Jessica Prouty Band just headlined a successful pre-New Year’s show at The Sad Café in Plaistow, New Hampshire, a regular room for them since 2007. Jessica Prouty Band has been busy touring New England, releasing CDs, and winning numerous band competitions. And that’s pretty darn good for band of teenagers, most of whom just graduated from high school last June.
Jessica Prouty sings, plays bass, and writes the songs for her band. Her good friend since grade school, Cam Pelky, is the drummer. Guitarist Cody Nilsen has been Prouty’s friend since she went to a separate high school from him in her Freshman year. Keyboardist Andy Covino has also been Prouty’s friend since ninth grade. Next month will mark the fifth year Jessica Prouty Band has been together.
Prouty’s title track to her third album My Way contains aggressive, hard rocking material. Growing up, she was influenced by her father’s record collection favorites like Kiss and Van Halen. Yet, Prouty branched out into her own musical tastes as she made her trek to age 18.
“I’ve really listened to a lot more modern post grunge metal music, like Evanescence,” she said. “That’s the most popular band, I think, out of that whole genre. But there’s other bands like Crossfade and Lacuna Coil.”
As a singer, Prouty has been influenced by Amy Lee from Evanescence and Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil. She also listens to a lot of Pat Benatar and Haley Williams of Paramore.
As a bass player, though, Prouty doesn’t really have any influences. Prouty became a fan of Victor Wooten and Emma Anzai after she herself was already an accomplished bassist.
“The bass and I have a very unique relationship,” she said. “When I was little, I never said ‘I’m going to go play the bass.’ I actually started playing bass because when I was in first band, when I was 13 years old, my bassist wouldn’t show up for practice. At the time, I was just singing and playing rhythm guitar. My dad taught me how to play guitar. I was saying, ‘the bass doesn’t look that hard and if she’s not showing up then I’m going to start playing the bass.’”
‘So,” she continued, “I started the playing the bass, and from then on I really enjoyed playing it while I was singing. Being in a band and doing that is really unique. People who really influenced me in terms of bass playing, Victor Wooten is phenomenal. But someone who really influenced me because she’s also in the genre is this bass player named Emma Anzai from this band called Sick Puppies. They’re an Australian band, and her bass playing is out of this world in the way that she acts on stage, her stage presence, everything. She’s fantastic.”
Prouty has written songs on her bass guitar, including one on the new album called “Please Be OK.” She wrote everything in that song on her four string. “I originally played that song with just me and a bass guitar at a coffeehouse,” she said. “That’s how that broke out. I use guitar quite a bit. I’m not excellent at it. But I know my way around the guitar and piano as well, especially for harmonies and things like that. I took classical piano for two years, even though I don’t consider myself great at piano either.”
“Please Be OK” is a vulnerable song inspired by a good friend who was not in a good place. “I was really worried about him,” she said. “It was at the point where he wasn’t speaking to me any more, so I was very worried about him. I became in a really tough place, and that’s when I wrote that song for him, and he talked to me after that.”
Another new track, “Lights,” has a compelling piano line written by the CD’s producer Brian Maes. “He came up with the melody and the lyrics,” Prouty said. “That was really his song and he approached me with it, and he said ‘I think this would be a perfect song for you to sing’ and he would really like to work with me on that.”
“Lights” as well as a hard rock version of a Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the Titanic film were the only two that Prouty and her band didn’t compose themselves.
Prouty’s plan and vision for the new CD My Way was to show what the band had been brewing for the two years leading up to the recording. It was the first time the band wrote together as a group. Previously, Prouty wrote most of their last two discs. Now, the whole band comes up with a lot of the music and arrangements to put around her lyrics.”
My Way is titled to show that the Jessica Prouty Band does not follow what other bands do. “Everyone in the band would be saying ‘my way,’” she said. “Three of the band members just graduated high school last spring, and we released this album in the summer time, so it was really us saying we’re breaking out of our shells and we’re going to go do great things.”
Next week Prouty will be attending the NAMM Conference in Anaheim Convention Center in California. She is going there under the auspices of a program called Generation Next. It is for young people who want to pursue the music business and music education degrees and to network. “It’s a rare opportunity because NAMM is a trade only event,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for college students to go to workshops and network with businesses and get a hands on experience with the music products industry.”
Prouty and her band had a close association with Daddy’s Junky Music before that chain shut down. The Jessica Prouty Band won a Daddy’s competition last year. “That’s where we met Candi Bramante and we also later met up with her at NAMM,” Prouty said. “It’s always interested me, the full spectrum of the music industry. The band was at the NAMM Conference last year for another competition. We were able to play in Downtown Disney.”
Prouty, after winning many such contests and receiving much recognition, remains focused on the hard work. “It’s hard at the same time,” she said. “We really try to amplify the competitions that we’ve been successful in. At the same time, there’s a lot behind the scenes that you lose. It’s really a give and take situation. We truly try to stay focused. We try to keep level headed because no matter what happens, you’re still a band. It’s still about the music. It’s still about your fans. That’s what you have to keep in your mind whenever you’re doing anything.”
My Way is the third album for this band whose members just graduated from high school last spring. Yet, Prouty said she does not have any hang ups about missing out on her childhood or teen years. “I don’t regret it,” she said. “Now I feel I’m ahead of the majority of the students in terms of performing and booking and marketing. I feel like I’m way ahead of a great deal of the incoming students that I see going into Berklee College Of Music.” Prouty is in the second semester of her freshmen year majoring in Music Business.
For the Jessica Prouty Band, Prouty’s next step will be to keep writing and to do a lot of touring this summer. From that level of achievement, Prouty would like to see some regional and national recognition for the band. “Whether that be the form of a song used in a TV show or having some larger press,” she said. “We’re really trying to get ourselves out there, and we really think that it takes a lot of work. We’re going to work hard to get there.”