Songs from the Sofa keeps live music alive in Chico

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Courtesy of Brett Johnson

Brett Johnson, owner of Houser’s Music in Oroville, says people can support local artists by “watching live feeds, and try to tip electronically if possible.”

In the midst of California’s statewide shelter-in-place order, all scheduled concerts and music festivals have been put on hold. With the season of live music having essentially been wiped out, one local project, known as Songs from the Sofa, has given musicians the opportunity to perform again. 

The idea came from a night teacher Anne Hartman and her husband Forrest spent live streaming with their son. After that, musician Emma Garrahy, from the band Hillcrest Avenue, and her grandmother, Kathy Lowdermilk, did the same. 

Since their first show, Songs from the Sofa has hosted a number of both solo musicians and bands, including Reece Thompson, The Hartmen, Brett Johnson, After School Crush, James Slack, Theodore Milan, The Pris Bros, Connie Curry and Amanda Grey. 

“[Songs from the Sofa] is a place for musicians to share their talents during this time of social distancing,” Hartman said. “Many of these musicians have had gigs canceled and this gives them the opportunity to play for an online audience.” 

There is a bit of a “DIY” aspect to these digital concerts that can make the experience feel more casual than a traditional set. The audio isn’t always the best as we are seeing stripped down versions of the artists. 

While the Facebook and Instagram streams have supplemented the live music experience to some degree, there are still aspects of it that are missing, such as audience engagement. 

“You don’t hear the crowd applause,” Hartman said. “The only feedback the artists get are comments from the online viewers, or sending thumbs-up and hearts.” 

Still, without many other outlets, the live streaming trend feels like a vital part of local music communities everywhere. 

“It definitely keeps live music alive and people tuning in,” Hartman said. 

Without touring, the live streams may also help to supplement the income that musicians are losing during the shelter-in-place.

“People can support local musicians by watching live feeds, and try to tip electronically if possible,” owner of Houser’s Music in Oroville and musician in multiple local bands, Brett Johnson said.

Following in the footsteps of Hartman, Deanna Wiseman of Sutter County started their own version of Songs from the Sofa called Yuba Sutter Couch Concerts, which is set to start up on April 13. 

Songs from the Sofa are streamed nightly at 7 p.m., as long as there are musicians to play. Interested viewers can tune in on their Facebook page. 


Kati Morris can be reached at the [email protected] or on Twitter @daysofkati.