The last 2 years have actually been great for Vigor Records at the Grammy Honors, with Samara Delight shocking a great deal of individuals with her been entitled to win for Finest Brand-new Musician at this year’s honors. This after the year prior to Jon Batiste took residence Cd Of The Year for We Are.
As high as those 2 significant honors were victories for Vigor Records, they were victories for the whole songs market. Batiste and also Delight are actual musicians whose songs originates from a human and also a lot more natural location. As well as their success reveals that songs made with the body and soul of mankind, and also not AI (Expert system) can and also does still reverberate with audiences.
For Jamie Krents, Head Of State of Vigor, Vigor Projection and also Impulse! Records, at the Vigor Tag Team, these are the sort of musicians that Vigor requires to be and also will certainly remain to authorize, those that remain in songs for the long run.
In a progressively risk-free and also data-driven songs globe, Krents’ enthusiasm for songs and also taking opportunities is both exceptionally rejuvenating and also needed. Sage Bava and also I talked in detail with Krents regarding the abundant Vigor background, Paul Westerberg, the tag’s Grammy success and also the future of Vigor.
Steve Baltin: Plainly you have an eye for ability, ’cause what have you won, a hundred and also sixty 8 Grammys the last number of years?
Jamie Krents: Hundred sixty 9, in fact. No, the last 2 years have actually been unique with Jon Batiste and also Arooj Aftab in 2022, and after that this year was superb for Samara, naturally, as well as likewise Madison Cunningham that won Finest People Cd, that’s one of our artists on Verve Forecast. A lot of people have asked me, are we wiring money directly to the Academy or do we drop it off in a briefcase and neither. Our roster just has been a great fit I think for the way the business has evolved and the marketplace has evolved. And also I think the Grammys themselves and the voting process, but really all those things would be irrelevant. These artists are doing really good work. Samara is other worldly. I’ve worked at Verve for 25 years or so and she’s as good as singer has ever recorded for Verve, I don’t mind throwing that out there. And I think Jon Batiste just made a record that people connected with that was unlike anything else. I don’t think Arooj is like anyone else, I think that’s what we go for really as a company and as a roster of artists.
Baltin: For you, how gratifying has it been to see the success, to take chances, and more importantly, do you think other people will start to actually take chances based on talent?
Krents: I think people will. We live in a really data-driven world and an algorithmic world. I keep hearing varying numbers between 60,000 and 100,000 tracks put up on the DSPs every day, and our chairman at Universal, Lucian Grainge, says this, “How do you cut through?” You can only cut through, I think, by having music that’s better. That’s certainly what Verve is going to do or go down trying. It’s nothing that’s revelatory for me. That’s what Verve has always been about. That’s part of why Verve’s catalog and its history is pretty solid because it hasn’t been about chasing trends, it’s been about really artists who make timeless music. And it’s nice when that intersects with things like Grammy Awards. But I do think other labels will take more chances. Even when you look at some of the artists that won Grammys, Harry Styles has had a lot of commercial success, but that’s not a record that was made in a test tube just to stream. There’s music that’s much more obvious than that.
Baltin: I love Harry actually. He’s a real music fan and that’s kind of a running theme for you guys.
Krents: I would say the same of Billie Eilish, I think she’s a real artist and she can really sing and who knows where she’ll be in 10 years. She seems to just be evolving and getting better and better. But, for Verve, it’s very much been a focus as we’ve built out the roster that we have now, is really finding artists like this that we feel like we can develop. People like Jon Batiste, that was his fourth album for Verve. Madison Cunningham, this was her second album.. So I think it’s a little bit of, f it doesn’t sound arrogant, to walk it like you talk it. Everyone says they do artist development, but I feel very comfortable saying, “We have some proof of concept that when you hang in there and let these artists grow and enable that and amplify it, these things can happen.”
Sage Bava: I’m a huge fan of how Verve is still a part of that old school way of developing real talent. I’m curious, the future of music as it’s changing with AI and changing with all these new technological things, will Verve continue in this very humanistic approach of developing young people? I’d love to hear more of the future of what you’re hoping for.
