Playing an open mic night in London led Jake Braun to a record deal with Trellis Records.

By Sean Kelly – [email protected]

Everyone wants their experience abroad to be one to remember. One SJU student has one to sing about.

SJU junior Jake Braun is in the process of signing a record deal with Trellis Records, a London-based record label. This deal became a reality for Braun after playing an open mic night at Blueberry Bar in London on January 18, while studying abroad.

“I felt really good about it,” Braun said. “It was probably the most fun I’ve had playing a show. It was a really fun crowd; everyone was feeling a little silly. It was fun too because the whole [study abroad] program came out to watch, so it was a nice crowd of friendly faces. It was a dream performance night. I sat back down after and I got a free drink from the bar and I was talking to the St. John’s kids and this guy came up to me.”

The guy that came up to Braun was Chris Smith, the founder of Trellis Records. Smith works for Coffee House Sessions, a promotional company within the music industry.

Smith started Trellis Records, on the side, to endorse types of musicians that he wouldn’t otherwise work with. Braun became one of these musicians.

Braun is working with Trellis to make a five-song EP, which is shorter than a full-length album but longer than a single, that is tentatively set to come out in the spring of 2018. Because Smith has a firm footing in the music industry, his established connections have helped the artists on his label succeed.

“He knows a bunch of people from Vice and Rolling Stone and huge music blogs,” Braun said. “So that is how he has kind of gotten his own artists on the board so fast.”

One of the other artists that Smith signed to Trellis is Brooke Bentham, whose EP dropped in 2016. Her most popular song has over 1.5 million listens on Spotify.

Because Braun will only be in London for a limited amount of time, he will record the EP in the recording studio of his choice in the Minneapolis area upon his return. Before the recording process can start, Braun and Smith need to solidify which songs will be on the album and work on polishing them. One of the biggest challenges that Braun faces will be cutting his song “We Could Be Happy” down from around six minutes to three.

“After three minutes you have to cut it down for radio version because no radio station is going to play it if it is over that,” said Braun. “I’m really excited to look at it in an analytical way. What’s absolutely essential to keep and what can go? Looking at it in such a polishing way is going to take some of the music to the next level. I can’t wait to delve down into what the songs are actually about and figure out how to really present them.”

This record deal has encouraged Braun to start thinking more critically about his future and if he wants music to become more than just a hobby. As of right now, Braun isn’t sure if he wants to pursue a career in music and have a life on the road, but he is leaving his options open.

“The EP drops right around graduation. I will be free at that point then to see what direction I want to go…I have been kind of caught thinking that I wouldn’t really like the lifestyle, like touring and living on a bus not knowing where my money is coming from,” Braun said. “But at the same time if I have the opportunity to give it a go, I think that I would regret not at least trying it,”

Working at Coffee House Sessions and having a steady income gives Smith the freedom to have an artist friendly work environment. Because of this flexibility, Braun is not required to tour, which will allow him to complete his degree.

While Braun has been musically inclined since childhood, he didn’t start writing his own music until the summer before coming to CSB/SJU. The first show that he ever played was an open mic night at the Local Blend.

“I was absolutely terrified. Playing my own songs in front of other people was such a scary idea, but it was a blast…There are so many opportunities with clubs and things on campus that have really pushed me to be able to do this,” Braun said. “If I went to the University of Minnesota or something I think that it would be hard to even get the opportunities to play live or to polish my craft… There are so many cool musical people and supportive students,”

After the open mic night on January 18th, Braun has played a show with Coffee House Sessions and will be playing at The Bull’s Head, a popular jazz venue in the area, on March 30. The record deal with Trellis and getting offers to play shows in London has left Braun in awe.

“It’s reassuring too that someone that does this for a living and knows what they are talking about thinks that if I went after it, I could really do it,” Braun said. “It’s so flattering, I grin every time I think about it because it is a childhood dream that you can daydream about when you are sitting in class, but to actually have it happen is so mind boggling.”

Feature Photo courtesy of Jake Braun