On Friday, September 9, television producers and film crews from Chicago and St. Louis will descend on Eastern Illinois University to film the grand finale of Song Stage- a show now in its second season on PBS stations regionally.
“We were surprised by the success of Song Stage,” said producer Roy Wells. “We almost did the first season as a trial ‘pilot’ season, and it ended up in 18 million homes. WEIU then approached us about sending the show up nationally, and we began talking with them and Doudna Fine Arts Center. For many reasons, including their enthusiasm for the show, we decided to shoot the bulk of season two there at EIU.”
Generally, Song Stage is a music competition show in the same vein as American Idol or the Voice. However, the format is quite different, with songwriting being a big part of the competition, as opposed to just singing.
“You have to be a great performer to make the show, no doubt. But with those other shows, you could just be a great karaoke singer. On Song Stage, you also have to have a great original song that you’re bringing to the table,” Wells said.
Additionally, there are no judges other than the live audience in attendance, and that’s the way host Ryan Wiggins likes it.
“Yeah we have no idea going into the show who will win, because we don’t pull any strings. It’s just, ‘did you like that song? Good, vote for it, or against it, based on any criteria you want,’” Wiggins said. “It’s cool for us to see how it turns out, the night of the show, because these songs and artists are so different from each other.”
Genre variety is a big part of Song Stage. Wells said one pairing this season features a country artist vs. an accordion-playing pop singer. “These are very different songs and personalities. We like the idea of throwing a rapper against a soulful singer/songwriter and seeing what happens.”
Wells said one of the reasons they chose to shoot at EIU this year was that they liked the idea of a packed university auditorium voting and interacting with the TV show. “It definitely was attractive to us, having Doudna promote the show, and having a lot of people there deciding who’s best from among these eight artists’ songs.”
Song Stage shoots all week on the campus of EIU, with the live performance portion open to the public Friday, September 9th. Tickets are at EIU.EDU/Doudna. The show will air on PBS stations in the spring. http://www.songstage.tv/