Mitch Easter

Born as Mitchell Blake Easter on November 15, 1954 in Winston-Salem. Mitch knew he needed to play guitar at a young age, he was fortunate to have parents who were always listening to the latest sounds on the radio, and to have met the estimable guitarist Sam Moss early on.  After a teen jam session with Sam, who at 15 was already an amazing guitarist, Mitch understood that playing music was simply essential.

Easter’s first band was The Loyal Opposition, with Doug Muir, Robin Borthwick, and Bobby Jones.  Next was Sacred Irony, with Chuck Dale Smith, Corky McMillan, Rick Reich, Ted Lyons, and Terry Rossinger.  Sacred Irony eventually played only original songs, which was unusual for the era. Mitch was in Rittenhouse Square with drummer Bobby Locke, and future NC music luminaries Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey.  There exists a now-collectable and artistically questionable Rittenhouse Square EP which was recorded at Crescent City Sound Studios in 1971.  This band fizzled out when Chris Stamey bought a Teac 2340 4-track tape recorder. Mitch and Chris were obsessed with recording, while the rest of the band wasn’t. This machine transformed the 12th grade for both them into a magic era of sonic exploration, and opened the door to a future of recording music professionally.

During college at UNC Chapel Hill, Mitch continued to be involved in projects like Chris Stamey’s band Sneakers, who put out 2 acclaimed EPs in the late 1970s, Sneakers and In the Red. In 1977, Mitch, Peter Holsapple, Chris Chamis, and Robert Keely formed The H-Bombs, sometimes considered to be Chapel Hill’s first punk band.  As graduation approached, Mitch planned a humble but “real” recording studio, aimed at providing up-and-coming bands with an affordable alternative to mainstream studios.  Drive-in Studio opened July 1980 in the Easter family garage with a session for the Minneapolis/NYC band The Crackers, released on Twin/Tone Records.  The timing was right with the rise of college radio, and Drive-in really took off.  The studio became a hot spot for many of the originators of 1980s-1990s indie rock, with sessions for R.E.M., Pylon, Love Tractor, Game Theory, Lava Love, Marshall Crenshaw, Velvet Crush, The Windbreakers, and The Connells.

Mitch’s band Let’s Active, with Faye Hunter and Sara Romweber, formed in 1981 and released 4 recordings on IRS Records, Afoot (1983), Cypress (1984), Big Plans for Everybody (1986) and Every Dog Has His Day (1988).  

From the mid-80s, Mitch worked in studios around the US and Europe on projects including L. Kage, The Loud Family, Velvet Elvis, Monuments Galore, The Washington Squares, Suzanne Vega, Dinosaur Jr., The Hummingbirds, Slingbacks, The Forget-Me-Nots, Clara Thomas, The Stars of Heaven, and Moose.  Let’s Active ended in 1990, but Mitch continued to engineer and produce, play occasional shows, and perform on sessions.  In 1994 Drive-in Studio evolved into a setup in an old house colloquially known as Brickhenge.  There, sessions for Motocaster, Son Volt, Pavement, Wilco, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Polvo connected Mitch’s studio operations with notable 1990s bands.  In 2000 he opened Fidelitorium Recordings, a purpose-built studio near Kernersville, which was designed to be be easy for other engineers and producers to use.  Sessions at Fidelitorium have included Drive by Truckers, Jeffrey Dean Foster, Mary Prankster, The Orange Humble Band, Alejandro Escovedo, The War on Drugs, The Smithereens, Ken Stringfellow, The Avett Brothers, Coronet Blue, My Radio, Ben Folds Five, Ex Hex, Gin Blossoms, Mandolin Orange, The Old Ceremony, A Fragile Tomorrow, Hardworker, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Cat o’ Nines, and Birds of Avalon.

Since 2010, he has been part of the Big Star’s 3rd touring ensemble, which includes original Big Star drummer Jody Stephens, Chris Stamey, Mike Mills, and an NC core group including Django Haskins, Skylar Gudasz, Brett Harris, Jeff Crawford, and a revolving cast of international guest stars.  This group has done extensive US touring as well as playing Sydney, Barcelona, and London.  In 2018 Mitch was Alejandro Escovedo’s guitarist for US and Canadian shows. At the time of his induction into the Hall of Fame, Mitch had been playing in Balderdash, Ltd., with Chris Garges and Shawn Lynch.

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