Gray Media and Music Videos

Sam Parker, live music, and transforming The Old Still

By: Peter Gray

By: Peter Gray

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Raise a virtual hand if you miss live music!

 

At Gray Media Productions, we certainly do. That is one of the many reasons we decided to transform a dilapidated, shack-like side barn into a studio space to be used for a wide range of occasions, namely music performance. What was once an afterthought on the site of our home office is now “The Old Still”, a creative space with incredible potential.

Live on set!

The Vision

The idea for this series began when Sam Parker Trio, a Tacoma based band, released their debut album, Neolade. We decided to help our good friend Sam, the lead guitarist/singer for the band, promote this release with a high quality live stream. 

As a Tacoma video production team equipped with the necessary live streaming expertise, we were excited at the opportunity to see what kind of musical experience we could create. One clear obstacle, as with any live stream, was engaging people watching at home from their devices. A second obstacle was finding viewers, the number one factor in the success of a live show or stream. If nobody shows up, all other efforts are in vain. 

Sam Parker warming up for the live stream.

The Old Still

Flashback to mid-January. “The Old Still” was in nearly unusable shape. There were broken bottles, shattered and hollowed out windows, storm debris, you name it. The idea of recording Sam in this space seemed unfeasible and far-fetched. 

After several hours of deep cleaning, sweeping, boarding up windows, laying down 4 or 5 rugs, and a couple space heaters, we were that much closer to the space that we envisioned. That evening, we recorded the first of our pre-recorded tracks with Sam. I had the privilege of accompanying Sam on the keyboard for two songs. 

After editing and finalizing those tracks in the space, we were very happy with the sound and look we achieved in the rustic, rugged barn. However, we knew that we needed black backdrops that would provide the necessary depth for future productions. We procured some simple pitch black cloth material and invested in a new light system, which elevated the space that much more. Add in a fog machine and a disco ball and you’ve got a party!

For the past several years, we referred to this building as the “side barn”, an overlooked structure onsite at the home office. However, I knew that “Sam Parker Live at The Side Barn” didn’t have the same mysterious ring to it. 

I recalled that this space was said to have been a bootleg distillery back in prohibition times. Hence the name: The Old Still. 

 

The Process

Keeping with the mysterious and rustic vibe of the series’ title, we decided to film an introduction sequence that would lead into the live content almost seamlessly. We shot, produced, edited, and finalized this intro video in the 30 minutes leading up to the actual live stream, and were very pleased with what we were able to produce so last minute! 

In the short video, Sam is seen sipping a beer in the back room of The Old Still, with the natural light flooding into the dark space as you hear a pounding on the door that “we’re live now!”. Sam slowly contemplates his next move, smashes the bottle at his side and confidently strolls towards the stage. Then we cut to our live production, where Sam enters the stage and rolls into his first song. Check out the intro (and full stream) at the top of this post!

Our decision to incorporate the pre-recorded songs into the live stream served many purposes. For the viewer, it gave them some varying content to focus on outside of the live show. For our crew and Sam, it provided an opportunity to regroup and plan out how we wanted to proceed with the show based on the engagement from the audience. Here is one of the prerecorded tunes, Slurred Words, that was included in the show:

 

We had a skeleton outline for the show, but quickly realized that in order to maintain viewership, engaging with the live comments would keep our viewer numbers consistent. We began taking requests, questions, and reading comments live on the air to reinforce the idea that we were really live (a few people thought the show was staged). 

The Outcome

After about two weeks of marketing and promotion on Instagram and Facebook towards the Tacoma audience, we built up solid awareness for the event and even set up text and email reminders for people who signed up. Our goal was a consistent flow of 30 viewers at any one time and we surpassed that quite comfortably with a steady average of around 50 viewers and almost 300 people total tuning in at some point. The average view time was well over 15 minutes, which we attributed to the high quality content and engaging nature of Sam’s performance. 

Many commented on the production value, which reaffirmed our focus on quality from the very beginning. Thanks to Trey Caldwell, Sam Parker Trio producer and drummer, our stream’s audio was top quality and professionally mixed in real time. 

Future for the Series

If you had the chance to check out our first installment of “Live at The Old Still” and find yourself wanting more, you are in luck! We are currently in the process of planning out an entire season featuring some of the area’s top artists sponsored by a few local businesses. (UPDATE) We have had some amazing artists so far in the first season of this series! Head on over to our YouTube channel to check out performances from Sam Parker, Pat D’Angelo, Ruthie Craft, and Jeannie Rak!

Jacklando at The Old Still and Calder Piano

 While this was our first live broadcast from The Old Still, it wasn’t the only music production we’ve put together thus far in the studio. In early March, we produced a 20 minute concert for Jacklando, the band I play with over in Spokane. This was for the Gonzaga Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center’s “Green Room Series”. 

Outside of our studio space, we recently worked with a young classical pianist, producing two live performances at his home piano. We had a lot of fun creating a truly dramatic look, emphasizing the musician’s technical skill and grace. Check it out! 

 If you or someone you know is a talented musician or a local businessperson that would like to support local musicians in this new series, don’t hesitate to send them our way!