Jeff Tweedy Headlines Audible’s Sound Studio Weekend at 2023 SXSW
Audible kicked off their 2023 SXSW presence on opening night, alongside Rolling Stone, to support Audible’s exciting slate of music storytelling series, including Words + Music, Origins, and Breakthrough. The three-day event, complete with vinyl pressing, live performances, and unique listening experiences, sculpted the perfect start to a productive week of showcases, music discovery and SXSW fun.
Audible took over Austin’s Sunset Room, a popular site for music and culture, located smack-dab in the middle of the city’s historic Sixth Street District. There, music lovers, SXSW badge-holders, and industry professionals were greeted with great music, meaningful conversations, and once-in-a-lifetime interactive listening experiences inspired by each of Audible’s tentpole music storytelling series.
The weekend kicked off with a co-hosted Audible and Rolling Stone happy hour, stocked with 818 Tequila and local Deep Eddy Vodka cocktails, chased down with Tacodeli tacos – a winning Texas combination. In the Words + Music space, DJ Nina Tarr grooved on stage, spinning various hits from Green Day’s 1994 hit, “Basket Case,” to Santana’s 1970 power-house single, “Oye Como Va.”
In the Origins space, guests were invited to take film strip photos in front of backdrops with notable artist quotes, engage with an interactive listening wall of giant speakers, or relax in futuristic, spherical sound pods. There they could simultaneously people-watch, while listening to the Audible Original Origins.
In the same room, brave partygoers also branded themselves with curated tattoos, courtesy of Ephemeral, a company specializing in made-to-fade three-year temporary tattoos. Inspired by themes from the Origins podcast and Austin, the tattoo flash sheet presented a variety of fun options for guests.
Adjacent to the Origins experience, all 35 volumes in the Words + Music catalog were accessible on diamond-etched 12” vinyls, accompanied by listening stations at the event, providing a tangible turntable experience for guests. The ongoing series, available now on Audible, features exclusive stories and sounds from some of today’s most prolific artists, including lyrical legends Sheryl Crow, Tom Morello, Patti Smith, and Chuck D, among many others.
The event wasn’t exclusive to listening, however; in the Words + Music space, guests had the opportunity to tell their very own stories in the Audible B-side Studio. In the recording studio, they stepped into the booth and let the tapes roll, while lab-coat-clad producers imprinted their songs and soliloquies onto fresh vinyl: a perfect keepsake to encapsulate a weekend of music and storytelling.
The party started all over again on Saturday, with a VIP reception full of hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and music from the Words + Music catalog, all leading up to an intimate acoustic performance by Wilco’s frontman Jeff Tweedy. Tweedy, who is the 35th featured Words + Music musician, played a collection of intimately heart-felt tunes. The crowd listened with eager ears, as Tweedy told some never-before-explained backstories to some of his biggest hits.
“I’m not gonna play one song about my dead father,” Tweedy explained, “I’m going to play three!” His song, “Don’t Forget,” followed shortly after; a haunting, yet beautiful microcosm of Tweedy’s overall lyrical ability to combine heartbreak and loss with an edge of humor.
“You were right about the stars. Each one is a setting sun,” Tweedy sang, as he closed the set with a Wilco fan-favorite, “Jesus, Etc.” which is featured in his Words + Music. Fans smiled, sung along, and relished the opportunity to hear one of the greats tell his stories in such an intimate and unique SXSW setting.
The music-forward programming was complemented by three panels that explored Audible’s suite of content as well as the greater music storytelling community at SXSW.
The first was an Audible-hosted, official SXSW panel giving attendees a first look at the new Audible Original Breakthrough. Grammy Award-winning artists Sara Bareilles and Daveed Diggs joined Preston Copley, executive producer of original music-storytelling at Audible, Will Malnati, Founder and CEO of At Will Media, and Angie Martoccio, associate managing editor at Rolling Stone, to discuss what it takes for hopeful talent to breakthrough and connect with audiences. Inside the Audible Sound Studio, visitors were given an additional window into Breakthrough through a mysterious and intriguing space that gave guests a first glance at the just-announced Breakthrough trailer. A sea of microphones suspended from the ceiling symbolized the fierce competitive nature of the series and curated the perfect atmosphere for guests to step into the spotlight and take a photo to post on social.
The following morning, Copley joined Variety reporter Selome Hailu to speak about the vision and process behind recording Audible Original Origins podcast.“We add immersive sound design to really put folks in the brain of the artist, so that [listeners] feel like they’re on that journey with [the artists],” Copley explained. Hailu and Copley were joined onstage by featured Origins artist, Tobe Nwigwe, who raved about how special it was to be chosen for the podcast. “It was the best conversation that I’ve had with someone that I didn’t necessarily know like that,” Nwigwe shared about his Origins interview.
In the final panel, Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning director Lisa Cortés shed light on her new documentary Little Richard: I Am Everything (co-produced by CNN and Rolling Stone Films), alongside Oscar and Emmy-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams and Brooklyn Sudano, daughter of Donna Summer, who co-directed Love to Love You, Donna Summer. Moderated by Rolling Stone contributor Stephen Thomas Erlewine, the creatives spoke about the development of their respective films, which both screened at SXSW and are rooted in rich music storytelling; an on-par theme for the event taking place all around them. The panel was wrapped in a bow with a beautiful, two-song performance by Grammy-nominated artist Valerie June, who performs a song in Little Richard: I Am Everything.
In June, new Audible Original Breakthrough will premiere as the first-ever audio-only competition series. This genre-redefining first will follow a group of aspiring singers as they are lead through a series of high-stakes singing and songwriting challenges for one top spot.. This series is created in collaboration with AT WILL MEDIA, an award-winning independently-owned podcast studio with a focus on original scripted and non-fiction podcasts. Will Malnati, Founder & CEO of AT WILL MEDIA, serves as co-creator and executive producer alongside TV/film producer Ethan Russell. Breakthrough is also executive produced by Alex Pall and Drew Taggart of Grammy Award-winning and Billboard Chart-topping artist/producer duo, The Chainsmokers, along with Adam Alpert and Dan Marcus via their production company, KICK THE HABIT PRODUCTIONS. In addition, Charles Boyd, whose credits include “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent” serves as Showrunner and EP and Ray Chew serves as Music Director and EP. In the meantime, Origins and all 35 volumes of Words + Music are available on Audible. Through their unique storytelling formats, the company will continue to lead the charge within the audio space and producing high-quality series for their loyal consumers. After seeing these thoughtful experiences first-hand, it’s evident how Audible’s dedication to their craft has led them to be one of the top audio mediums in the market