James Cavern: The Porch Sessions

James Cavern, the mastermind behind “The Porch Sessions.”

With the birth of YouTube came a brand new form of guerrilla marketing for musicians all over the world. And while most artists have been utilizing this opportunity to promote their own music—making live video performances of their songs—Sacramento’s own James Cavern has been spending his time making videos for other musicians.

I was able to meet up with James for a chat at Naked Lounge, a charming coffee joint and one of Sacramento’s many small music venues.

According to James, the whole project started haphazardly. James explains, “I was just messing around with the different apps on the iPhone and I noticed there was a movie directing app. I always wanted to make more videos and put them on Facebook to promote myself a little bit more.”

Then one day, James says, he was playing guitar on the porch with his buddies when one of them (Elijah Bell) suggested they try shooting a video right then and there on the porch. “It turned out really cool and when I started messing around with app, with the editing and stuff like that, I realized it was just really, really easy. The whole process only took about 20 minutes,” he recalls.

Once James figured out how quick and easy it was to make a video, he thought it might be cool to make videos featuring other musicians in his spare time. He says, “Initially I just wanted to start filling my days. Yeah I could sit at home all day, play my guitar and write and sing and blah blah blah…but for me songwriting is quick. I’ll write a song in five minutes, so most of my time wasn’t being used to connect with music.”

Now sixteen episodes deep, The Porch Sessions have featured Sacramento singer-songwriters like Autumn Sky and Sandra Dolores, indie acts such as Musical Charis, and even hip-hop artists like Century Got Bars (seen in the video above). What started as a way to fill time has turned into an incredible promotional project for the entire Sacramento music scene. James, of course, is aware of this and it drives him to continue with new episodes every week. He declares: “There’s just so much talent here that people need to be aware of. It’s bands like Wife & Son and Cold Eskimo and Sam Eliot, who are making this awesome music that not many people have heard yet.”

It’s James’ hope that the Porch Sessions will not only spread awareness of Sacramento’s talent, but also inspire its residents to go out and watch these acts perform live. I asked James if he ever planned on upgrading the Porch Sessions recording process; right now all the sessions are still being filmed on his iPhone with the built in microphone. He says he’s proud of the lo-fi videos. He figures if an artist can sound good in such a raw setting, people will be able to tell that they are genuinely talented.

James Cavern performing. Photo by Barrett Drawdy Photography. (http://drawdy.smugmug.com/)

James Cavern performing. Photo by Barrett Drawdy Photography.

As far as the future of the Porch Sessions are concerned, James doesn’t know exactly how long the videos will persist. He doesn’t, however, see them ending any time soon. In fact, his next plan is to start making compilations using the audio from the YouTube videos. James figures that this kind of grass-roots promotion is the best thing he can do for Sacramento’s music. He’s hoping he can get them released either as a physical CD or a digital download, ideally through a local music magazine or website.

The reason I hunted James down is that I feel he’s doing our community a great service; such things should be noticed. It’s my hope that my fellow Sacramentans will be as inspired as I was by his selfless passion and vision for the future of our music scene.

You can view the Porch Sessions on James Cavern’s YouTube channel. For more information on James Cavern, check out his website.


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