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Music

Step by Step

The creators of Ogden City Limits introduce viewers to how musicians learn a song.

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OGDEN CITY LIMITS
  • Ogden City Limits

"We go in with no expectations, and come out with the unexpected," says Scott Rogers in the opening intro to Ogden City Limits, a mini-documentary-like series that lets viewers get a glimpse at the process of learning and playing a song. But it's got a compelling local bent, featuring Rogers and his bandmate Shane Osguthorpe of The Proper Way, the videography of Natalie Simpson of Beehive Photography, and whatever local artist the trio connect with. Now at the start of their second season of the series, we've got a preview of what's to come, and why this series is such a special one.

Season One of Ogden City Limits debuted back in 2020, and was filmed in all black and white, with deft little moments of intimate cinematography and down-to-earth goodness recorded in the small studio of The Proper Way. That first season featured names like Marny Proudfit, Christian Scheller, Andrew Wiscombe, Carrie Myers (who also plays in The Proper Way) and Michelle Moonshine, all huddled into the studio.

"We spend a lot of time on the road, driving around and getting gigs," says Osguthorpe. "We listen to podcasts or music we wanna learn, or whatever. And one of the podcasts we always listen to is Song Exploder, [which] takes a song and they break it apart and reverse engineer it."

On that podcast, they bring the musicians, songwriters, engineers and anyone else who worked on the song to explain the process of getting a certain sound, and how they got to the finished product. Their fondness for this process made Osguthorpe wonder, "'Why don't we do that and document how a song just starts?'"

Rogers explains further that they wanted to find a way to document the process of actually learning a song the whole way through, with all the candid bumps that come along with that. "All of our musician friends, we're kind of on the same circuit together. We were like, 'Wouldn't it just be cool to get in on a Sunday when there's not any gigs and just be able to hang out with our friends, work on songs together and document how that happens when a bunch of musicians come together?'"

And so Ogden City Limits was born, even if the artists they feature aren't limited to Ogden alone. The music isn't the only part of the equation, either. What was first supposed to be a planning element, the traditional pre-recording brunch at UTOG Brewing Company—just a few yards away from their studio—became a part of their friendly, hangin'-out process, too, and there they talk more about the menu's French toast than any music.

After brunch, Simpson gets her multiple cameras rolling in the studio, and Rogers and Osguthorpe go about learning two songs from the guest musician of choice—an original and a cover. Osguthorpe says, "We've had some artists ask if we want them to send over the lyrics or the tabs beforehand, and we're like 'Nope, we just want to sit here with you, and you teach it to us.' None of it is rehearsed.

"The cover thing is just because it's a nice easy way to learn that musician's language," he adds; "what kind of music do you like? We kind of figure out our vibe that way."

The sessions usually last around seven hours, but they say it goes by fast, and the cameras aren't an issue. "Her ability to document all that without being intrusive is the coolest part of the whole thing, I think," Osguthorpe says of Simpson's film set-up.

"Most of the musicians who come in know her already ... and you forget it's even happening at all," Rogers adds.

That first season just happened to debut at the beginning of the pandemic, in 2020, and the trio says they rushed to put out all the episodes as quickly as they could, as a way to support their working musician friends who were suddenly out of jobs. Over the intervening time, they've been working on a second season, while also scooping a grant from Ogden City Arts. With the time and the support came a remodel of the studio space, and a new series debuting in color.

The first episode of Season Two features the ever-so soulful Gordon Greenwood, who broke tradition in his recording, first teaching Rogers and Osguthorpe an original track of his, before the cover. The resulting episode is exactly what Ogden City Limits set out to be: a deconstructed and honest view of what it looks like when musicians learn a song together, built for any appreciator of music composition. It also shows how easy musicians still make it look to pull a song out of thin air, even as they're learning together.

Next up on the list is Alicia Stockman, whose episode debuted this week, followed by Carson Wolfe (of Vincent Draper and The Culls), Cherry Thomas, Nick Nash, Daniel Young and Sammy Brue. If you had any doubts after Season One's lineup that Ogden City Limits picks the créme de la créme of local music talent to hang out and jam with, you shouldn't have any now. See how a song gets made, and watch Ogden City Limits at facebook.com/ogdencitylimits or on YouTube.

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