How Phil Cardon opened a window for local artists to speak their language

Phil Cardon found himself in unfamiliar territory during the spring of 2020. His work, centering on audio production at local live venues, ended with the threat of COVID-19 and quarantine restrictions. Cardon felt idle but still eager to adapt. 

And over the past year, adapt he has. Cardon has opened a digital platform showcasing local artists. I sat down with him recently at the Universal Language studio in downtown Tyler to learn more. 

“When COVID first happened, we all hunkered down for three to four months,” he said. “I’m sitting there thinking, ‘I’m not happy unless I’m involved in getting music out, getting art out.’”

Phil Cardon of PC Productions and Universal Language at his perch in his downtown Tyler studio, where he mixes sound for weekly shows by local artists. 📷 Jess Hale

After seeing his community struggle financially, Cardon dedicated his time to creating Universal Language, a livestream featuring local artists. 

Universal Language takes place every Thursday at 8 p.m. and is streamed on Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook. The livestream includes an hour of music and a fifteen minute interview with the weeks’ featured artist. 

“In COVID, artists can’t perform live and venues can’t host shows. This gives us a chance to keep music going until those venues and as a collective, our nation, can get back to a point where we can operate in a normal fashion,” he said.

Cardon, a lifelong musician, moved to East Texas from Michigan to attend the University of North Texas’ College of Music. While touring as a drummer Cardon discovered a niche for music production. 

“I felt like I had more control dynamically when I was behind the mixing console. Every time I’d be off the road, people would call me to mix their shows,” he said.

Thirteen years ago Cardon invested into his own business, P.C. Productions. They specialize in event production, providing staff, installations, lighting, sound and video to their clients.

The stage at Universal Language hosts and livestreams musical guests weekly — a platform to showcase and engage with artists until live events can safely return. 📷 Jess Hale

His new effort, Universal Language, provides a full production for the featured musicians who leave with professionally crafted video and audio they can create into content such as a music video.

“It’s a crew of a minimum of three guys in here handling it. We have somebody that handles comment interaction. We have somebody that does video switching, and usually I’m doing all the audio,” he said.

The most important facet of their work is their relationship with other artists and local Tyler businesses who help them bring their shows to life. 

“When we started Universal Language, our goal was local musicians, local fan bases, local businesses supporting local musicians. If you love a musician, you see them on our stream, then you see that Stanley’s BBQ was sponsoring Universal Language.”

Cardon says these digital concerts help push the local art and music community into the view of an even bigger audience. Support for Universal Language has been overwhelming. Small businesses have provided their resources and individuals have reached out in support. 

Community members who have come to assist Universal Language include Michael Roth of Kiepersol, helping provide all of the artists with wine and spirits. Mundo Villapudua from Villa Montez catered meals for the artists for the first few months. El Guapo Records owner Ian Power is running all of our social media and commentary and has donated records for our artists. Robert Woodward, who is invested in the local music community from Wunderful Design, creates t-shirts, logos and weekly posters for the live streamed event.

“Nick [Pencis] from Stanley’s BBQ has provided the catering and the space we use to do what we do. He missed having live shows at Stanley’s. Now, we record at his venue. It was crazy to me that he would just reach out of the blue to help us out.”

Jess Hale is a lifelong East Texan born in Nacogdoches and graduated from Waskom High School in 2016. She is also an alumnus of Kilgore College and currently a senior at The University of Texas at Tyler studying Mass Communication. In the past, Jess has been involved with community events such as Longview LGBT Pride Festival, UNSCENE Shreveport, and efforts to organize community involvement around pro-choice issues. Jess hopes to share reproductive health options and access to people in East Texas, as well as the importance of sex education.

Love what you're seeing in our posts? Help power our local, nonprofit journalism platform — from in-depth reads, to freelance training, to COVID Stories videos, to intimate portraits of East Texans through storytelling.

Our readers have told us they want to better understand this place we all call home, from Tyler's north-south divide to our city's changing demographics. What systemic issues need attention? What are are greatest concerns and hopes? What matters most to Tylerites and East Texans?

Help us create more informed, more connected, more engaged Tyler. Help us continue providing no paywall, free access posts. Become a member today. Your $15/month contribution drives our work.

Support The Tyler Loop!