It’s relatively common for well-known artists to perform live on programs like NPR’s Tiny Desk and COLORS. But for developing and lesser-known artists, such an opportunity isn’t easy to come by. University of Illinois junior Myra Rivers wanted to give student creatives a similar platform to showcase their talents in a visual setting.
It was with that thought in mind that Groove Daze was born.
“The reason why I started it is because music videos are so expensive for artists,” Rivers, Groove Daze’s president and founder, said. “So I wanted to give them some kind of visual platform that they can use to promote their work.”
She came up with the idea about a year ago, and posted on social media looking for people who could help with production and filming for the program. Soon, she found Allen Xu, a producer, engineer and student who goes by the name yourbeautifulruin, and Adia Ivey, a videographer and student, to help with the sound and production to launch her dream into fruition.
“I had an idea for everything,” Rivers said. “So I just kind of went crazy with planning. Then I was like, 'Hey, I'm serious, this is my plan. Are you guys on board?' (Xu, Ivey and a few others) were. It was very easy.”
Xu offered his residence, often-frequented house show venue Portlandia House, and his home studio set up, which gave Rivers all the tools she needed to make Groove Daze a functioning entity. Then, it came time to produce opportunities for Illini creatives.
The production model revolves around a basic shoot, with interview questions sprinkled in between three songs the artists choose to perform.
“Basically, we have our cameras, we have our lighting kit, we set up the scene in the house and then we just kind of shoot,” “We limit them to three songs and then from after that, we go into an interview portion where we just ask a varied series of questions that pertain to how they got into music, what type of music they are into, what is their creative process, silly questions like what is your favorite season, just little things like that. It's pretty simple. We generally get done filming within like an hour or hour and a half.” Eventually, Rivers would like to start producing music videos for campus artists, and Groove Daze has already ventured into the house show scene out in Urbana.
What she hasn’t seen coming is the interest of student-artists in participating in the series, despite none of their videos racking up wild amounts of views.
The platform in itself, with a unique visual element mixed with off-cuff interview questions, seems to be resonating well with creatives who want a fresh way to sell themselves to the public.
“We've got a lot of people coming to us now, which is mind-blowing,” Rivers said. “Really, it was people we already knew personally (at first). We'd be like, 'Hey, we know you do music, would you want this platform?’”
But since its inception, Rivers and her cohorts have had to balance a wide number and range of inquiries from artists, as well as acts from around the Champaign-Urbana community and even Chicago.
Eventually, Rivers and Groove Daze may branch out into featuring those outside the campus community. For now, though, they’re keeping it focused on helping the student-artists they originally intended on providing the platform for.
“We would like to do some outside people,” Rivers said. “Our priority is students here because being a student and being a musician is very hard, we want to give them that opportunity to advance themselves. But we do appreciate local artists and Chicago artists as well who want to come out and perform.”
As a student organization, Groove Daze doesn’t have a whole lot of financial clout to bring in outside acts, which tend to be more expecting of payment, as opposed to student creatives grateful for the opportunity to show off their talent.
However, Groove Daze does have some house shows in the works with some acts from Chicago (the public will have to wait for who those will be though as of right now).
And they’re fresh off Grooves Grove, a house show that featured a variety of UIUC and Chicago talents, like Raya He (the subject of their sixth episode) and Eleeza Silva, a young singer from the Windy City.
An area of concern though for Rivers is that the majority of those involved in the organization will be moving on from Illinois after this year, as most of them are seniors. Rivers herself is a junior, but she plans to graduate a semester early.
The group is open to all students, particularly those who are looking to hone their creativeness and looking for a hands-on way to get involved in showcasing art.
“It's good if you're a creative in general because we kind of bring different aspects of the creative world,” Rivers said. “You have visuals, you have music and you have film, just all these different things that kind of intersect onto this one platform. So if you love a good time and if you love producing creative work, this is a place for you, honestly.”
At the end of the day, Rivers is already thrilled with what’s come out of what was just an idea in her head a year ago.
She never foresaw having the impact Groove Daze has had on campus artists. She wants nothing more than to see it grow and prosper, even after she leaves campus for bigger and better ventures.
“(Artists) seem very grateful and appreciative because there is nothing really like [Groove Daze] here on campus, and there's not really something that is on other campuses as well,” Rivers said. “To bring it here and start something like it is very new and refreshing. I think they're just appreciative to have any kind of platform where they can get their music out there, that's exactly what we're trying to do.”