The disco balls hanging in the former Inner State Studio aren’t privy to much dancing these days. The majority of the light they catch is natural, as are the sounds that come out of the project the space hosts each day: Acoustic Oklahoma.
Its definition is a subject of debate. Curator Casey Friedman says it’s a documentation project. Songwriter Anna Kinder sees it as a networking opportunity. Artist Ryan Lawson goes so far as to describe it as “a musical renaissance for the folk and country community.”
But before it’s any of those things, it’s a camera, an instrument and an artist.
Friedman, former owner of Inner State, renovated the studio upon its closing into an open, apartment-like space, which sits above Horn Trader Music at South Western and West Reno avenues. An avid live videographer of the local music scene, he turned his camera inward for Acoustic Oklahoma.
“I wanted to bring musicians back to the space,” he said.
His idea was simple: Put an artist with an instrument in front of a camera, then put two minutes of the resulting song on YouTube and Facebook. Knowing many musicians from his recording days, he began contacting them and holding sessions at the end of September.
Then it went viral, in many ways.
“My friend Shilo Brown, who performs as Bloody Ol’ Mule, set me up with a recording time with Casey,” Lawson said.
Word of mouth brought singer/songwriter Dustin Prinz to the project as well.
“People who played here prior recommended me,” Prinz said. “I’ve played with a lot of people who have done it.”
HEARD IT THROUGH A FRIEND WHO …
The grapevine didn’t just extend to booking sessions, but watching them.
“On the Facebook, artists can comment on each other’s songs and give feedback,” Kinder said. Whether it’s a “like” or a comment of praise, the Acoustic Oklahoma Facebook page brims with action. New videos added daily or even hourly keep the page and the YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/InnerStateStudio) abuzz.
This interactive community aspect is what excited Prinz about the project.
“It’s really nice to meet people who are doing the same thing you’re doing,” he said.
Kinder takes it a step further than friendship, pointing toward the new possible working relationships.
“You can set up shows with other people,” she said. “It’s good to see the talent that Oklahoma has to offer.”
Friedman wants to facilitate those working relationships. As the Acoustic Oklahoma space doesn’t currently have heat, he has put new sessions on hold until the spring. But when greener grass rolls around, there will be plenty of ways for artists to interact.
“I’m going to let this project marinate for a while,” Friedman said. “In the spring, I want to do house concerts and gatherings, maybe even weekly. That’s definitely going to happen.”
Lawson has an even bigger vision for the project. In a letter to Oklahoma Gazette last week, he wrote, “Casey has definitely set a trend that I foresee taking off in other cities around the nation.”
He believes the project is unique not only to America, but the Internet as well.
“It seems like an idea that should have already been done. You can search through YouTube and not see anything like it,” Lawson said.
Whether or not Acoustic Texas or Acoustic China pops up, Friedman hopes to take the project to “the logical step”: Tulsa. Demand has grown for a DVD of the project, and he would like to involve more local arts support groups to make that happen.
“I’d love to get the attention of one of the local film schools,” Friedman said, “(or) the Arts Council to step forward and help with something like that.”
He wouldn’t mind getting a job shooting video out of it, either. After all, he said the goal is to “get some attention for myself and the musicians.”
It’s not just musicians who pour time into booking and playing shows who are welcome.
“There (are) musicians everywhere, and a lot of them don’t have time to play in bars,” Friedman said. “A lot of them are coming out of the woodwork.”
That’s why videos of Oklahoma City music staples Ali Harter, Brian Dunning and Travis Linville stack up next to those of the less-known Lanny Fiegenschuh, Nathan Schatzer and Milk Chocolate Jones in the collection, currently numbering more than 80. Friedman likes it that way, and he sets each video’s runtime at just over two minutes (regardless of song length) to emphasize that.
“I give everybody the same treatment,” he said.
So what is Acoustic Oklahoma? Friedman said it’s “a collection of videos.” Others see it as a comprehensive acoustic guitar networking system in the state. It’s one man’s idea for an art project, and it’s a whole musical movement.
But Acoustic Oklahoma is best described from where it starts: a wooden chair in front of a camera.
As Danny Trashville’s contribution to the project, “Greener Grass,” proclaims: “I can’t say it’s like I planned, but I wouldn’t have a worry if I didn’t give a damn.” —Stephen Carradini