Inside of Brett and Jessica Nelson’s Oklahoma City home just minutes away from Devon Tower, vibrant art and funky furniture are accompanied with the sound of live acoustics. A few dozen guests gather together, glasses of wine and beer cans in hand, sit back and revel in the sound of uninterrupted melodies.
Since 2016, the music-enthusiast couple has hosted fifteen house shows, with genres ranging from singer songwriter to Americana and soul. Here, we chat with the Nelsons about how hosting house shows came about, and what keeps the music going.
How did hosting house shows come about?
Brett: We used to host some shows when we were living in a loft in Nashville. So when we moved to Oklahoma City in September 2016, we knew we wanted to build a modern home that would be the right space to host shows. We designed this house knowing that we wanted to have a space where both local and traveling artists would have a place to perform without any distractions.
Jessica: For me, it happened when Brett and I went to go see one of our favorite musicians play at Mercy Lounge in Nashville. There were some people in the crowd making a lot of noise. The musician stopped playing and said, “Hey guys, this is really important to me,” and he asked them to quiet down. That’s a moment that made me realize that the artist really does notice when the crowd isn’t listening, so we wanted to create a space where artists can share their music while having all eyes and ears focusing on the performance.
Tell me a bit about the first OKC show you hosted.
Brett: Our very first OKC house show was Cameron Neal, lead singer of local alternative/indie band, Horse Thief. One night, Cameron was playing at a soft opening at Stone Cloud Brewery and Jessica realized who he was, so she just walked right up to him and asked if he would be interested in playing a house show and he agreed. That’s how a lot of our shows come about.
Jessica: That’s what we call “pulling a Jessica.” After we watch a show, I’ll approach the musician and ask if they’d be interested in playing at our home. We’ve lived in Dallas, Nashville and OKC, and I would say OKC is by far the easiest place to make connections. It’s not difficult for us to recruit musicians for our shows because people are so well connected here.
What’s the key to hosting a memorable house show?
Brett: For me, it’s more about the artist. I have big admiration for people who can be so passionate about what they do, despite knowing that it’s a hard road and it’s never a guaranteed road. There’s no particular way of doing things to get you to become a successful rock star - it’s a really random thing. Some people become really successful and they’re not that talented, and some people are really talented and never make it. It’s a matter of seeing an artist we are really impressed by and ask if there’s anything we can do to help share their talent and passion. If you find someone who has that talent, it makes our job really easy.
Jessica: We don’t have the artistic talent, but we want to give musicians a platform to share that gift.
What do you think the musicians enjoy the most about playing your house shows?
Brett: Initially, I thought it’d be the financial aspect. I thought artists would make more money playing shows here. But I’ve noticed that what musicians have enjoyed the most is that the audience’s eyes and ears are totally on them. From my little experience of playing music, I know that performing in front of someone is a very nerve-wracking thing, but it can also be uplifting, and that’s what we’re trying to create here.
Jessica: The motive is different when people come to our home for a show - they’re here for the music and the artists can feel that.
How would you describe the crowd’s experience at your house shows?
Brett: It’s a bit different when you’re at a house show. You show up to someone else’s home, and you have to commit some of yourself to the process- it’s a bit of a vulnerable experience. A lot of people who come to these shows are not musically inclined, so it’s been awesome hosting people who don’t have the time to go to music venues, but have found their place here. For them, it’s a way to see music, connect with people, and discover new artists they grow to love.
What are some perks of hosting house shows?
Brett: When we built the house, we thought we were going to have kids, so we have two small rooms upstairs. We didn’t end up having kids, so when artists pass through, they’ll sometimes stop by and stay with us. We’ll get to talk with the musicians and the next thing you know, it’s one am. It’s really great to get to learn more about the artists and what they do.
Local musicians to be on the lookout for?
Brett and Jessica: Samantha Crain is awesome. We also love Claire Morales - she’s based out of Denton and has played here at our home and some local shows as well. She has a similar sound to Australian singer songwriter, Courtney Barnett.
Brett and Jessica: Jason Scott, Mark Gibson, and Claire Morales are some of the artists who will be playing at our house this summer. Your readers can check the artists’ social media for dates and show times.