By Ellin Youse
A& E Editor
The music of the production “Les Miserables” is best known for its robust orchestra, emotionally charged vocals and core trembling vibrato.
So when sophomore Connor Stout released his “Folk Les Mis” EP (extended play) last week, he transformed the album with a completely new feel to the normally dense, emotional soundtrack.
“All the songs in Les Mis are so sad,” Stout said. “I wanted to give them a happy spin. I don’t want them to be so sad.”
And sad they are not. In his cover of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” Stout transforms a depressing ballad of loved ones lost into an upbeat, jazzy melody with lighthearted vocals. He sings, strums and taps his fingers as he bounces around his bass.
Watching him, one completely forgets he is singing about a revolution turned tragic.
Stout first saw Les Mis performed onstage when he was 5 years old, and grew up to act in the role of protagonist Jean Valjean in his high school’s production of the play.
“My reasoning behind doing an EP of Les Mis is pretty selfish actually,” Stout said.
“This is an opportunity for me to sing all of the parts I couldn’t ordinarily sing. Like, ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ is such a kick-ass song, but I usually couldn’t perform that seeing as it’s sung by a lady.”
Although Stout’s dream is to be able to sing and play base in a rock band, he said his inspiration to perform Les Mis in a folk rendition came from his love of playing bass.
“Bass is a very diverse instrument in its sound, so it introduced me to a lot of different styles of music,” Stout said.
Stout covered each song in a different style.
From fifties doo-wop to bluegrass, Stout said he wanted to create a variety of folk sounds.
As for the recording process, Stout plays every instrument himself and layers the tracks on top of one another to form a final product.
Stout uses about four or five instruments in each song, and records all of his tracks with his iPhone.
“I tape all my stuff using a $5 app,” Stout said, laughing.
“You can tell I didn’t do it professionally, but I gotta say, it doesn’t sound like I did it on an iPhone.”
You can hear Stout’s project on his SoundCloud page, “My Celia Castle.”