Oct. 27—Jessica Carson has been intertwined in the Front Range music scene since she relocated to Longmont from Texas over a decade ago.
While she rocks stages with her band Clandestine Amigo, she is also committed to facilitating the art of her peers.
Invested in the wellbeing of the community, in 2020 — while working as the Longmont Chamber's program director — she was looking for a way to help folks who found themselves without steady income.
The powerhouse vocalist sat at her piano and offered up livestreamed fundraiser concerts from her living room. With the donated tips from viewers, she purchased gift cards to local eateries and then gave them to fellow musicians — many whose side hustles were in the food and bev industry — who had lost work due to the pandemic.
As the new executive producer and director of Octave Records — a Boulder-based label owned by PS Audio that caters toward the audiophile — she continues to help the Front Range's array of talent pursue their dreams at no cost to them.
Rather than a band having to set up a Kickstarter campaign, a deal with Octave means 100 percent of the funding — from mastering to marketing — is covered.
Another draw of going with Octave — founded by Paul McGowan — means the sound quality of albums will be incredibly rich and nuanced.
Direct Stream Digital recording — also known as DSD — is an audio format that delivers results so crisp and clear, it produces similar notes and vocals that one would hear if they were in a room with fabulous acoustics, listening to a band in real time.
Last year, the label released Clandestine Amigo's "Temporary Circumstances," followed by the group's most recent album "Things Worth Remembering" — a collection that features a cross-section of regional guest musicians — this past September.
We caught up with Carson — who gave birth to her first child last week — to find out more about her band's latest release, what she loves about her new role recruiting and working with acts for the high-quality label and what Halloween plans she has for her family of three.
Kalene McCort: What inspired the collection of songs on "Things Worth Remembering?" Were most of these written during the chaos of 2020?
Jessica Carson: "Things Worth Remembering" is a collection of songs that were written over the last three years. This album feels a bit like a bookend of a piece of my life. It's great to be in a new chapter, but these songs are from a time worth remembering.
The themes of the songs range from love, dealing with my own internal state, learning how to live in my own mind in a comfortable way. My chaos of 2020 album has certainly been written and actually recorded at this point, but will come out sometime next year.
KM: What's it like stepping into the position of executive producer and director with Octave Records? Would you say being a part of this company has fostered a new appreciation for the magic of Direct Stream Digital (DSD) recording?
JC: I was recruited in 2019 to record my first album with Octave Records and through that process I really got to know the PS Audio crew and they got to know me. I had been booking music and festivals for a few years and learned that I enjoy the organizational piece of the work.
In 2020 — when all live shows and music booking stopped — the only musical thing I could do was finish my album. Through that process I got to know the PS Audio crew and they took an interest in the music organization side of me. They wanted to step up the amount of music that the label was producing and hired me to start moving things forward in an efficient and organized way.
It feels like so much of what I've done has been the perfect lead up to the director position at Octave. It's a perfect fit. I get to facilitate each artist in making their album from beginning to end. The everyday tasks range from recruiting the artist, making their contract, scheduling their studio dates, pairing them with an engineer and producer, getting them back into the studio for any editing and mixing to getting their album art and liner notes ready for print.
Once everything is ready, I organize time to have the project mastered and uploaded to Sony in Austria where the Super Audio CD plant is. We've recently added vinyl to what we offer, so I move forward conversion to vinyl now as well.
Before my first album, I had never even heard of DSD. Now that I work so closely with the medium, it's hard to want to listen to music any other way. Everything we make sounds so real, clean and pure. I'm certainly spoiled now, listening to music in earbuds just doesn't cut it anymore.
KM: Who are some of the artists you are currently working with that we can expect upcoming records from?
JC: We've had a great year of releases so far in 2021. We released the complete "Bach Cello Suites" performed by Zuill Bailey, a Grammy Award-winning artist. The collection has received rave reviews, including Record of the Month in Stereophile Magazine.
We've also released some projects by Colorado artists Foxfeather, Augustus and Gabriel Mervine. Slated to release this year is an album by Bonnie & Taylor Sims and another by Thom LaFond, of Banshee Tree. We have also released a few compilation discs that include many Colorado artists including Bill Kopper, Duo Azure, Don Grusin, Deborah Schmit-Lobis, Monica Marie LaBonte, Tyler Thompson, More Than Physics and many other great artists.
Albums that are currently in the process include Gasoline Lollipops, Carmen Sandim, Scabaret, Megan Burtt, to name a few.
KM: I see the Winter Walkabout Music Showcase (WWMS) has plans to return on Feb. 5. What can we expect from next year's event and have artist submissions already started to roll in?
JC: I'm happy to report that the Winter Walkabout is alive and well. Since 2020, we formed a committee since the festival has grown so much and will benefit greatly from having more hands on deck.
Performer applications have started rolling in. Since my job with Octave is much more demanding than what I was doing the previous years, I've taken an advisory role for WWMS as well as the Soundpost Sessions (SPS). I'm still involved in helping shape these events, but I'm letting other organizers take more of the reigns.
A great musician and organizer, Karyna Balch, who is new to town from the (Dallas/Fort Worth) area, has stepped up to take leading positions at both WWMS and SPS. I'm excited to see what new ideas she is bringing to both events.
KM: Your art is often described as "darkly poetic." How will you be spending this Halloween? Any fall rituals or traditions you hold dear?
JC: Fall has notoriously been a time of change for me every year. Without necessarily meaning to, my ritual every fall is allowing and embracing the new change that is entering my life.
This fall, I was fortunate to welcome my first child, William Carson Alexander, to the world on Oct. 22, 2021. My partner Stephen and I will be celebrating this Halloween as new parents at home, handing out candy, but have joked about dressing up as "The Incredibles," because William would make a great Jack Jack.