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The making of Sowenna Sound and the power of music creation featured image
Sam WillisJul 27, 2023 9:17:06 AM10 min read

"Inspiring" - dBs students on the making of Sowenna Sounds

We caught up with the dBs Institute students involved in the making of Sowenna Sounds to get their take on the creation process and what it was like working on a project with such great societal value.

Everyone who loves music and music creation knows about the power it has to change lives. That was one of the founding reasons that dBs Pro and the Bodmin-based adolescent mental health unit Sowenna collaborated to create an album that would expose some of the inpatients there to the transformative and inspirational potential of music making.

With the album completed and released, we caught up with some of the dBs Institute students who got involved with the dBs Pro project to find out what their roles were, how it helped change or reinforce their thoughts on music as a tool for greater well-being and how, from a professional point of view, the project has helped them further their own career goals. 

What was your role in this project and what has it been like working on it?

Jemma Roberts: I’m Jemma, an Electronic Music Production Master's student. I worked on mixing track 2 of the Sowenna Sounds album “Check it Out” and it was really interesting to see how Jay worked and have a chance to use the dBs Pro studio. The track was quite short and impactful so, while it wasn’t too complex, it meant all the elements needed to shine. I tried to use a combination of instinct and Jay’s advice and I think it sounds great.

Pete Stephens: My role in this project was to compose a piece of music utilising a set of samples provided by dBs, which were recorded in collaboration with the Sowenna Unit and most importantly, some inspiring young inpatients. It was both exciting and heartwarming to hear the creativity and freedom of expression captured in the recordings. A notable highlight was the endearing vocal sample featuring an apparently young girl who freely sang her heart out for us. I had great fun processing the sample with reverb and other effects. It made me smile throughout the project and worked well with my intended aims for the composition.

Shania Harding: I was one of the mixing engineers on the track called Blangers. Working on this project gave me an opportunity to work on something new and different from what I’ve done before. 

Emanuele Perrone: My role in this project was as a mix engineer. It has been an incredible experience working on Sowenna Sound. Being involved in the final mixdown and mastering stage has allowed me to contribute my skills to bring the music to its fullest potential.

What was your favourite part of working on Sowenna Sound?

JR: To practice skills in a supportive environment was really invaluable and it’s great dBs Pro and Jay are able to be involved in meaningful projects like Sowenna Sounds. There can be a lot of ego involved in music and it was nice to put that aside and do the best job possible for the young people who created this incredible, eclectic album.

PS: My favourite part of working on Sowenna Sound has been hard to choose. The whole project was rewarding, thought-provoking, challenging and inspiring. I can, however, single out a particular experience featuring a young lad who recorded some extremely wisely worded rap-style vocals. It moved me to hear the depth of the messages he was speaking and I made my favourite parts of these the main focus of the track, setting the theme before each drop. For such a young man I felt the utmost respect for the manner in which he spoke.

SH: Having the opportunity to work on a professional project that has more meaning behind it and experiencing the work first-hand.

EP: My favourite part has been witnessing the impact of music on the young people at Sowenna. Seeing how the project has brought them joy and provided a creative outlet for self-expression has been truly rewarding.

How does it feel to be part of a project that is helping the young people at Sowenna?

JR: I was attracted to the project because I think it’s pretty tough being an inpatient in a hospital and I believe in the power of music and music production to help facilitate self-expression. I’ve previously worked in the field of mental health and it felt great to be able to connect this passion with music tech skills and be a small part in helping the young people of Sowenna know they have created something brilliant and that what they think and feel about things matters.

PS: It feels emotionally rewarding to be a part of this project helping young people at Sowenna and their circumstances are close to my heart. I have had various struggles in the past, been involved with various similar NHS units & support groups and I have so much love and respect for the multitude of people who supported me to get to where I am currently which is managing life and achieving. To think that I could potentially inspire these young minds to take their creativity further, express themselves through music and show them that they are individuals that matter is heartwarming. The fact that it could positively support the staff means a lot too.

SH: I’m really happy that this was the project that I had the opportunity to help on. This project hits close to home and knowing how music helped me through my past trauma, I’m really pleased to see projects like this are still being used to help young people. 

EP: It feels amazing to be part of a project that is making a positive difference in the lives of young people at Sowenna. Music has a unique ability to heal and uplift, and being able to contribute to their well-being through music is so fulfilling.

