Studio sessions are rarely ever cheap, so to have it at a place as big as the Bridge was major.”
Thanks to a partnership between Redefined, a local music collective that includes sites like Vanyaland, Lowell Spin, and Ones2Watch, and Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, 617Sessions has returned to welcome in its 2021 class of Boston-area artists on the rise.
And yes, there will be live performances.
617Sessions was designed to elevate and support underground and DIY artists, rewarding a few lucky applicants with valuable free studio time to perfect their music. Selected artists are given free rein of a studio space and access to a sound engineer to help them craft and produce a song of their choice. These tracks are released across all major streaming platforms upon recording; the artists receive all of the royalties their songs garner.
Beyond the obvious upsides, there is the chance of a 617Session leading to further notoriety for the chosen artist, particularly helpful in a crowded local scene. Winners will also have that subsequent recorded song automatically entered into the running for a Boston Music Award, the annual show run by Redefined that recognizes local musicians and industry professionals. The public will then have the opportunity to vote on these new tracks, with the artist who receives the most votes winning “617Sessions Artist of the Year.” The top three artists receiving the most votes will also be asked to perform at the awards ceremony, which traditionally happens in December.
The 617Sessions will go down between September and October at the Bridge Sound and Stage in Cambridge, the former Fort Apache where tracks from some of rock’s heaviest hitters including Radiohead and Dinosaur Jr. were recorded and currently home to big Boston acts including STL GLD.
Paul Armstrong, CEO/Owner of Redefined, characterizes the process of awarding 617Sessions as one that is “so rewarding.” Previous winners cite the erasure of that financial burden as a huge reason why their session was beneficial to them. Yavin, whose bouncy dream pop was endearing enough to result in a Boston Music Awards nomination for Pop Artist of the Year in 2020, said, “The studio-time helped connect me with so many great folks, on top of the fact that simply having free studio time was such a huge help. Studio sessions are rarely ever cheap, so to have it at a place as big as the Bridge was major.”
Yavin also added that the sessions “definitely helped with notoriety around Boston;” after “not being noticed by the Boston music industry at-large.” Even now, his involvement in the program continues to support and foster his career; in August, he was invited to perform at “Summer Sounds,” Boston Music Awards’ seasonal concert series.
Prateek, a blues-influenced singer-songwriter and 2018 Boston Music Awards nominee, seconded the cost-absorbing benefit of 617Sessions as a big deal: “Getting into the studio can be so expensive—the 617Sessions covering the cost was an opportunity I won’t forget.”
Prateek had received prior Boston Music Awards noms before his session, “but actually getting sponsored by the BMAs, so to speak, and having a song with their brand on it was definitely a whole other level.” Being selected for the program did wonders for [his] confidence,” he added, fueling his desire to keep going and believing in the potency of his own art.
Armstrong of Redefined reiterated that applications are open to all Mass-based artists, regardless of genre or style. He noted that the team “tend[s] to lean towards newer/upcoming artists,” but this is “not an exclusive or official rule.” All applicants are carefully reviewed until the pool is dwindled down to ten artists.
So far, five 617Sessions have already been awarded, with artists beginning their recording processes this month. They include: King Fiya, soulful Cambridge-based rapper; atmospheric bedroom-pop duo DATCHA; Senseless Optimism, whose silky, full-bodied vocals come with jazzy dissections of the psyche and heart; ANSON RAP$, the stage name of Anson Frazier and his DIY blend of hip-hop; and Mallcops, thrashing yet incredibly smooth pop-punk outlet from Somerville.
With spots still yet to be given away, applications for prospective artists are available at 617sessions.com. Winners of the 2021 Boston Music Awards will be announced later this year.
Meg McCarney is a full-time, third year student at Lesley University studying Creative Writing and Communications. She’s interested in music journalism as a means to showcase the power of music in bridging cultural divides, addressing emotional wounds, and elevating voices and stories.