What started as an interest in learning how to make rap beats in middle and high school has turned into a fruitful career as a music composer and entrepreneur for Lexington’s A.J. Hochhalter, owner of Listen Design Studio and one of the forces behind the new local event venue and creative co-op The Livery.
“I started recording music on my computer and making little ditties in high school, as kind of a hobby,” recalled Hochhalter, 25, who grew up in Louisville and moved to Lexington for college in 2006. “I would give them to people in my school who rapped, and they would be like, ‘It’s cool … but it sounds a little too much like a movie – it’s too intense, too emotional.’”
Though he looks back on it now with conviviality, Hochhalter – whose resumè includes scoring the music for several documentaries, including the award-winning film “Blood Brother,” as well as advertisements for national brands such as Crown Royal and GNC – admits that at the time, he was crushed at the reception. Going into college, he knew he wanted to be involved in the music industry in some way, but uncertain if he “had the chops” to be a working musician, he focused his academic path on business and marketing. However, rather than shying away from his burgeoning interest in creating music altogether, he decided to consciously shift the focus of his “hobby” toward the type of music that his talent seemed to naturally lean itself toward: lush and layered compositions, heavy with emotion and ambience.
“I had a few songs that people responded to well, so I kept making music like that,” he said.
Listening to film scores ravenously and utilizing the skills and contacts he was garnering as a business major, Hochhalter initially got his foot in the industry door by offering the use of his songs to friends who were seeking music for various projects – primarily non-profit marketing videos, at first.
“No one turns down free music,” he said with a smile. One gig led to another, and eventually people began contacting him out of the blue, commissioning pieces for trailers, films and commercials, and requesting the use of songs he had already recorded.
Today, Hochhalter divides his time between various projects for Listen Design Studio, the company he established to house his music business, and serving as the creative director for the marketing firm Harris and Ward. Both companies are based out of The Livery, a shared creative workspace that Hochhalter and his colleagues at Harris and Ward opened earlier this year. Located in a historic building on Water Street that originally served as a livery stable, housing horses and carriages, The Livery serves as an office, an event venue and a creative co-op of sorts. A 4,000-square-foot, wide open room with exposed brick walls, wooden ceiling beams and filtered natural light, accented by antique furniture and rugs, a vintage basketball goal and ping pong table, the space invokes as much “Google office” as it does “Restoration Hardware,” creating what Hochhalter and fellow Livery founders Bo Harris, Corey Maple and Grant Ostrander feel to be the perfect backdrop for creative collaboration.
“We’re all about Lexington’s creative community,” Hochhalter said. “We want to grow Lexington by growing that kind of community.”
The Livery has several rental options, including daily and monthly office space, event rental and more. For more information on the space, which is located on Water Street next to Gray Construction, visit www.theliverylex.com.
Hochhalter recently took some time to answer a few questions about his career, his interests and his thoughts on being an artist in Lexington.
What are some of your favorite spots in Lexington?