Seth Riddle has good taste. He’s credited with discovering Alabama Shakes, signing Arcade Fire to Rough trade and most recently, managing Kings of Leon‘s label, Serpents & Snakes – which is now the home of Turbo Fruits, The Features and The Weeks. He’s the kind of guy you’d want to curate his own GOOP-style newsletter, replacing Gwyneth Paltrow’s macrobiotic recipes with tips on bands you’ve never heard of, hole-in-the wall dining establishments and how to score his southern-Savile row aesthetic. (Seth also gave us a shout-out in the 2012 Nashville Scene Rock ‘n’ Poll, so we are a tad biased).
Seth’s helped to make Serpents & Snakes a truly exciting entity, and I personally am a big supporter of artist-run labels. We have quite a few of them down here in Nashville, including Third Man Records and Infinity Cat and numerous other lesser-known ones. Wilco‘s done it, My Morning Jacket has done it, Mac McCaughan (of Superchunk) did it with Merge Records. Dawes just left ATO to release their new record on their own HUB imprint. It shifts the dynamic – putting not only creative control back in the hands of artists but also financial control. Let’s face it: under most current label models, most recording acts short of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry pocket barely 10% of profit when all is said and done, after promotion, marketing, everything else that comes with selling music. Sacrifices must be made, vision compromised, day jobs taken to put food on the table (I always think of the excellent New York story on Grizzly Bear, who headlines the Ryman and takes in less thank 80k a year). Often, this model allows artists to retain control of their own copyrights and masters – something Jack White had done very early in his career – allowing them to be more profitable. And no, being profitable does not equal “selling out” (one of my least-favorite terms). I want artists I enjoy to make money so they can keep making music and not have to also bag my groceries.
Lest you think that Seth wouldn’t showcase his good taste in his Nashville Five – au contraire, he chose to title his Five Dudes from my neighborhood in one band that I’d like to see while eating Shepherd’s pie at The Family Wash. We’d be right there with you, Seth.
Seth Riddle’s Nashville Five :::
1. Drums, the place where everything started anyway. And since we are talking Creationism, I guess I will go with Jeremy Lutito. While I never was a big Jars of Clay fan, this guy is absolutely and undeniably brilliant. He’s so good in fact, his rhythms are threatening to turn Leagues, a band of near forty-somethings into pop stars.
2. Aaron Oliva would keep it bouncing. He’s played bass in Dex Romweber’s, Flat Duo Jets (a band that inspired a certain local rock god) and The Flying Mice, a NC jam band I was big fans of when I attended the University of South Carolina and smoked way too much pot. Presently, you can find Aaron laying it down for Nikki Lane.
3. Kevin Teel on guitar. I have sat on more planes, buses, vans and studio couches with this man than I care to consider. I’ve saved his prized Stratocaster from being crushed by businessmen’s hand-satchel’s in overhead storage bins, and been bowled over by bowling alley bouncers because of him. He’s played with everyone from Bare Jr to my ex-wife and unfortunately I don’t get to see him play enough anymore.
4. Josh Hedley, backing vocals and anything with strings. Hands down one of my favorite singers in Nashville and one of my favorite harmony singers ever. He’s a high lonesome lover and listener of lots of music too. He’s also the Alfred Steiglitz of Instagram- @joshuahedley
5. Mikky Ekko lead vox. Why the fuck not? His voice sounds the way angels wish theirs did. He sings with Rhianna on the Grammy’s and he still lives in my neighborhood and his couch is still boxed up on a wall on the corner of this office. Mikky, if you can hear this from your G5, please come get your furniture.
Then locals Reeves Gabrells and Audley Freed would take the stage and continue the mind blowing.
Image by Alex Collier