What’s the Secret to a Song?

A home is a reflection of its owners, and the Los Angeles home of Trevor Coulter and Ash Lorona is a reflection of their shared desire to bring art into the world as they have converted it into a professional recording studio called Velvet Honey. They offer services like recording, mixing and mastering, and production, while welcoming artists into their abode as they would close friends and family, finding a balance of technical and hospitable that fuels creativity in a profound, holistic way.

“We all started making music in our homes. Anybody’s who’s picked up an instrument — I guarantee you 90 percent of that learning was done in their home. There’s an element of feeling at home that is very natural to us as creators, and when you can bring that feeling to other people to do their work you set this level of ease that allows people to be open,” Coulter told Common Good as he sat alongside Lorona on a Zoom call from the studio.

“There is an element of people really being able to unleash here because they feel so cozy and comfortable,” Lorona adds. “Through my research I haven’t seen anything that’s describing the artist’s experience from when they walk through the door to when they get their finished track sent to them.”

Velvet Honey officially opened on March 6, 2022, but Coulter and Lorona had the idea since they first started dating eight years ago. Their professional backgrounds — hospitality and music — helped create their vision that would eventually grow into the studio.


Trevor Coulter and Ash Lorona. Photo by Alex Mitrovich.


At Atlantic Records as a sound engineer, Coulter worked with artists like Don Toliver, whose album Heaven Or Hell earned a platinum certification earlier this year. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) awards this certification when sales, downloads, or streams surpass one million. 

Coulter’s musical skills manifest plainly in the quality of work that comes from Velvet Honey, which is technically well equipped, including a Soyuz 017 Tube Microphone, a frequent tool of major artists like Chris Martin of Coldplay known for its tube warmth and modern clarity not found in vintage mics.

The London dance/electronic duo Eli & Fur are repeat clients. And Coulter and Lorona have guided new artists like Ashtenn through their first experiences recording vocals. They’ve also worked on recording projects outside of music, including more than 150 episodes of Eamon Armstrong’s Life Is A Festival and Psychedelic Therapy podcasts.

Getting in the door

While some of the most legendary music in history has been made in dingy basements with rickety wooden steps (like the infamous Dungeon in Atlanta), Velvet Honey’s secret is its hospitality, where both Coulter and Lorona prioritize a welcoming experience for clients.

“Hospitality goes hand in hand with the aesthetic and with the quality of gear and the experience,” says Lorona. 

Walking into Velvet Honey, the senses are immediately activated. Everywhere throughout the decent-sized space, colors intertwine — from the lime green couch, to the polychromatic area rug, to the deep blue vocal booth decorated with stars.

Plants in each corner to provide an organic feel alongside the elevated music technology centered around the computer, and musical legends Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Patrick Topping cast an approving gaze from a collection of magazines like Mixmag, Elle, and Mojo, displayed in racks on the wall — perfect reading material before the next take needs to be tracked.

For every recording session, Coulter and Lorona provide teas, some of which they blend themselves. Ever Present Calm, a blend of their own made from peppermint, chamomile, and lavender is always available (and caffeine-free so as to not dry out the vocal cords). 

Lorona explained they try to think of every part of the experience, even the hand soap they keep.

“Whenever I’m [somewhere nice] I get so excited to use their hand soap,” Lorona says. “When there’s a good hand soap it makes people want to wash their hands, which, post-pandemic, is really important to us in our home.”

Coulter and Lorona carefully curate their list of clients for Velvet Honey to ensure whoever is coming into their home will respect the space. “We’re not just having open songwriting sessions here where a label can bring anyone in without letting us know,” said Lorona.

They knew many of their clients personally prior to opening the studio from their own networks, but when someone new wants to patronize Velvet Honey they have a vetting process. “We’ll go at least have a Zoom call or meet someone for coffee nearby,” added Coulter.

Overall, it’s a matter of trust.

“Developing trust is the most important thing between collaborators. We’ve already established we trust you — you’re in our home. Now let me show you how you can trust me,” Coulter said. “This kind of space really fosters [trust]. It’s hard to pin down to any one thing that creates that, but it’s a really important element of deep creative connection.”

One year down

After running Velvet Honey for over a year, Coulter and Lorona are making a nice profit from their efforts they’ve put into the creative space. Coulter has the freedom to set his own rates as an engineer, and they receive a share of royalties when they assist with production.

And while money is necessary for Velvet Honey to continue, Coulter and Lorona are far more proud of the creativity happening in their home.

“It’s wonderful to be paid for your work, but well beyond that is the intrinsic value of being of service to someone who has a real personal need to express themselves,” says Coulter.

With their success in providing that service, Coulter and Lorona have their sights set on expansion out of their home. They have big dreams for what’s next. 

Wherever Velvet Honey ends up, though, a hospitable place to make great music will always be the priority.

“There’s working on music and making songs and coming up with all these grand artistic ideas, but then there’s the space where it gets to all be housed and how people connect in that space,” says Coulter. “That synergy is something we’re excited to keep exploring together.”

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