Elijah “Lij” Shaw, a single father and lifelong record producer, moved to Nashville in 1991. He has recorded nationally renowned, Grammy Award-winning performers such as John Oates, Jack White, Wilco, Adele, and the Zac Brown Band. He’s been living in the same house in East Nashville since he bought it in 2000. When his daughter Sarayah was born in 2005, he was inspired to take charge of his work life and find a way to better support his family. So he invested thousands of dollars to convert his detached garage into The Toy Box Studio: a professionally soundproofed recording studio where he could record his musician clients on his own property, all while remaining close to Sarayah as she grew up.
It was a perfect setup. Well-respected musicians use The Toy Box Studio—the 2015 Grammy winner for Best Roots Gospel Album was mixed there—and Lij operated for 10 years without incident. His soundproofed studio can’t be seen or heard from the street, and his clients park in his driveway. None of his neighbors have ever complained to him about traffic or noise.
But now Nashville is threatening to destroy Lij’s investment and uproot him from his neighborhood. In September 2015, Lij opened his mailbox to a letter from the Nashville government ordering him to cease and desist the operation of his home recording studio. A month later, an officer from the Nashville Codes Department called and ordered him to shut down his business or be taken to court. Lij was able to ward off an inspection by agreeing to take his address down from his website, but the officer warned that if Codes ever caught him recording in his studio—or even podcasting—he would be taken to court and shut down.