Krents: Well, we’re part of Universal, and it’s the biggest of the music companies, and Universal has these incredible pop labels, Interscope, Republic, Capital, Island, Def Jam. We have a different lane. And as much as we love what they do and we collaborate with all of them, I feel very clear on what our vision is, which is we’re still really seemed to be doing well with organic artists, artists that write their own songs. We’re probably not as focused on things like AI and some of these technological approaches. We’re not luddites and we are absolutely engaging with all of the ways to build audiences for our acts, whether that’s the TikTok world or lo-fi remixes and things like that. But I think when it comes down to making the music and picking the artists, it’s still very much about identifying not only talent, ’cause there’s so much, but also that ability for talent to become a recording artist. And that’s a distinction that I think maybe not enough people draw. There are a lot of great musicians and it’s fun to go see them live or they’re great performers, but is it equally rewarding to listen to their music at home or on your headphones? And I think that that’s a lot of the lens that we look at this through: Is this an artist that’s going to make music that you’re going to want to listen to at home and for years to come and in different moods and all that? I think that’s a big prism for us as well, the difference between being a great musician and someone that really makes records that will stand the test of time. Sounds obvious, but it’s a pretty short list. There are a lot of things that are incredibly successful and have a lot of followers and likes, and the data is there, but will people still be coming back to it in 10, 20, 30 years, time will tell. I feel really good about betting on this roster of artists that people will want to listen to for decades, and that’s kind of our North Star.
Baltin: What were some of those records for you that you think of, not as the head of Verve, but as a fan, as a kid, that you could go back and listen to again and again?
Krents: Well, it might sound dishonest, but some of them were Verve records. I grew up with a split love for rock music. I grew up in DC in the ’80s, so I was very lucky to be around the rise of bands like Fugazi and Bad Brains, and also go-go music, which is regionally huge in DC. So things like Fugazi’s first record or Repeater, but also I loved Prince and The Rolling Stones and those things never go out of the rotation. Another Verve record, Velvet Underground & Nico, that was a record I discovered when I was in high school that keeps popping up in my life, especially with my role here at Verve. But those kinds of records, and then Mingus Mingus Mingus by Charles Mingus. I was bass player, so a little bit predisposed to Mingus, Africa/Brass by John Coltrane, those were big records for me. Let it Bleed by The Stones, which I have nothing to do with or Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan. Kurt Vile records for Verve and his record Watch My Moves, I feel like I’ve listened to it more in the last month than I did when it came out last year, and it’s not aging badly to me at all. So, I think that’s the standard, is to try to hold yourself to that.
Baltin: Talk about the traits that to you make a successful artist, because, to me, at the end of the day, there’s nothing that’s more important than authenticity.
Krents: I agree with you, and it’s going to maybe sound like just a boring extension of what you said, but I think it’s a sense of self. All these artists have their own point of view. They’re not like a brick of clay that they’re waiting for the label to mold. That does work for some artists. That’s not our model. So we were just starting from a point of, if we’re gonna work together and be your partner, you’re coming to us with a real strong sense of identity. And I think that Samara’s got that even in her relatively young age. She’s somewhat fresh out of music school, but she makes these songs her own, she runs her band, she counts off the tempos, she is absolutely her own boss. And we’re part of her team, she has management, she has booking agents, she has all these people around her, but she’s really, really focused. And I think that’s what we look for, I would say the same thing about Madison Cunningham. I would say the same thing about Tank from Tank and the Bangas. They know who they are, and it doesn’t mean they don’t want to experiment or they don’t want help finding people to collaborate with, but Jon Batiste. Ultimately, these are people who have a lot of ideas, they’re not sitting there looking for us to have the magical elixir. And then we take their vision and then it’s our job to reach the biggest possible audience with them for that. It doesn’t sound that interesting or maybe sounds obvious, but that’s really what it is. Samara is a genius, but she also is a 23-year-old who really wanted to dance and have a great time at the Universal after party. And she comes from a great family, and this is still really new, and she’s not jaded and she’s having this moment, she’s really present for it. And she deserves it, she’s worked really hard the last couple of years. So to me, it’s affirming ’cause it’s like good things happen to good people sometimes. Not always, but in her case, she absolutely put herself in this position, and she was also born with indescribable talent. You couldn’t teach someone to sing like that, I wish you could. I would take all those lessons, but she’s just, she is among one, to use a great cliche.
Bava: Something that’s been really cool is to talk to so many people and musicians about how everyone is so excited that we’re coming back to real instruments and real music. Lala Hathaway said, “Of wood and string.” And you recently said that in an interview how Samara winning was like a dream. Do you think it was quite shocking to you that we are now going back into the of wood and string space? Is that why it was like a dream?.
Krents: That’s a good question. I think we felt really validated last year when Jon Batiste had all the success at the Grammys because we felt like he was four albums in with us and we worked so hard on the artist development side of it, which is really our mission statement at our label. It was surreal to have him lead the industry in nominations and wins. And it was so rewarding to be part of his team. And then the next year, once again, we’re in a position where we have an artist who some people probably hadn’t heard of or thought, “Well, why is that kind of music being represented alongside a lot of artists that I like, like Wet Leg or Muni Long? Why is she in there?” So when she won, it felt surreal. We are rewarding real artists and artist development. We are acknowledging that it doesn’t just have to be about how many records you’ve sold or how many streams your song has. It could just be about your artistry and about a label and a team helping to tell your story. So that’s why it felt like a dream. It sounds a little corny when I say it now, but it just feels like there’s so many people around Samara who’ve worked almost as hard as she has that that it felt like a win, not only for her, but for her management and her parents, this label and all these people around the world who are part of her Vigor team. And just it’s the ultimate compliment ’cause it comes from individuals in the music business and it isn’t just based on sales or commerce, it’s based on people recognizing your work. And so that’s why it felt like a dream.
