Kyle musician and producer opens Smilin’ Castle recording studio to the community


When Rick del Castillo was building a recording studio on the pastoral, square-acre property he bought 10 years ago, he had a particular vision.

“I’ve been to many studios where the sound is amazing, the gear is amazing, but it’s very clinical,” del Castillo said.

He started with the detached garage—del Castillo and his family live in a house just a few steps away—where the former owner of the property repaired pianos, and in addition to the sound insulation and musical equipment, adorned the interior with colorful textured walls, comfortable furniture, and plenty of posters and tapestries.

“One of the coolest things is when someone walks in and they go, ‘Wow, I just feel relaxed,’” del Castillo said.

For the last decade, del Castillo has recorded extensively in the studio with Del Castillo, the band he started in 2000. He has also hosted plenty of well-known national and local acts, such as Los Lonely Boys, Ruben V, Gina Chavez, Eliza Gilkyson, Michael Ramos and Carrie Rodriguez as well as musicians from Europe.

“I built it specifically to record our band and friends,” he said.

It was not until he did some teaching at Curious Chords, the Plum Creek music school where his wife is an instructor, that he decided he wanted to open his studio to the public.

“I want to be a little bit more a part of the city,” del Castillo said of Kyle, where he moved in 2008 after 16 years in Austin. “There’s a whole other community of people here, and they need to know about this place.”

Del Castillo is now renting Smilin’ Castle Studio by the hour or by the day with himself as the in-house engineer who can also do guitar, bass, drums and orchestrations.

The studio has been used for more than music. Del Castillo has composed and recorded musical cues for a number of movies, including “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” “Spy Kids III,” “Kill Bill II” and the “Machete” movies as well as done recording for voiceover and audiobooks.

Del Castillo hopes Smilin’ Castle can offer residents outside of Austin more options.

“I’ve had so many people say, ‘I wish I knew about your studio,’” he said.

Smilin’ Castle Studio
315 Rocking M Road, Kyle

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Katharine Jose has written about politics, infrastructure, environment, development, natural disasters and other subjects for The New York Observer, Capital New York, and The New York Times, among other publications. She was an editor for several publications in New York City before she moved to Texas, and has a master's degree in urban planning from the University of Texas-Austin.
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