By Brittany Plothow
Inside of a seemingly average house in Provo, a team of local music big-wigs produce a new television series called Backstage Avenue. What seems like your typical Happy Valley neighborhood is home to an impressive music and television production team and studio, Refinement Productions.
Out of this production team comes a weekly television program, Backstage Avenue. As stated on their Facebook page, Backstage Avenue is “a show highlighting up and coming bands, the who’s who of music, and the entertainment scene surrounding Utah.”
Nathan Osmond really needs no introduction to Provo-ites. The son of Alan Osmond, the oldest of the performing Osmond brothers, Nathan has been performing himself for most of his life. Formerly in a group with his brothers, The Osmonds Second Generation, and now as a solo country singer. He has had four number 1 singles on the country music charts and has opened up for Chris Young, Carrie Underwood, Clay Walker, Lonestar, Martina McBride, and many more. He was also nominated as Male Artist of the Year and New Artist of the Year by the New Music Awards this year.
Amy Whitcomb is best known for her time on season 4 of The Voice and was also on The Sing Off in 2012. Since then Amy has been playing shows around the country and also works with Ryan Hayes and Jon Peter Lewis of Midas Whale in the yearly production of Deep Love.
So, what is Backstage Avenue all about? “It’s a fun show. Being a local show, there’s so much talent in Utah and it gives us the opportunity to showcase that talent. So we’ve had lots of great bands,” said Osmond. Artists like Charley Jenkins, Shrink The Giant, Desert Noises, Maddie Wilson, Westward the Tide, The National Parks, and many others. “We’re creating a platform for new artists to be seen on television which is a big deal here in Utah. But on top of that we also want to feature the big names that come to town.” Those include The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Phil Vasser, Thompson Square, The Beach Boys, America, Vertical Horizon and many more. “We like to take people behind the song so we have a segment on our show called ‘behind the song’,” during which Osmond interviewed the man behind “I Cross My Heart” by George Strait, Steve Dorf. “It was neat to sit down with him at the piano and have him play the songwriter’s version of that song… Those are the things that people who are into music are interested in.”
The show also hits the street and interviews random people walking down the street with their headphones on to see what’s on their iPod, an idea Osmond came up with. “It’s really interesting to see what Utah is listening to.”
The show also goes beyond music – showcasing venues, restaurants, I Fly Utah (one of only twelve places in the country for indoor skydiving), and the Heber Creeper railway. “I think a lot of people are surprised with what Utah has to offer, which is really fun,” said Osmond. “It’s like the people who live next door to Disneyland and just never go. If you live here you take for granted what you got just within a minutes’ drive.”
But why Provo? “Provo is really becoming a music city. You see a lot of bands that are coming out of here,” said Osmond. Of course coming from the Osmond family, Nathan knows very well the perks of producing music in Utah and has seen the success. “We were told we would never make it coming [back] to Utah. And my family said ‘well, just wait and see’. Overnight this studio came out of the ground at the mouth of Provo Canyon,” he said referring to the Osmond Family Studio which still stands today on 800 North in Orem. “The Donny and Marie show had a 60s share on the network and that came out of Utah. People from Hollywood flocked up here. The BeeGees recorded at the Riveria Apartments!” The Osmond family owned the apartments at the time and had a studio on site.
What inspires Provo musicians? Why is Provo busting at the seams with successful bands and artists? Osmond thinks the mountains have a lot to do with it. “Have you opened your eyes here in Provo, Utah lately and looked up and seen what we are surrounded by? If you can’t come to Utah and write a good song, you’ve got your eyes closed. So open your eyes, go a few minutes up the canyon, go visit Sundance and just get inspired.”
Provo hasn’t had any major bands since the Osmond family until recently when several locals bands have scored major record deals, toured successfully and internationally, been featured in major Hollywood movie soundtracks (Imagine Dragons in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Neon Trees with Catching Fire), and so on. Why is it booming now? “I think technology has changed the way we do the music industry. The second biggest city for YouTube music uploads is Provo, Utah. What does that say about Provo? That we’re producing not only a lot of content but good content,” said Osmond.
What does the future hold for Backstage Avenue? Osmond would love to see it go national. “I’d like to see this show grow to something people tune into, something like an Entertainment Tonight. Not just a magazine type show but one that has content, that really helps you get to know your favorite artists.”
Backstage Avenue has no shortage of local talent to pick from, however they are always looking for new undiscovered local music. “Send us your stuff!” said Osmond who is always keeping his ear to the ground to see what’s coming around the bend musically. “Utah shines when it comes to talent and we’re lucky enough to have a show that showcases it.”
The show is wrapping up production on season one and will rebroadcast the season in its entirety starting the first week of 2015. Season two will kick off the first week of April 2015. Make it part of your weekly viewing and learn about where you live.