Bava: I’d love to know more of what your favorite part of your role is. And it seems you’ve always been a music lover, bass player. Now what is the thing that makes you really be in love with where you are and who you’re working with?
Krents: It’s a great question. I think that it’s having an increased ability to make sure that Verve is as eclectic and dynamic as it was and as it should be. Like we talked about, it’s not just about one genre. We’re so proud of the jazz legacy of our catalog and of some of our great artists. But Verve was home to the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa, and now it’s the home to people like we’ve talked about today. And it’s really about music of integrity and about artists who are not just chasing a particular moment or a trend, but they’re just doing the best work they can. And we have actually the support of a big company like Universal powering us so we can really help them reach as many people as possible. I’ve had lots of different roles at Verve, I was an assistant, I answered someone’s phone, I was an temp. I’ve been here a long time and also I’ve had a lot of good experiences. But having the role I have now is the most influence I’ve been able to have on, like you said, identifying which are the artists that we can really deliver value for, who are the artists where we can really help change their lives and or help put them in a position where people can discover them. I still love discovering new music and new artists and we’re so focused on what’s coming next, whether it’s Jon Batiste’s follow up to that Grammy album, new music from Samara, more music from Kurt, Tank and the Bangas are having an incredible TikTok moment, there’s so much going on right now today, and it’s a lot to keep up with, but I love the gig that I have now. I simply feel like this is the job I always wanted.
Baltin: Who’s the one artist you would just love to resurrect?
Krents: I love Jimmy Smith, the organist, and I feel like he doesn’t get his due. So I’ll say that. He’s been sampled by the Beastie Boys, it’s not like he’s unknown. But I just feel like he was such a master and he made such good records and he is so funky and not enough people still listen to Jimmy Smith.
Baltin: I was just talking about this with Bill Crandall at Sirius/Pandora. We’re the last generation that’s actually going to listen to The Replacements. And that bums me out immensely because Paul Westerberg to me is one of the greatest songwriters in the history of the world.
Krents: I know what you mean. Except I walked in the other day and my 12-year-old son was playing “Can’t Hardly Wait” on the guitar, and it’s not from me. So maybe there’s hope, but I’m right there with you.They’re so underrated in the way we talk about The Velvet Underground. I feel like The Replacements’ so influential, so underrated didn’t sell enough records. Paul Westerberg still with us. I love his solo records. I think you’re so right about that.
Baltin: But please sign Paul Westerberg.
Krents: Does anyone have his phone number? I know he is still in Minneapolis, but I’d listen. My friend Don Was who runs Blue Note made a record with him, which I love. So yeah, I love Paul Westerberg.
Bava: There’s so much exciting energy for Verve and your artists. What’s something that you are most excited about for Verve?
Krents: I’m looking at my colleague ’cause there are two signings I just can’t announce today. So it’s sort of killing me to not be able to go into that.
Bava: Can you talk about the signing without saying who it is?
Krents: Sure. We actually just signed two young artists, one from this country and one from the UK who I think fit in perfectly with what we’ve been talking about today. But not in a reductive or revisionist way where you think, “Oh yeah, that’s so obvious that that should be on Verve.” And they both do well in the streaming space and I think are going to have a fantastic run. And absolutely over the course of a couple albums, I hope we’ll be talking about them the way we talked about Madison or someone, Samara, someone who’s winning awards and getting to go around the world and build an audience. And that probably is annoying since I can’t say who they are. But once we do, you’ll know that you heard it first [chuckle] in this very kind of veiled way. But as far as things we can be more detailed about, Jon Batiste’s record is going to come out later this year, which is the follow up to We Are. I believe people are going to be really pleasantly surprised at what he’s done and also his journey and what this music sounds like. So I’m thrilled about that. We have a record coming from Brandee Younger who records for Impulse. We had Pete Rock from the legendary Pete Rock and CL Smooth in the office with her today ’cause they’re collaborating. So the problem is if I name every record that’s coming and I leave someone out, they’ll be mad at me. But those are two that just jump immediately to mind. As well as I could probably keep you on the Zoom for another hour, but that and also new music from Samara this year, there’s going to be more stuff coming and I just feel like we never take for granted that there’s that interest in our musicians.
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