Los Angeles GRAMMY U: Open Mic Night

Daniel Rojas's picture

The vibe was cool and the music was hot during GRAMMY U LA’s first ever Open Mic event in The Passage, a small performance venue, at Musicians Institute in Hollywood.

Chapter Governors Shawn Amos, Michael Bearden, Jeff Greenberg, Gavin Lurssen and Jody Watley served as performance advisors for five lucky GRAMMY U members: Jamie Meyer (Cal State LA); Amanda Holmes (USC); Jarell Perry (UCLA); Ellie McNeil (MI); and Cameron Ernst (USC), chosen from numerous submissions, who each performed three songs.

First up was Swedish singer/songwriter Jamie Meyer, who from the start established a great connection with the audience as he performed a tight set of his original songs, including “Good Night to be Young,” and “Plan A.” The judges liked Meyer’s stage presence, his connection to the audience and the lyrical themes of his songs. Amos told Meyer, “I’m diggin’ your Swedish-Nashville twang.” Watley said, “I loved it too, but don’t ever hold back on your vocals.”

Amanda Holmes gave a melodic performance; ending her set with a signature song, “Came To Us In Mexico.” Holmes said she was excited to be able to play in front of a live audience, after being in the recording studio for the last few days. The advisors said Holmes had great range and technical talent; she just needed to be more aware of her vocal power and range, “work her mic” more and develop the “vocal hooks” in her songs.

Jarell Perry delivered some powerful R&B vocal stylings during his set. The advisors loved his passionate, soulful vocals on his original songs “Indestructible” and “Universal Love” and said Jarell has huge star potential, but he needs work on finding his own sound. Some of Jarell’s vocals were also lost behind the doubles on his pre-recorded tracks which they found distracting. Bearden suggested he work on better arrangements. Watley felt Jarell’s songs were radio ready and suggested he work on honing his craft as a singer/songwriter first, as did Ne-Yo and Keri Hilson. Shawn Amos frankly commented that the stuff in Jarell’s pockets distracted from his overall stage look – which drew big laughs from the audience. Jarell responded immediately by taking everything out of his pockets.

Ellie McNeil confessed to the audience that it was one of her first performances, but managed to wow the advisors with her “Feist meets Rickie Lee Jones” sound. Watley said she loved the quality of Ellie’s vocals on her song “Trying to Breath,” but she needed to connect more with her audience and never rush her vocals. Bearden agreed; saying sometimes the “space” in between the lyrics is as important as the music itself.

Cameron Ernst, the final performer of the evening delivered a cool, quirky set of his original material, including the fun pick-up song “Hello, What’s Your Name?” and sentimental ballad, “Finally.” Greenberg thought Cameron’s musicianship was fantastic and Lurssen agreed, suggesting that Cameron think about adding some strings to the arrangements.

The advisors were extremely impressed by the level of talent and musicianship represented by the GRAMMY U members. The recurring theme in their advice was how important it is for artists to be conscious of their stage presence and connection to the audience, as well as having a good marketing plan. All of the GRAMMY U performers expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to receive such honest, helpful feedback from music professionals at the top of their game.

Overall, it was a great night. The Chapter hopes to do more Open Mic events in the future for our membership.

Special thanks go out to Beth Merlis, Vice President of Education at Musicians Institute and our participating Chapter Governors; without whom this event wouldn’t have been possible.

For more information about these five performers, please feel free to visit their MySpace pages listed below:
Jamie Meyer (MI): www.myspace.com/jamiemeyerartist
Amanda Holmes (USC): www.myspace.com/amandaholmesband
Jarell Perry (UCLA): www.myspace.com/jarellperrymusic
Ellie McNeil (MI): www.myspace.com/elliemcneil
Cameron Ernst (USC): www.myspace.com/cameronernst