Plenty of talented musicians enroll in and graduate from Berklee College of Music every year. From there, their careers take any number of trajectories: drummer for one of Boston’s most famous classic rock exports, creator of a smash cartoon and one of the unlikeliest musicals to win a Tony Award, member of a one-hit wonder, and so on.
The Massachusetts-based Jessica Prouty Band is hoping for something like the former two. The group’s namesake and bassist, 18, and guitarist Cody Nilsen, 18, just began their freshman year at the college but are already relatively seasoned in the music business for their age.
Prouty, Nilsen, drummer Cam Pelkey, 18, and keyboard player Andy Covino, 16, came together in 2007 through a series of connections when Prouty, then in eighth grade, was working on recording an album. “I originally had session players come in, and I didn’t want to have to do that every time,” she said. “I wanted a band with kids my own age.”
Since then, the band has played over 70 shows per year throughout New England, “so we’re pretty good at performing,” Prouty said. They’ve also won numerous Battles of the Bands and other competitions, had their songs played on Boston radio, and released three albums, the latest of which, My Way, came out this past June.
So for the next few years, perfection, polish, and precision are the goals.
“I’m really hoping to be able to know my instrument in and out....I [want to] really know my music theory, really understand everything there is about the music, so it will be easier to write,” Prouty said. “And to learn the music business. That’s something every artist today should know.”
That, and developing a more broad, grown-up sound. My Way has a decidedly “Evanescence meets Shrek” vibe -- as I had it described to me before my first listen -- which the band is “trying to get away from,” said Prouty. (Nilsen, preferring a more blunt approach, chimed in with, “Yeah, we don’t like that.”)
Still, the band’s musical chops are evident beneath the teenage angst and many and varied musical influences of the album. Prouty has a voice that can go from Amy Lee (the majority of the album) to Delta Goodrem ("Lights") to Joan Jett ("My Way") in the change of a song, and Nilsen sneaks a classic riff here and there, like on “Escape.” “Summertime” -- My Way's final, softest, and possibly best track -- is a change of pace entirely but shows a maturity that promises good things to come in the future.
“We’re not completely changing our sound, but we’re definitely exploring,” Prouty said of their current songwriting ventures, “particularly because I was the one writing the original music, and [now] it’s become the whole band writing the music.”
“Set Me Free,” for example, a new song the band has been playing live but hasn’t yet recorded, has a more southern rock sound, Prouty said. “We like being able to play lots of different styles, and we really pride ourselves on it,” she said. “That song isn’t going to highlight our entire album.”
The track also allowed Nilsen to show off his blues guitar training. “I feel that I can bring an amount of soul [and] old-school blues to [the music], and I think that’s what sets the guitar apart and what sets us apart as a whole,” he said. “We’re all very versatile...and open to trying different things.”
And now that three-quarters of the band is 18 and, therefore, allowed entry to the Boston music scene, they’ll be able to try even more.
“Previously, we decided to play a lot of fairs, a lot of parking lot events, because that’s where we could play,” Prouty said. “We reached to a very wide audience that way....Now, we get to broaden our horizons even further. We’re trying to focus on an older crowd -- college kids and older -- but we still definitely want to reach out to all ages.”
The Jessica Prouty Band will perform at the Topsfield Fair on Saturday, Oct. 8. They are also part of a five-band afternoon Halloween show on Saturday, Oct. 29 at Church. Costumes and trick-or-treat bags are encouraged.
Photo by Tyler Healey
By Angela Stefano -- It's "Ang," if you please -- or, alternately, Bill, Penny Lane, or (begrudgingly) Angus to some. I've been with TNGG since the site started and am now the TNGG Boston editor for Boston.com. I graduated from Boston University's College of Communication in 2009 and am a huge fan of live music, hockey, and Thai food. I'm also a bit of a klutz, but that's only because my mind and body are always going in approximately a zillion separate directions. Twitter: @amstefano988
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