Cade Cridland assumes the role of protective big brother to those who come on the set of Vegas PBS’ new Web series Backyard Sessions. He’s engaging the talent by walking them through the process, making sure they are comfortable and know what to expect. He’s sharply dressed but approachable. You can ask him questions, and he’s got the right advice. This isn’t part of his job description, but rather a reflection of a man who’s willing to create a platform just so others can rise to the occasion. And in this case, it’s local musicians reaping the reward of a show he’s crafted from scratch.
Backyard Sessions is a place for, Cridland says, “highlighting artists, performers, singers and songwriters.” The series, which includes eight 12- to 15-minute episodes to be released once a week starting October 1, showcases one local act per show. He emphasizes that it’s a niche to help musicians come into their own. The bands—American Cream, HaleAmanO, Jill and Julia, Jordan Mitchell, The Perks, Play for Keeps, Sabriel and The Solid Suns—have already inspired local followings in their own right, but Backyard Sessions offers them a noteworthy outlet that didn’t previously exist. Each episode includes three live recordings of the artist’s original music, anchored with an interview led by local poet and DJ Etchane.
Creating this show was a natural step for the Rancho Cucamonga, California, native and UNLV graduate, who has merged his personal love of music with his passion for TV production. Cridland spends much of his week as an editor and videographer for various Vegas PBS projects and on-air shows such as the Clark County School District-produced Inside Education and the upcoming documentary series Makers: Women in Nevada History. But it was at the unlikeliest of places—his wedding—that inspiration struck for Backyard Sessions. After a private ceremony in Coronado, California, Cridland and his wife opted for a party at his in-laws’ Henderson Anthem Country Club home in place of a traditional reception.
“Community support is going to be a big aspect of Backyard Sessions.”
“We put up big wood pillars and bulb lights and strung them all the way across the backyard,” Cridland says. “We had a live blues rock band and a local barbecue place cater. I remember looking out over the backyard [that faces the Strip] right as the sun was starting to set, and everybody was enjoying [themselves]. It dawned on me that this would be a really interesting concept for a show, because it’s something that everyone relates to.” This all-American assemblage ultimately became the vision for the set of Backyard Sessions, which includes a grill, lounge chairs, mason jars, a Radio Flyer from Cridland’s in-laws and a mountain sunset outline from Red Rock. Now all he needed was the equipment to make it happen.
Cridland had to include a sizzle reel in a grant submission for PBS’ Digital Entrepreneurs photography equipment. With help from Sabriel, American Cream and The Solid Suns, he produced a three-minute clip to send in for consideration. And it worked. He was awarded the camera kit, a necessity for creating high-quality Web content, which includes a turnkey Canon 6D that, according to Cridland, “takes the show’s production to another level.” Even more importantly, the show will be considered for its own channel under the PBS Digital Studio YouTube umbrella through the grant, giving these bands an opportunity “to be showcased on a national level through a trusted brand.”
Besides a push for Web content from PBS national to build more audience outreach, Cridland knew the roots of the show needed to be planted online “to reach digital natives or millennials, a generation used to second-screen viewing. They might be watching Nova on the air, but at the same time they’re updating social media or they’re watching something on YouTube.” He understands programming on the Web generates traffic through mobile devices, making it simple to share videos. And for the aforementioned eight bands that are hoping to find a future in the music industry, Cridland, an avid concertgoer, will be right there supporting them along the way.
“What’s going to determine if we continue are a couple of different things,” Cridland says, noting that “community support is a big aspect of it.” This isn’t just about bolstering musicians, either. Cridland’s film crew is made up of student staff and interns. Not only because “students really support the local music scene … so they get to be a little bit more creative with their camera movements,” Cridland says, but because he, too, got his start at Vegas PBS during his college years before taking time off to travel after graduation. It’s a system that continues today: “I’m around a lot of really great employees who helped facilitate my growth as a person here,” he says.
And like a good big brother, he knows that once you’ve found your footing, it’s time to pass the torch. Just like those before him, he’s imparting valuable life lessons to the younger set while letting them discover a tune all their own.