Senior Vice President of A&R for Big Machine Label Group Allison Jones opened up to MusicRow in the recent CountryBreakout Awards print issue (February/March) revealing what drives her continued success. Here is an excerpt from the article.
“I’m super competitive,” said Jones. “I’m terrified someone else might hear a song I want, or someone might see the next The Band Perry before I do…There’s a reason I have two computers in my office, because I don’t want to get rid of any music. Reba has called asking for a song from 5 years ago. I have it! The IT department hates me. I have 10,000 songs in my iTunes, all categorized in playlists. For security I’m trying to do it all on DropBox now. I hide unreleased songs using different names so nobody can see those.”
Remaining in-the-know about the freshest talent has paid off for Jones but requires a staff of four constantly keeping their ears to the ground. “I don’t know if we ever have time to feel prepared for what’s next. It goes back to A&R being subjective, you can’t quantify if something is good or bad—you have to trust your gut. Usually when things are dropped on our plate, we have to run at 1,000 mph to get it done. That way we’re not second-guessing our decisions.”
A yearly release schedule ebbs and flows for Jones, who finds time to invest in every project delivered to market. “Every project is very collaborative and respective,” she continued. “Some projects don’t need me as much as others. But of course I’m always listening to songs for everybody.”
Select projects Jones recalls come from an expanding roster of artists, some include:
Taylor Swift: Taylor is a force and I just love being a cheerleader. Her ability to translate an intensely personal feeling in a way everyone relates to is brilliant and keeps getting better. Very few artists throughout time have done that. She will go down as a female Billy Joel or Paul McCartney. This new record may be pop but I think it translates where she is in her career. Her fans have celebrated that evolution–young girls, soccer moms, men and women. She’s in rare air.
Florida Georgia Line: I’ve known FGL since the very beginning. They listen to outside songs, write their own and draw from their own camp [Big Loud]. The relationship we have with their team is seamless, and a joy to be a part of. They really rely on and trust Craig Wiseman, Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins and Seth England.
Tim McGraw: Bryon Gallimore and his wife Missi have always played a strong part in A&R, so of course I am involved with Tim, but he relies heavily on them. He loves the process. He’s clearly TIM MCGRAW the superstar but he’s also the best A&R person. He loves to listen to songs and record music. For someone who has recorded as long as he has, I don’t know if there’s anyone who loves it more.
Reba: Reba relies heavily on me. Reba will sit over at Starstruck and invite pluggers to play her songs. She loves the personal exchange. She knows exactly what she wants. She’s gracious when she passes and she’s very honest. There’s no better day for an A&R person than to spend with a superstar listening to songs.
RaeLynn: RaeLynn was on The Voice before Danielle [Bradbery] and Cassadee [Pope]. She has been so patient and worked so hard. The fact that she writes for us, too, is invaluable. She did it on her own and we helped navigate. We inspired her to try this, or do that, on days where she needed a pick-me-up. And there were lots of days we needed a pick-me-up and she comes in like a tornado and makes us all laugh. She was so young at first. She hadn’t toured. She was 15. She certainly had the stamina, work ethic and star power but she’s improved vocally and had the confidence to start touring. Miranda [Lambert] took her on the road and with every performance she got better and better. It’s not that she wasn’t ready, we all knew with more experience she would be an even bigger superstar. We recorded “Boyfriend” right after The Voice, but RaeLynn was patient and she worked her rear off with a smile. It took a lot of maturity and patience and it’s paid off. The music she’s making right now is insanely great.
Maddie & Tae: Mike Molinar (Big Machine Music) signed them to publishing just two years ago, when they were 17. Their parents let them move here and I feel like we raised them. It’s remarkable they were mature enough to finish high school early. They came to our offices before us and had ideas to write. When I see the girls out now they say they feel like everyone in our offices are their second moms/dads/big brothers and sisters.
Motley Crue: I’m grateful to work at a label where we love music, and we don’t have to define music or put it in a box. The great thing about Scott [Borchetta] is he loves music. The Motley Crue record was because that was his favorite band when he was growing up in Los Angeles.
The Cadillac Three: We have a partnership with the Nashville TV show. With Cadillac Three, I told Callie Khouri, “These guys are so amazing you have to hear them.” And they’ve been on the show twice now. I’m so proud of them!
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