On a Tuesday night in October I found myself in a lovely Victorian in Cranston where Brett Davey shoots the "In The Dark" sessions.
“I shoot it at my house in the basement, like Wayne’s World!” he told me in an email leading up to our meeting. Unlike Wayne’s parents house, Brett’s basement lacked that “couple of chimps on a davenport” vibe. But like the cable access show that briefly took the Aurora area by storm in the early ‘90s, Brett’s video work is something of a staple in the local music scene.
Brett’s transformation from a casual friend of local musicians to the Providence music community’s go-to video guy started a couple of years back when he picked up a Canon 7D and was looking for something interesting to shoot with it. He started with music videos, the first being for his friend Pat Baron’s old band From: The Inside Out. Later he shot and cut music videos for Allysen Callery, Vudu Sister and Joe Fletcher.
“I was doing it more to help them,” he says. “When you’re a musician and you’re trying to get booked, the only video that might be out there of you is [on] someone’s cell phone. I thought it was an interesting thing to do.”
From there Brett plunged himself into darkness. For the uninitiated, "In the Dark" is a web series Brett has been doing for just over a year. Each installment features a local musician or band in front of a black backdrop. No fancy tricks or unnecessarily elaborate production, just an artist, their instrument and a seemingly endless black void behind them.
“I’d seen that other people had done these sessions, The Living Room Sessions and things like that,” Brett told me in his dining room while down in the basement the aforementioned Pat Baron and John Reddington of Pawtucket’s Swan Point set up for their shoot, and Brett’s 21st entry in the series.
The series has served as a spotlight the likes of Roz and the Rice Cakes, Forts/Gainsville and Dan Blakeslee, as well as most of the other artists already mentioned in this article. The videos are very raw in that there’s nothing on-screen to distract you from the performer. It’s an intimate experience. Each installment opens with the performer staring silently right at you followed by alternating medium and close-up shots of their performance, with light revealing only what’s important: A creator and their work.
“I wanted to give it a look that didn’t let you know where it was – something that would keep people looking. It could have been shot anywhere, and I think that has some appeal to it,” he says.
Though sometimes even the creator is left relatively out of sight, as was the case with the first "In the Dark", which featured a hardly there Joe Fletcher.
Finding that right balance between too little and just enough light was tricky at first, as was getting the sound just right – why bother filming musicians if the sound isn’t spot on – but Brett’s clearly figured out the formula. At this point artists are asking him to shoot them for In the Dark instead him cold calling them.
“I think they all got wind of this guy who was doing all of this stuff for free and it looked halfway decent and sounded good,” he jokes, adding, “I see this as a way to help some of these musicians reach a wider audience. Most of them are pretty broke, so I see it as a way I can help them along.”
That he does all of this video work for free is worth noting. It’s not exactly easy work, especially on location shoots, not to mention the time and cost of equipment. For Brett the real reward isn’t money or fame, but the respect and trust of the music community. It’s also about something a little more personal than all of that.
“It’s like getting a one-on-one concert with a really talented musician. Yeah, I don’t get paid to do it, but to sit there and listen to a greatmusician literally sing to you one-on-one is kind of a priceless experience.”
See more of Brett Davey’s work at inyourburn.com
WATCH: IN THE DARK SESSION with SWAN POINT "LOVE IN THE GHETTO"