Though Nashville has been the home of the country music industry since the 1950s, the city has long offered fertile grounds for music artists outside the country sphere.
In the past two years, perhaps emboldened by the success of Nashville-based artists such as Paramore, Kings of Leon, and Moon Taxi, labels and publishing companies such as Interscope, Curb, Atlantic, Capitol, and Sony/ATV have increasingly committed to plumbing the musical depths of Nashville’s non-country artists, hiring A&R and radio promotions to discover and promote artists from Nashville’s rock, pop, and R&B scene.
Among the companies in the forefront of that charge is Dr. Luke’s Prescription Songs, which recently opened an outpost in Nashville’s Music Row area, helmed by Katie Fagan, Head of Prescription Songs Nashville, and her assistant Rachel Wein.
Fagan, who has been with Prescription Songs for nearly seven years, began attending writing trips to Nashville in addition to her own trips to develop relationships with publishers around town.
“About a year ago, I was here on a work trip, and it dawned on me that there weren’t any publishers focusing solely on pop music. I saw that hole and wanted to fill it,” Fagan says.
Prescription Songs Nashville recently announced the signings of Anna Mae and LO, but the roster also includes artist-writer Whissell, producer Cody Clark, alt R&B band Basecamp, country artist-writer Kevin MaC (through a joint venture with Keith Stegall), film/TV producer Oxley and pop producer Kipp Williams.
Fagan’s passion to close that gap also drove her to found The Other Nashville Society, a group aimed at gathering industry members who are involved in the non-country music aspects of Nashville.
“While country is king here, we wanted to start a gathering place for those who write, produce, manage, publish, or promote the other artists in the genres of pop, rock, hip-hop, R&B, etc.,” says Fagan.
Fagan spoke with MusicRow about Prescription Songs’ newest signings, the involvement of Dr. Luke, and the cross-pollination between the country and pop landscapes.
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MusicRow: You recently signed Anna Mae and LO to the Nashville roster. How did you first hear of them and what was the process for signing them?
KF: Anna Mae was put on my radar by a past Prescription employee, who went to Belmont University. Anna Mae was getting a lot of love online for a song she had placed in The Voice promo commercials last summer. I loved her voice and wanted to hear more, so we set up a call and found out she was unpublished. Before I moved to Nashville, I came down here to visit in September and we got to meet in person. I absolutely loved her, and had her work with our amazing producer Kipp Williams here in Nashville. They ended up writing four amazing songs that helped her solidify her sound. From there, she came to Los Angeles and we set up a few select writing sessions to see how she worked with some others on our roster. Everyone adored her, and felt she had something special, so we sent her an offer, and the rest is history!
LO was put on my radar about four days into moving to Nashville. I was invited to an event called Pop Goes Nashville, hosted by my friends at Razor & Tie, and LO was one of the performers. Her voice and presence immediately caught my attention. A few weeks later, we were introduced on email by a mutual friend and she came to hang with me at the office. We really hit it off and I got to hear some of her recorded songs that she not only was singing and had written on, but had produced as well. We set up a few writing sessions here in town and they all went really well, so we decided to send her an offer as well. You’ll see a pattern here—we like to get to know someone and then have them work with some other writers within our Prescription family before we send an offer. We have a tight-knit family over here and it’s important that everyone gets along and that it feels like the right fit. Getting along musically is just as important as getting along personally. Since I’m just getting started down here, these two key points are especially important so that we can set a positive precedent of the kind of writers we are looking for.
MR: How involved is Luke in the signing process for new writers for the Nashville division?
KF: Luke has been nothing but supportive through the entire process of moving here. I’d say one of the best parts about working for him is that he does not micro manage anyone and really empowers us to sign things we really believe in. Instead of chart chasing, he encourages us to find things that might only have one play on YouTube. For both Anna Mae & LO, for example, I told him the important cliff notes about them and played him a few songs from each of them. His response both times was “Great—how can I help? What do you want to do? Let’s do it!”
After six years of learning his ways, I’ve learned that we’re always taking risks on the things we sign—and he has taught us that we’re not always going to ‘win’ them all—but he trusts that we’re all going to put in blood, sweat and tears to try and make it happen. A couple years ago, I signed a band called FRENSHIP—they had no manager, no label, no agent—just Prescription. At the time, they only had a few songs completed, but I heard something special there. At the time, Luke thought it might be too early to tell whether or not they could be something, but he told me he trusted me wholeheartedly. I remember that once the deal closed, I wanted to prove myself more than ever because of the faith he had put in me. About a year later, after numerous writing sessions, late night listening hangs, and building their brand, their single “Capsize,” featuring another Prescription writer Emily Warren, became one of Spotify’s biggest success stories. The song now has about 370 million streams and was a Top 20 hit at pop radio. Signings like this are proof of Luke supporting our ears and our tastes, and even with all the success he has had, he continues to trust us to build his roster.
MR: What has the partnership been like between Big Machine Music and Prescription’s Nashville office?
KF: They have been great friends to have as the new girl in town. We’ll always be on the lookout for things that would make sense to work on together. This year in the joint venture, we shared success with RaeLynn’s amazing single “Love Triangle” and last year we shared Christina Aguilera’s song “Change” co-written by Fancy Hagood.
MR: Will Prescription Songs’ Nashville division only sign pop/rock writers, or are they open to signing country writers as well?
KF: For now, we are focusing on pop music. Though I am a fan of country, I am still have a lot to learn within that specific genre and building those relationships. The good thing about working in publishing is that no matter the genre, a good song is a good song, so I think cross-pollination will be inevitable (and is already happening). Being a pop-centric company, we’ll be utilizing our strength of signing things early and being a part of the artist development process. We have had a great success rate with that and it is a foundation that Luke has encouraged from the beginning. The rich songwriting of Nashville has attracted so many diverse and talented artists, songwriters and producers—many who are perfectly suited for our Prescription Songs ethos.
MR: More A&R executives are now in Nashville to discover artists and writers from various genres. Have you seen an increased competition in the A&R sector of the industry when it comes to signing new writers/artists?
KF: It’s pretty incredible to see how many people have moved here. It’s always good to have healthy competition and also to find people who want to work hand in hand, and find ways to work together in harmony. Nashville is the perfect place for that, which is what makes it so special.
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