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Founder’s Story: Allison Clift-Jennings

Tonic Audio Labs is the culmination of a pretty rich history that I’ve been lucky enough to experience. And I’m so glad that it’s finally ready to share with the world.

I’ve been working in the technology industry since I was 19 years old, starting a web hosting and development business with a good friend. We didn’t know what we were doing back then, but we knew we wanted to build things. And that drive has never left me. I believe one of the most important things you can do in your late teens and early twenties is to try lots of different things, and see what really sticks with your interests and drive. For me, it was a discovery that I love to build and to fix. That fit perfectly with the world of hardware and software engineering. So I ended up studying that in college.

However, the simultaneous drive of building companies was equally interesting to me. So much so, that at that ripe age of 19, I did indeed start my first business, and that has led me down a very interesting professional path, with many failures, some successes, and stories that have enriched my life. Tonic Audio Labs will be company number five that I’ve started, and startup number 8 that I’ve worked at as an early employee or founder. Previous projects included everything from architecting massive e-commerce sites to designing satellite telemetry systems, to building tools that help small artisans make a living, to creating an open-source wireless hardware sensor platform. But Tonic will be the first project I’ve ever attempted that focuses in an area I’ve avoided professionally up until this point–the musical arts.

And it’s not for lack of love or passion that I’ve avoided any professional focus in this area–it’s because of my love for it that I’ve avoided it. There’s that old adage that once you make a passion your job, it’ll lose its enjoyment. And to some degree, I agree with that. But having been a bedroom musician for 28 years now, I’ve decided its time to glue together some of the more recent progress in the technology world with the age-old desire to write music.

When it comes to songwriting, I’m squarely amateur. I am not professionally or academically trained. I cannot sight-read music. I can stumble through tablature, and carefully dissect songs I really want to learn. But to be clear, I have no special gift or talent in the area of music. I am a deep music lover who hears songs in her head and wants to capture them in the form of finished pieces. I’ve played in a couple of local bands–nothing big–but enough to help me understand just how palpable the magic is of playing music with other people.

But I always struggled with completing songs I had started. I’m sure I’m not alone in having a folder on my computer that has dozens of started songs, but only a few finished ones. The reason why this is has stumped me for years. For a long time I figured it was just because I wasn’t disciplined enough. Then I sat down and forced some songs to completion. And persistence did pay off, I did finish more songs when I really focused on actually completing them. But there were so many other things that got in the way–the context switching between the pure creative spark of noodling around on a guitar or piano, and sitting down and engineering a song recording with preamps and mics and all the complexity that comes with it. Then adding certain parts of songs that I don’t have as much experience at–such as singing, or playing drums.

Tonic Audio Labs was borne from this idea that we should leverage the best aspects of current technology to serve the songwriter. Music technology has advanced significantly in the last 20 years for recording music, but not nearly as much has been done for the songwriting process.

And so it begins. Ethan and I will strive to use every piece of wisdom and hard-won lessons in our previous jobs in order to bring the most compelling, helpful, and joyful product to market. To help you, the songwriter, to capture the muse whenever it may visit–and to take those small sparks of inspiration and fuel them into a raging light that launches the song into the world, for all to enjoy.

Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Allison Clift-Jennings

Allison is the CTO at Tonic Audio Labs, where she deals with all things bits and atoms. Inside, her biggest inspirations are her '84 Stratocaster and Moog synth, while outside it's racing motorcycles across the Nevada desert.