Brad Pitt wasn’t kidding when he hinted last year that major names would soon begin flocking to his Miraval Studios at the famed Château Miraval in the South of France, also the home of his Chateau Miraval winery. Indeed, the first artist to work in the renovated studio is none other than Sade, whose new music will appear on the Sade Adu-led group’s first album since 2010’s Soldier of Love.
Sade previously recorded portions of the 1985 album Promise in the original incarnation of the studio, which was built in 1977 by French pianist.composer Jacques Loussier. Pitt and former partner Angelina Jolie bought Chateau Miraval in 2012, and when they divorced, Pitt kept the wine business and studio. Miraval hosted Pink Floyd (during The Wall), AC/DC, The Cure, Sting and The Cranberries in its heyday and was operational until the early 2000s, but sat unused for almost 20 years until Pitt and French producer Damien Quintard stepped in to revive it together.
“Sade is very special for Miraval and the legacy of the studio. We were ecstatic when she arrived and for her to be the first artist to record again here,” Quintard tells SPIN by Zoom, adding that the Sade session was “fantastic. Some of the great moments of the studio are when you combine the past with the future.”
Quintard admits he didn’t know for sure if the sound of the studio, which houses the largest fully integrated Dolby Atmos system in Europe, would be up to his exacting standards until the first notes were played. “Brad and I really tried to push forward the idea of having a modern recording studio that utilizes the great legacy we have, but also a new future. It was risky,” he says. “There was a part of me that was very sure of what we were doing, but until you’re sitting in the center of the control room and listening to the first sounds, you never really know if it’s going to be cozy and a place full of inspiration. When we started doing the calibrations with Dolby, I was immediately reassured. Everybody wanted to stay up until three or four in the morning to work in the studio, talk in the studio, sleep in the studio. And then the artists started coming in, and their reaction when they walk into the control room and live room is to be a bit surprised by what they’re seeing and feeling. They really feel at home. That was our number one mission.”
That means being able to accommodate projects as large as film scores and as intimate as a couple of people. The studio is wired so anyone can easily plug in and play through the speakers, helping to foster a further exchange of creativity for visitors and their crew.
“I was very much inspired by the work that Billie Eilish and FINNEAS were doing, because they keep on producing amazing tracks while mostly working in a very small room with a very small system,” Quintard says. “That was one of the inspirations to re-design the studio, because it needed to be a studio that provided that service and fits with this younger generation producing amazing music.”
What’s more, Miraval can be for artists a true respite from the grind of life on the road and the omnipresence of social media. The names of the clients who’ve already recorded at the studio aside from Sade are being kept private for now, but Quintard confirms they’ve taken full advantage of the property’s 900-acre grounds, which includes picturesque guest housing.
“It’s been a pleasure to see the artists create in the studio and live within the property,” he says. “There’s a big artistic community in Miraval, whether it’s wine-making, painting, sculptors or artists. We make our own honey. We have a cross-pollination of many different styles and genres, and that’s what creates sparks. It’s a big part of the experience that we propose to the artists.”