When the music industry as we once knew it took a turn for the worse and left artists scrambling to reinvent how they promoted, toured, recorded and released music, one of the more interesting results to come out of the chaos has been the rise of house concerts.
A house concert is exactly what it sounds like, a full-fledged performance by an artist in someone’s private home.
Once thought to be a rather desperate — if not downright creepy — proposition for an artist, the house concert has turned into a legitimate venue for artists, especially in the singer/songwriter world. Artists get to play in front of an incredibly intimate audience, and in many cases they make considerably more than if they were in front of the same size audience at a coffeehouse-type venue.
There’s simply not a better example of a popular artist embracing house concerts than that of Jill Sobule, who is coming to the Ojai home of fellow indie songwriter Rain Perry.
Sobule was one of far too many artists who were signed to major labels in the ’90s but didn’t find much love or support. In Sobule’s case, despite some minor commercial success with “I Kissed a Girl,” (long before Katy Perry came out with a song by the same name) and several critically acclaimed albums such as 1997’s Happy Town, Sobule with her storytelling and character-driven songs was routinely considered “too smart” or “too quirky” for mainstream success.
While many of her peers got lost in the shuffle post-label drop, Sobule forged on, becoming something of a poster girl for many of the new tactics being embraced by independent artists. From funding recordings through crowd sourcing to touring the house concert circuit, Sobule continued her career with the support of a small but rabid fan base, including songwriting legends like Steve Earle and the late Warren Zevon.
These days, with 11 full-lengths to her name and several EPs, she continues to break new ground and stay involved in a host of projects, including My Song Is My Weapon, an online platform for artists to showcase social- and political-themed work.
As for the house in question for Sobule’s Ojai performance, it will be none other than Rain Perry’s crib, which makes sense because in many ways, Perry is the Jill Sobule of Ventura County singer/songwriters. Perry, who does not have a regular house concert series, does occasionally play promoter when a special opportunity for a bigger artist, whom she’s a fan or friend of, is available.
While Perry isn’t opening the show, she’s incredibly excited to play host to such a talent.
“I’ve been a longtime fan. I knew that she did house concerts, so I reached out to her about it a few years ago, but the timing wasn’t right. Now it is,” explains Perry. “Along with being a great songwriter and performer, Jill promotes in such a clever and charming way. She’s an artist who really embraced the changes in the music business and it’s a real honor and pleasure to get to see her perform in my backyard . . . literally.”
Jill Sobule performs at Rain Perry’s house on Friday, Aug. 11. A potluck is at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Reservations are required. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.