Nashville native Clay Bradley’s career has revolved around music and songwriters, from his career beginnings at BMI in the 1990s, his time as Creative Director at Acuff Rose, and working at labels MCA/Universal and Sony Music Nashville, before returning to BMI in 2008. In 2015, he launched Third Generation Entertainment and Segue 61, an immersive-learning music industry college certificate program.
In December 2017, Bradley launched his latest venture, again with the goal of helping songwriters and artists further their careers and reach their dreams. He partnered with investor Kurt Locher to launch Eclipse Music Group. The company, along with its publishing arm, aims to develop and promote artists and songwriters, both new and established.
The Eclipse Music Group roster of artists and songwriters includes triple threat singer/songwriter/musician Katie Pruitt, 19-year-old guitar phenom and newly-signed Big Machine Label Group artist Payton Smith, Sarah Darling, genre-less songwriter Ronnie Bowman, Early James and the Latest, Jabe Beyer, Konrad Snyder, Eric Masse, as well as Kendell Marvel, the respected Nashville songwriter with a burnished brassy voice.
As the son of soon-to-be Country Music Hall of Fame inductee and former RCA Nashville label head Jerry Bradley and the grandson of producer, musician, songwriter and Country Music Hall of Fame member Owen Bradley, who helped establish Nashville as a commercial force for music and music business, Clay comes by his passion naturally.
“With each of these newer artists, I met them and all I really said was, ‘I think you are so good at what you do now. I want to be in business with you to see where we can take this in five years or so,” says Bradley, settled in a conference room at the Eclipse Music Group offices, located on Music Circle South, close to Sound Stage Studios and Columbia Studio A. A worn studio session logbook sits on a nearby table, its pages filled with recording session notes from decades ago—chronicling the sessions of hit songs, yes, but also the broken dreams of many a musician who aspired to become a hit artist. Bradley knows well the odds of success for many who chase their dreams to Music City, and says he aims to help beat the odds for the talented artists and songwriters he works alongside.
Bradley met the now 19-year-old Payton Smith when Smith was just 14. Earlier this year, he signed Smith to Eclipse and the two began developing a formal plan of artist development, one that would allow Smith to spend six months writing songs, then record a few tracks to send to potential label suitors.
“Two months into that plan, Scott Borchetta saw him playing on a stage at CMA Fest and signed him,” Bradley says.
“He’s got so much energy and there’s no fear on stage, and that brings people in to him—you just give him a microphone, an amp, and a good song. I remember one time I sent him some pics of early James Dean and early Elvis, because I think that is part of the vibe that Payton exudes.”
Pruitt co-wrote every song on her upcoming Rounder Records debut project, played all the guitar parts, and co-produced the project.
“Gary [Paczosa, VP, A&R for Rounder] had Katie and her band in his studio in January before they ever signed the deal and just said, ‘Let’s record some stuff, no pressure.’ Well, they recorded like six songs in two days, and those are the basis of her record.”
Marvel is already well-known in Nashville’s industry circles for penning songs with and for Chris Stapleton, Brothers Osborne, and Lee Ann Womack. He just released the excellent Solid Gold Sounds, produced by Dan Auerbach and David Ferguson. The project follows Marvel’s 2018 project Lowdown and Lonesome. Bradley and Marvel have known each other since before Marvel scored his first co-writing hit, “Right Where I Need To Be,” penned alongside Casey Beathard and recorded by Gary Allan.
“As the industry changed, and we started to see this revolution of the Chris Stapletons and the Sturgill Simpsons and people making art and not necessarily chasing anything, just chasing their own voice inside of them, Kendell decided that he wanted to get a little bit of that. He’s been so committed to staying true to who he is and following his path. Last November, I took a meeting with Dan Auerbach and David Ferguson and they fell in love with Kendell and they made this new record.”
Given the unique blend of classic country and Americana sounds on Marvel’s new album, Bradley says the marketing plan behind the new project has included a mix of streaming outlets and Americana radio. Marvel is also opening arena shows for Stapleton’s 2019 All-American Road Show.
“The great thing about putting this album out is he’s going to go play in front of several thousand people on the tour, and we have all of this content and music for the fans to discover. Our goal would be to probably make another record by the end of 2020.
“The reality is the records that Kendell’s making, nobody’s going to go play those on what country radio is today. But we’ll promote some to Americana radio. The challenge is marketing these records to the people that really aren’t listening to country radio, and we know there’s millions of them out there, and they’re fans. Not to say we wouldn’t love to get played on the big country stations, but I think that’s tied up at the moment. With streaming, there are so many playlists that aren’t country-specific, with new ways to reach thousands of listeners.”
With each of his artists, Bradley is focused on global growth, as well as domestic, from the earliest stages of their careers.
“Everybody I’ve worked with has been or is going over to the UK,” Bradley says. “Katie Pruitt has been over there twice. Payton, he just left a big marketing meeting at Big Machine, and a big topic was C2C. We picked up a new client Early James and the Latest, and he’ll be going overseas. The unique thing about going over there is if you can have, what we call here maybe the ‘Bluebird moment,’ where you just can play your guitar and sing your song. You can go to the U.K. and there’s tons of venues, tons of places for you to play like that, and you can build a great fan base.
“The funny thing is, it’s always been like that. My uncle Harold [Bradley] toured with Slim Whitman in the late ’70s and early ’80s and he would go over there, and he said the audience knew every record that Harold played on, they knew everything about the band, they knew everything about everybody and really, it hasn’t changed much. Other people were just craving great music and craving the authenticity of the artists and that doesn’t change.”
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