By Zach Collier
“I loved YouTube channels like The Mahogany Series, 3iemeGauche, and the Berlin Sessions. They recorded local talent in an incredibly simple way and made the music wildly intimate. I wanted the same thing – but I wanted it on my couch.”
So says Nicolle Okoren, one of the creators of The Couch Series. Since that initial desire to have personal performances in her home, her uniquely patterned couch has become a Provo icon. Landing a spot on that couch is now a rite of passage for emerging artists in the Provo area.
The Couch Series is a web show that highlights musicians and creative work through weekly music showcases and monthly interviews. Performers are required to do two songs. One song is performed in one take, and the other is shot from multiple angles and is meant to be a more polished video. This system requires that musicians refine their live acoustic performance or risk giving the public a poor impression of their music. For many artists, this is their first opportunity to have their songs shown to a wider audience.
Co-creator, Eden Wen, described her experience as a fan of other online music series: “I watched YouTube channels like La Blogotheque, The Mahogany Series, and Liveset. I thought it was super cool seeing bands in new environments off the stage or out of the recording studio.” This inspiration helped Wen and Okoren craft a unique, friendly, and memorable environment for local artists.
Okoren is a Denver Colorado native and sociology grad from BYU. Wen, from Ridgefield, Connecticut, graduated from BYU in April 2014 in public relations. Both love reading, movies, television – “As does anyone in our generation, I feel,” says Wen. But their real passion – and talent, I might add – is the ability to explore, discover, interpret, and share music.
“This music thing is in my bones,” says Okoren. She grew up in a family bluegrass band. Wen came to love music through classical piano. They are skilled and eager listeners who are more than happy to share the latest and greatest things they’ve found. “The Couch Series is a place where creativity comes to rest… People have been so kind and marvelous. The musicians have been incredibly accommodating and willing to be on our couch. We thought it would be way harder to get people in our living room, but most people are very willing.”
Some of the artists who have performed on The Couch Series include Mimi Knowles, Pändo, The National Parks, John Lane, and Coral Bones. While The Couch Series provides fantastic exposure for local artists online, Okoren and Wen have much higher aims for the series.
“The purpose of The Couch Series is to create this database of Provo music and culture. As a sociology major, I became all anal about local culture losing itself to the mass creations made everyday. Provo has like 5,000,000,000 bands that come out of nowhere and then die immediately. I want to record some of that. So The Couch Series has become this database and hopefully a journal for Provo,” says Okoren. The Couch Series allows the artists an opportunity to document and immortalize their efforts for free while also giving viewers the unique experience of watching live performances and seeing Provo culture grow.
Nicolle definitely keeps the humanity in The Couch Series,” says Wen. “I also find it fascinating that humans have the capability to create so much greatness from banging on stuff or strumming things. It’s something that unites all of humanity. It is incredible… It transcends songwriters and it empowers listeners, even if it’s just saying, ‘Hey, you’re not the only one going through this.’”
Currently, their crew is small, though their aspirations are large. Jonathan Ying, their initial sound and camera man, recently moved to California. Their crew now consists of Okoren, Wen, Melody Chow (videographer), and Amy Hilton (editor).
For interviews, musical performances, and articles about music and culture, visit thecouchseries.com.