behind the scenes

Inside the Dirty Projectors’ Studio, Guarded by Joni Mitchell, Missy Elliott, and Beethoven

David Longstreth’s studio.

When the Dirty Projectors front man David Longstreth set up his studio in L.A. to work on his new self-titled album, he had two things on his mind: change and stability. So he started by erecting a shrine to his teenage musical idols as a reminder of who he was and who he might still like to become. “I was looking for all kinds of advice, you know?” says the 35-year-old singer and guitarist. He settled on an eclectic holy trinity — Missy Elliott, Joni Mitchell, and Beethoven — to watch over his sound mixing. But his wall of fame is constantly changing — Miles Davis, Stravinsky, and the 12th-century saint and musician Hildegard of Bingen have all cycled through — with Mitchell as the only permanent occupant. “She knew herself really early on,” he says. “The music that she’s made attests to this curiosity about life and music and a willingness to just keep growing.” In addition, the setup is mobile: The desk has wheels, and the walls are nothing but ten-foot sound baffles. When he needs a change of scenery, he just moves the desk. “I’d hit a wall and think, What can I do to get beyond it?” he says. “Well, maybe start by just reconfiguring the space. You can trick yourself, in a good way.”

*This article appears in the February 20, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.

Inside the Dirty Projectors’ Studio