On a recent episode of Tracy Lawrence’sTL’s Road House podcast, Jelly Rollstopped by for a fascinating conversation, and they covered a wide variety of topics, from Jelly Roll’s time in prison and newfound success in country music, to Tracy’s take on the Nashville machine and how his career has evolved over the years.
They also got into a neat discussion about the freedom artists have these days to build a career without the help of a major label, mostly due to social media and streaming making it a lot easier to get their name and music out there.
Tracy, the 90’s country star who has since started his own labels, notably Lawrence Music Group, recalls feeling like his career was over when he left his last big label, after being on a major for so long and having eight #1 hits to his name, along with over 40 singles that charted on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
He likened the experience to “going through a detox,” which is quite a comparison and tells you everything you need to know, in my opinion:
“The world that I came from, it was really hard stepping out of it. It’s almost like going through a detox when you leave a major label, ‘cuz I was on a major for a long time.
I mean, I spent 10 years on Atlantic, and then a little time on Warner Brothers, went to DreamWorks, had a couple of huge hits over there, and then DreamWorks got bought out by Universal. I got bounced over there, had a really awful relationship there, it was nasty.
Didn’t like the label head at all, and comin’ off that, you feel like your career is done. Because I had been used to having hit records on the radio.”
He’s managed to continue to put out music and make it independently, without needing a big label and insane amounts of money to get a song on the radio:
“And over the last several years, I’ve found that your career can continue to blossom if you stay engaged and stay in touch with your fan base.
And with all these new tools that we have, you don’t have to disconnect from all that.”
Amen to that…
And that’s not to say that it isn’t the right decision for some people to sign with a major label, or that every person at every label is bad or doesn’t care about music, but it is an entirely different ballgame, so to speak, when there are such massive amounts of money on the line with each song and album release.
Tracy couldn’t be more right about the fact that it’s easier than ever for an artist to grow their fanbase organically though genuine connection, too, and while it’s always going to be a more difficult path doing it independently, it’s worth it in most cases for artists who want the freedom that comes along with doing so.
Jelly also asked him about the recent resurgence in his 90’s hit “Time Marches On” since it blew up on TikTok last year, to which Tracy played it coy, first asking if it really went viral, to which Jelly replied:
“Fuckin’ dude, it was like, I would venture to say it was one of the top 30 most used TikTok sounds last year.”
And of course, Tracy said it was incredible to see a song that was over 25 years old connect with a much younger audience, adding that it’s a testament to how the music industry has changed, mostly because of the way people find new (or new to them, in this case) artists:
“It was tremendous. And what’s fascinating to me is that some album cuts and things have done really well on TikTok. But I believe we’ve got a country fan out there, a music fan in general, I don’t even think you can categorize or stereotype it anymore.
I believe that music fans, if they find something of yours that they like, if they’re a fan of your style, your voice, whatever it is about you that they love, they will go through your entire body of work. And they will follow you, because they connect with something about you.”
He continued, saying that now more than ever, people are searching for genuine artistry and quality music, with a great knack to weed out so much of the bullshit that comes along with the music industry:
“And I think that goes back to having charisma and likability and whatever it is that makes you connect with people out there.
And I think there are more people that feel like you and I, that are burnt out on the mainstream media and the scripted crap going on out in the world.
I believe people just wanna see the real thing, man. And they know if you’re bullshitting them, too.”
It’s a super fascinating listen, so if you have the time, give it a download or watch the Youtube video below.
These two truly get it, and have some incredible insight on what truly works and why it’s so important for an artist to be authentic, no matter if they’re on a big label or not… because at the end of the day, that’s what really matters: