by Ashlyn Verda, staff writer
Hidden in the quaint suburbs of Houma, Digital Sac-a-Lait Productions serves as an essential recording studio for musicians in the Bayou Region. Pershing Wells— a professional guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter from Bayou Black— owns Digital Sac-a-Lait Productions, where he works with local songwriters to develop their music into tunes that are ready for the radio.
“I’m the guy they come to locally,” says Wells. “I’ve produced about 75 albums and more than 1200 songs.”
Since the studio’s opening in 2002, Digital Sac-a-Lait Productions has helped professional musicians with producing and recording their songs. The studio also offers guidance with the mastering and arranging of songs.
“When you arrange a song, you’re basically taking all the musical elements and reordering them and changing the sounds you hear in order to create a unique experience,” says John St. Marie, a musician, conductor, and educator at Nicholls State University.
Wells says he enjoys the process of figuring out where he can take a song. However, he’s cautious about repeating arrangements for different clients. One of his main goals is to discover the different ways he can capture the uniqueness and originality of a song. To find that originality, Wells likes to hear clients perform their song with just an acoustic guitar and their voice. While listening, he’ll usually find a tempo that matches the song.
“I think I have a very good talent for hearing what they are trying to do—the feel of the song,” says Wells.
After hearing the barebones version of a song, Wells begins arranging and composing the rest of the instrumentals. Although he creates most of the instrumentals digitally, Wells sometimes brings professional musicians and session players. These musicians are usually keyboardists, guitarists, violinists, fiddle players, and steel guitar players from the Bayou Region.
“My favorite thing is watching a client listen to their song after it comes to life for the first time,” says Wells. “I’ve seen some tears and I’ve seen some beautiful smiles. Nothing beats it.”
Most of Wells’ clients are local. Veteran singer, songwriter, and bassist Tim Dusenbery worked with Wells on his 2004 record Kingdom Come.
“It’s been a desire of mine to express myself through music,” says Dusenbery. “I heard great things and decided to team with Pershing to complete the album. The recording process went smoothly and I don’t know how I would have done it without him.”
Wells began playing music at 14-years-old, when his eldest brother Bill brought home a Sears Magnatone guitar. He started playing by ear and developed the skill quickly. After jumping between a couple local bands, Wells moved to Colorado and became a full-time musician.
“Like everybody else, I was hopeful that some break would happen. I took it as a five year musical sabbatical, during which I continued to hone my musicianship,” says Wells.
Wells eventually moved back to Louisiana to start a family. Locals knew him at the time as a guitar player, rather than a producer. After taking a year off from playing music, he joined the Country Sunshine Band. From the 80s to the mid 90s, Wells featured as a session guitarist in dozens of local “Swamp Pop” singles and albums. He also performed multiple times at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
While working as the chief engineer at Houma’s Apple Tracks Recording Studio, Wells released his first CDs as a producer. At Apple Tracks, Wells taught himself how to professionally record and produce music.
After being laid off from Apple Tracks, Wells began recording with his brother, which evolved into recording a full album. From that point forward, Wells received a steady flow of calls from clients asking for help on their albums and songs. The influx of requests made Wells realize that he didn’t have time for a day job. By 2005, he had a waiting list of clients and was able to place his recording studio next to his home.
By helping local artist with their careers, Wells has contributed to keeping cajun, zydeco, and swamp-pop music styles alive in the Bayou Region. Some local favorites Wells has worked with include Don Rich, Joe Barry, Southern Cross, and Tab Benoit. The music by these musicians and other local legends can be found at Fabregas Music Store in Houma.
These days, Wells, in addition to recording and producing for local artists, still finds time to tour and play live with his friends. Visitors to the Bayou Region can catch him at seasonal festivals, The Balcony Bar, and On The Canal Bar, where he regularly plays.
Even though Wells has become successful enough to move away from Houma, he’s decided to stay.
“A lot of people ask me how come I don’t go to Nashville,” Wells says. “I’m content here. I feel that I’m a resource that is needed in this area.”
For more information regarding Digital Sac-a-Lait Productions, contact Pershing Wells at http://www.pershingwells.com/digital_sac_a_lait_productions.htm.