Minh Tran

Sitting in the fifth—and, he says, final—incarnation of Flora Recording & Playback, Tucker Martine sounds like a man who knows he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be.

“I feel like this is my ‘forever studio,’” the Portland producer says, surrounded by a sea of vintage gear. “I picture myself sitting in here when I’m 65, making records.”

That’s a long way from how Martine felt in the middle of March, shortly after someone broke into Flora and stole about $70,000 worth of microphones, guitars, and amplifiers. He says his heart sank when he realized some of his favorite music-making tools were missing, including a number of valuable, hard-to-find pieces.

“I felt like I had to lie down. I could hardly stand up,” he says. “It’s very blurry and nightmare-like. I kept checking to see if it was really happening.”

The burglary came just as Martine, 47, was about a year into a lengthy and stressful effort to build his dream studio inside a mysterious brick building in Northeast Portland. Working overtime and piling up bills, he began to question whether he was doing the right thing.

“When [the break-in happened], it just hammered the doubts in a little deeper,” he says.

That’s when Martine’s music community stepped in. First came hundreds of social media shares of the list of stolen gear, which eventually led to the recovery of some guitars. Then, offers to help financially began to pour in, not only to Martine but also his wife, singer/songwriter Laura Veirs. To organize that effort, Nate Query, bassist for the Decemberists, started a GoFundMe campaign to benefit the studio. In just one month, it’s raised about $39,000, with a donor list that includes musician Rosanne Cash and pro football player Connor Barwin.

“Anybody who’s been through this kind of theft wants to help out their friends who are going through it,” says Query, who has experienced two band-related robberies. “The nice thing about musicians in general, but Portland specifically, is the community will help at the drop of a hat.”

Martine’s musical network extends far beyond Portland, thanks to his history as a producer and his congenial personality. His production credits include albums by artists like My Morning Jacket, Bill Frisell, Beth Orton, Jars of Clay, and First Aid Kit. According to Query, Martine gets lots of return customers because he’s a relatively calm force in the chaos of the studio.

Frisell, the famed genre-hopping guitarist, has recorded a long list of albums with Martine, who started Flora in a Seattle basement. Frisell calls their friendship “an amazing journey,” and praises Martine’s curious musical mind and his command over the studio environment.

“He creates an atmosphere where the musicians feel safe—a place where we can all take chances, make mistakes, use our imagination, learn, and grow,” Frisell says. “He knows how to create space, both physically and mentally, where good things can happen.”

From 2006 to 2015, Martine produced four Decemberists albums in a row, including 2011’s The King Is Dead, which debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart. Frontman Colin Meloy says he was “devastated” when he heard about the burglary.

“Working with Tucker has never felt like work, really. He’s always felt like just another member of the band, a real collaborator,” Meloy explains. “I think he’s got a great ear and a true love for music. I think he’s put his heart and soul into the studio that he’s run—they’ve been in a few different locations, but they all feel uniquely his own.”

Besides the GoFundMe, Martine’s friends have also organized a benefit concert to be held June 3 at the Crystal Ballroom. The bill includes the Decemberists, Veirs, and Portland folk-pop band Blind Pilot, whose frontman Israel Nebeker says he admires Martine’s process: listen first, then record appropriately.

“He’s got the technical chops to make recordings that sound really ‘good’ every time, but he’s in it for more than that,” Nebeker says. “That’s what I love about him. He’s got a keen awareness of the atmosphere it takes to make something meaningful. It’s a rare person that can listen, and then jump into your idea of what’s good for an album, and he’s amazing at that.”

As you might guess, all the kind words—not to mention the financial support—make Martine squirm just a bit. But at the same time, he glows when he talks about how this whole situation has only highlighted the strength and depth of his community.

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“Very quickly, the reactions started to change the story for me. I was like, ‘This is what it’s all about.’ All of a sudden, the stuff just became stuff,” Martine says.

“Everyone is saying this is what they think I should be doing, and they want to make their records here,” he continues. “The whole energy of this place feels lighter and brighter and stronger because of the support. I feel like I have this incredible new chapter ahead of me that I’m so excited about, and other people are excited about, too.”