For more than a decade local State College band My Hero Zero has been keeping the crowd on their feet at THON. But when the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to all live venue shows, the five-member band, like many of us, faced a very confusing time. Lead singer Jason Olcese, known professionally as Jason O. and JAOH, and Angel Mariotti, his manager and wife, took the leap to transform a 400-sq ft basement and co-found Happy Valley Song Lab during quarantine.
The new music production studio aims “to inspire the next wave of musicians through collaborative songwriting, authentic production, and uninhibited artistic expression,” something Olcese says he never had growing up. In fact, as a student at Penn State Olcese found himself turning to theatre professors for help with the songwriting process but was met with little to no success.
Happy Valley Song Lab is a collaborative space where songwriters can come for both coaching and assistance in co-writing. While each songwriter has their own unique writing process, there are “very noticeable similarities to the flow of the process,” according to Olcese. He says the mentoring position is something he’s always been drawn to and Happy Valley Song Lab allows him to help other singer/songwriters understand and work through their individual process.
Olcese, whose parents were both music teachers, took to music naturally and began playing drums at just five years old. By age 13 Olcese had joined his first band and later began playing guitar and writing songs at 17. Although Olcese had always envisioned himself working as an artist coach, the coronavirus outbreak accelerated those plans.
“In a way the pandemic really did us a favor because we were soft committed to this path in our lives… but without live shows as an option, it really forced us to move in this direction and it’s been an absolute blessing.”
The team consists of four “absolutely phenomenal” Penn State interns for now but as Olcese continues to hone in on his skills as an artist coach, the team plans to expand to include new artists and a move to a larger space. Manager Mariotti hopes “to be able to take a fledgling artist all the way through the steps it takes to become established and provide those services in-house for everybody by solidifying a good team” in upcoming years.
Keep an eye out for the first completed single (available on all major music streaming platforms) coming out of Happy Valley Song Lab by the new artist JAOH on Dec. 11! For more on Happy Valley Song Lab, check them out on Instagram or Facebook.