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Meet Michele Miles Gardiner

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michele Miles Gardiner.

Michele, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Well, I don’t do well in the corporate world. I need freedom and creativity. My brain was formed on adventure and variety. When I was four, in 1968, my young parents, basically, “dropped out”–sold their Bay Area suburban home and everything they owned to buy a trailer in England and travel the world for a few years. That experience formed how I think.

So, in the early 1990s, when I, as a young suburban parent, got myself trapped in a corporate job (which I took to get health insurance for my family), it felt like a prison I had to escape. It was the antithesis of the freedom I once experienced when traveling.

But that job did allow my bass player husband, Ian Gardiner, to return to college to study electronic engineering, which helped us to start our own home-based pro audio business. Now, with our business partners—tech designer Steve Firlotte and his wife Vivien, we have another pro audio business: Tree Audio. It’s a growing and successful analog recording console design and manufacturing business here in the Valley, where we hand-build our vintage-inspired, tube-based recording equipment.

Having our own business has allowed me enough time to pursue my lifelong love of writing. After years of learning the craft, I began freelance writing for newspapers and magazines. Last year, I published my book, “Craving Normal”–a collection of nonfiction stories, many of which are about my childhood world travel adventures that changed my way of thinking, leading to where I am today.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Not smooth. Actually, pretty rough. We started Tree Audio right before the 2008 recession. To pay the bills during those tough years, I worked at a department store and I even sold cars; the only good thing with the car sales job was proving my male co-workers wrong: Women can sell cars, of course…I just wasn’t so crazy about taking strange men—and I do mean STRANGE–on test drives, or working nine consecutive twelve-hour days and still making very little money. Those car sales experiences alone are a chapter in my next book, tentatively titled “How to Become Broke and Influence Nobody.”

Please tell us about Tree Audio and “Craving Normal”.
At Tree Audio, we hand-build vintage-inspired, tube-based recording consoles and other recording equipment for people in the music industry, musicians, record producers, etc. Our equipment is not only beautiful to look at but creates gorgeous sound-the best of vintage aesthetics and modern technology.

I get incredibly happy hearing from our Tree Audio clients around the world, about how much they love the pure, warm sound they get from our recording equipment. At trade shows like NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants), I get so much joy hearing people respond to seeing our equipment for the first time. I never get tired of meeting clients from all over the world who enjoy working with our recording equipment. After years of meeting our clients and potential clients, it’s fascinating to me that so many people in the music industry who’ve grown up on digital are falling in love with the look and sound of our analog recording equipment. For younger generations who’ve only used digital analog is new.

What sets us apart? Our high quality, how beautiful our recording consoles and equipment are and the stunning sound musicians, audio engineers, and record producers are getting from them.

What were you like growing up?
Curious and creative. In the ‘70s, growing up in San Francisco, my sister and I had a lot of freedom. While our parents worked and went to college, we’d let ourselves into our empty apartment and we’d run off until dinner. My friends and I loved to explore the city. Even at eight years old, we’d take the public transit buses (MUNI) to go ice skating in SF’s Sunset District or find some other adventure. If I stayed home I’d write stories and plays. I loved getting dressed up in vintage clothes I found and would act out my own scenes I wrote or ones from movies I watched, dreaming of my future life in Hollywood. That’s why I left the Bay Area for Los Angeles to be an actress. Funny, even though I loved to write, I never thought about being a writer. I think kid me would never believe adult me would be soldering, making audio cables and building recording consoles.

Life is often a strange and interesting trip.

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