goal is the end of the year. We’ll see.
This article originally appeared as the Rad Pad feature in Void Magazine’s April 2021 issue.