Secret Sessions Revealed
If you consider that they haven’t celebrated their one-year anniversary yet, Secret Sessions is a brand-new collective. They are curating nights with Irish artists and keeping the line-ups a complete secret, until the acts introduce themselves on stage. What they are doing is capturing the essence of discovering an artist or a band in Dublin’s popular venues, opposed to a rundown club or a pub.
It all started at the beginning of last summer, with three lads hiking in the Wicklow mountains, talking about discovering new artists. By the end of that summer, they were already in motion. They have curated three events so far, with the fourth one around the corner. By now the three lads roped in three more and they are not wasting time. They are collaborating with The Sound House concerning the venue, Musical Youth foundation gets all the profits from the events and young photographers and videographers get a chance to step into the industry. The plan is to collaborate as much as possible and create more opportunities for everybody. Even though the guys are very busy with events and their jobs, Jake O’Donnell managed to squeeze me into his schedule.
- I suppose you all have day jobs, and this is an idea born out of love for music and performing. How did you decide to make it a non-profit organization?
I'm a late joiner. Three of the lads came up with the idea and they never wanted to make money out of it. It was born out of the love of it, as you said. They were looking for a cause and that’s how they came across Musical Youth Foundation. They liked the work they did and thought it made perfect sense. One of the guys said to me that it would be their goal that one day, somebody we donated to, somebody who’s gotten an instrument or music lessons through the MYF could one day play at Secret Sessions. That would be a perfect full circle.
- Are all the performers rising stars or do you mix in the bands who have already made a name for themselves too?
It's just rising stars, but Chameleon played at our last event. He had played The Late Late Show and for the president of Ireland. He already kind of made it, but this has brought him a wider audience, cause many people still don’t know his music. When Sarah Crean played with us, I think she had 200 monthly listeners on Spotify and now she has over 200,000. She went viral. We are trying to find people on the precipices, about to go big, but also the ones who have been around for a while but haven’t been that engaged before.
- Is The Sound House going to be your usual venue or are you looking to cover more?
The Sound House has been good to us. They gave us an opportunity when a lot of other venues said that we need to have a track record to book gigs. I think the charity element was important as well, but also that they saw our vision, and they believed in it.
- How frequently would you like these events to occur?
Pretty much every six weeks. The next one is going to be our biggest event (artists) yet. The Sound House has a great venue and great atmosphere, lights and sound. It’s been a perfect match so far, but hopefully we will just keep growing.
- How do you go about acquiring the artists for the events? Where do you find them?
On our site, there’s a sign-up link through Google form where artists can submit their music, which we then listen to see whether they fit the next event. We try to curate our nights with music that works together. So even if you don't necessarily fit our next planned night, you will fit one in the future. At the same time, we're listening to artists through Spotify, social media and the radio. I would listen to RT radio, News Talk and the Tom Dunne show.
- Are you musicians yourselves? Do you perform at the events, as well?
We haven’t performed at our events, but Jake Folley, Luke O’Brian and Victor Bell have been making music for about 10 years now. But this is about giving other artists the platform, so I don’t think that we’ll ever play it. My background is more media and communications, that’s where I come in. Not all of us are musicians, but we all have a skillset.
- Are there people from a label company in the audience at the events?
Not yet, but there will be at the event next week. We are hoping that one day people will go to Secret Sessions to find the next best artists, including label and industry heads. It would be an opportunity for the crowds to discover new artists but also for the industry to find talent.
- You have had three events so far. What kind of changes did you notice occurring as you are progressing when it comes to the audience, artists and yourselves?
For the first event, the lads were begging and reaching out to the artists and now the artists are coming to us, looking for the opportunity. We got the word out. Before, the attendees were mostly family and friends of artists and organizers, now it’s diversifying. The events also got better in terms of lights and sound. The Sound House crew did a great job, they deserve an award. We are giving the opportunity to young photographers and videographers to get experience in the industry. It's growing.
- Do you have some bigger plans in mind for the future of Secret Sessions? Maybe with time introduce some different kinds of performances?
Different types of music is one thing we’re thinking about. There’s potential down the line for a night of electronic music, a night of DJ music that runs later into the night. But we will not fully leave our roots, we’ll always support local raw Irish talent. Doesn't have to be just Irish, can be people from abroad living in Ireland. But we would like to collaborate with others in the industry; media companies, sponsors, labels and such. We are already collaborating with photographers, videographers, Sound House and the Musical Youth Foundation. That’s the way to grow and we’ll see where it takes us.
Stepping into the unknown, the element of surprise and lack of expectations might be the perfect recipe for discovering one of your new favorite artists.
For the Secret Sessions lads, the main profit from all this is the joy of creating the platform and seeing more and more people appreciating it and wanting to take part in their vision.