Marra Saves Christmas — How Justin Marra at the Tree Cave Recording Studio Saved Christmas for Providence-Punk Rockers Senior Discount

Justin Marra talks during movies.

Not in a negative way. More in like a “Oh no she didn’t!” way.

Why do I still invite him, when I know halfway through the film, I’m going to hear a sarcastic, “Oh yeah, you should TOTALLY trust THAT guy!” interrupting the flow of a perfectly crafted scene?

The reason is that this unfortunate characteristic is evidence of something far more positive: Justin Marra cares about art.

Marra claims to have been known as “Shades” throughout his life because of his penchant for wearing “cool-guy sunglasses.” If I had to guess, I would wager that the one person who ever called him by that nickname was staring back at him from a full-length mirror. I call him Justin, and for me, this past holiday season, Justin saved Christmas.

Over the past 15 years, Justin Marra has become a seasoned musician. His years fronting the band Survivors of the Kraken and performing as a solo artist have strengthened his love for music. That love (and frustration at his own studio experiences) eventually inspired him to build his own full service recording studio, The Tree Cave.

At the same time as the Tree Cave construction came to a close, I ran into an unrelated problem. A while back, my band Senior Discount recorded a Christmas medley, made up of eight songs, arranged by me and recorded by nine musicians. There are timing changes, different movements and more diversity of instrumentation than we had ever experienced recording before. To be perfectly frank, it’s our most ambitious recording. I love it and I’m proud of what we accomplished.

However, as we went to put it up on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and other streaming services this past Christmas, I realized there was one thing I hated about one of the songs. We close it with the ending of Mariah Carey’s classic yuletide tune, “All I Want for Christmas is You,” and our recording has a large pause (for dramatic effect) before the final big chorus kicks in. It’s in-time, but the pause is just too damn long. We lose momentum. The music coming back in seems jarring. It was a glaring flaw.

Since the song was being immortalized in a digital marketplace, we needed to fix the pause. We needed to shorten the gap and create SOME kind of consistent instrumentation over it to avoid losing the energy. I reached out to someone who I knew would understand the problem and help me find an organic way to fix it — Justin Marra at the Tree Cave.

I went to the Tree Cave after we had both listened to the song over and over. Our chosen problem-solving method was a consistent shaking of Christmas bells as percussion through the gap, that Justin would later manipulate into a build-up. We had different types and sizes of Christmas bells. We needed to try everything we could to match the original recording from years earlier.

We sat in his studio, shaking the bells — faster, then slower, then more gently, then two types at once, then on every other beat — until we felt like we had exhausted every possible manner in which bells had ever been shaken. We recorded an endless amount of options to choose from and mix together.

I went home and ate a Christmas goose as Justin continued his work. Forty-eight hours later I had an email sitting in my inbox. I downloaded the new version of the song and patiently listened while waiting to experience Justin’s work. The big moment finally came…

His new mixture of bells somehow exhibited identical warmth to the original recording, and the build he created rhythmically fit the moment perfectly. It sounded like the song had always been recorded this way, and the end product exceeded my utmost expectations. This wasn’t just a Band-Aid on a auditory flaw, this was tonal rejuvenation surgery — and the surgery was successful.

I thanked Justin repeatedly for single-handedly saving the song we had worked so hard on. This man, through personal experience, has earned my respect and my recommendation for a recording studio in Rhode Island.

On Christmas, I sent him a Christmas card. Because of what he’d done for me and my music, I included two gifts for him: One was a homemade coupon that allowed him to talk as much as he’d like through the movie of his choosing. The second?

I addressed it to “Shades.”

Justin Marra at the Tree Cave can fulfill all your audio recording and post-production needs. You can get more information and contact info at

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