What has your experience been like working with dBs Pro?

JR: It’s not often you get to watch a master at work so getting some insight into Jay’s mixing process and being "let loose" in the dBs Pro studio was both daunting and empowering. It’s great these opportunities continue to be created for students to participate in professional projects.

PS: My experience working with dBs Pro is an all-around positive and inspiring experience. I have felt included, supported and inspired by the roles I have undertaken so far. It has pushed me towards acquiring new skills and participating in experiences that will be a huge asset to my personal and professional life going forward. The facilities are the best I have ever been lucky enough to get hands-on with & the whole team of staff is knowledgeable, approachable and fun to be around.

SH: It was definitely a different experience from what I’ve done before, but I’ve been able to take things from this and implement them into future projects.

EP: Working with dBs Pro has been an enriching experience. Jay's expertise, support, and resources have been instrumental in helping me enhance my mixing skills and navigate the professional music industry. I've learned a great deal from the dBs Pro staff and appreciated their guidance throughout the project.

Do you think dBs Pro has helped you with your career prospects? If so, how?

JR: I’m excited the project has been completed and I’m looking forward to promoting it. It’s great kudos for the CV!

PS: I am 100% certain that dBs Pro has helped me with my career prospects. I could probably write a whole page describing the positive impact that is has had. But, in short, my confidence in myself and my skills have been boosted and new technical skills have been acquired in a real-world situation. Environments I never thought I would thrive in have given me hugely rewarding experiences, adding “strings to my bow”. I have met (both directly and indirectly) truly inspiring humans encouraging me to go further and try new practices and avenues within the audio/music industry. The confidence built up whilst working in these student roles led to me accepting my very first freelance job as a producer, headhunted by the applications and solutions manager of Wharfedale Pro International - which, in the end, was a huge success. I am not sure I would have believed in myself enough to say yes without the prior positive feedback and “foot in the door” so to speak.

SH: I can’t say for certain yet, but it’s definitely a good example of my work and a great experience to have for my portfolio. 

EP: Absolutely! Through their guidance and industry-standard facilities, I have gained practical experience, expanded my network, and gained credibility as a mixing engineer. It has opened doors to new opportunities.

Has this project changed your perspective on how music can be used as a force for good?

JR: I already knew music could be used as a force for good, but I hope to be involved in more projects like this in the future and actively combine the empathy I have for people managing their mental health with the power of music creation to help others improve their wellbeing. 

PS: I have always believed that music can be used as a force for good but this particular project has really opened my mind to the extent of the beneficial experiences and connection on offer for all involved. I would say I am more of an introverted human and I tend to keep to myself, however, to know that these types of projects may have a positive impact on another person, no matter their circumstances, is extremely powerful and motivating. For me personally, it has shown me the value of getting out of my comfort zone and communicating with the world. The end result was indescribably rewarding on many levels.

SH: I’ve always thought that music as a whole can be used to be a powerful tool. The experience just reinforced that. In the right hands of course it can be used for good. 

EP: This project has definitely reinforced my belief in the transformative power of music. Seeing how music has positively impacted the young people at Sowenna and brought them together has solidified my understanding of its potential as a force for healing, unity, and positive change.

Any final thoughts, feelings, feedback or ideas about working on the project?

JR: It was really helpful to have the mixing/training sessions beforehand. Wishing all the young people of Sowenna well!

PS: My final thoughts and feelings are of hope and well wishes for all of those young people (and staff supporting them) at Sowenna. I want to congratulate the participants on their amazing work in the recording sessions, I hope that they have realised just how talented they are and what can be achieved with a little technical know-how within a Digital Audio Workstation. Finally, I would like to encourage them to keep taking steps towards a brighter future, no matter how big or small, no matter how pointless or not it feels day to day because I know that with the right support and the right engagement, recovery from difficult times is absolutely possible and worthwhile. Good luck, you can do it.

SH: I’d like to see more projects like this in the future and for something like this to continue. There are only so many words to keep this concise, but overall it was an opportunity to work on something that’s been beneficial to those that have been and are in, the Soweanna Unit at the Cornwall NHS Foundation Trust.

EP: Working on this project has been a remarkable journey. It has not only allowed me to apply my technical skills but also reminded me of the profound impact music can have on individuals and communities. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to Sowenna Sound and be part of something meaningful and inspiring. 

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