Charles Wesley Godwin Is Proof That Your Favorite Independent Artist Signing With A Major Label Isn’t Always A Bad Thing

Charles Wesley Godwin
Charles Wesley Godwin

It’s an all-too familiar refrain these days when independent country artists sign with a major label: “Oh, they sold out.”

In this era of streaming, as well as platforms like YouTube and TikTok, there are more ways than ever to find new music. That means that we’re seeing more and more independent artists break through and have massive success.

I mean, just look at Oliver Anthony. A single video on YouTube racked over 100 million views and rocketed him to a massive arena tour (and three sold-out shows at the Ryman Auditorium) in less than a year. Muscadine Bloodline has also had a ton of success as an independent artist, meaning not only do they maintain their creative freedom but they also get to keep all of the money they bring in when they pack venues.

The Turnpike Troubadours have also been independent their entire career – meaning they’ve worked their way up to legend status without the backing of a major label.

It’s a great time for independent artists.

And let’s be honest: It’s easy to see why fans are uneasy when their favorite artist signs with a major label. Will their sound change now that they have a label to answer to? When you hear what’s on country radio these days, it’s hard not to be concerned that a label will try to turn your favorite artist into the same cookie-cutter sound that’s coming out of a lot of artists in Nashville right now.

There have also been plenty of examples of artists who were already having independent success signing with a label and they seem to fall off the face of the earth. I can think of quite a few examples from the past few years when a great artist signed with a label and now I hear less of them than I did when they were independent.

So I’m not even arguing that it’s a fair concern when your favorite independent artist signs with a label.

But sometimes, it’s still a good thing – and Charles Wesley Godwin is the perfect example of that.

Charles released his first two albums, Seneca and How the Mighty Fall, as an independent artist. And his authentic songwriting and killer voice immediately resonated with country fans, rocketing him to one of the biggest unsigned names in country music after spending quite a bit of time opening up for Zach Bryan.

But last year, labels finally began to take notice and clamor for Charles’ services.

The result was an announcement last spring that CWG had signed a deal with Big Loud Records, the same label that’s home to artists like Morgan Wallen and HARDY, along with names like Hailey Whitters, Stephen Wilson Jr. and Lauren Watkins.

At first glance it might have seemed like an odd move, and one that would give fans pause: Charles Wesley Godwin on the same label as Morgan Wallen? Is he going to have to change his sound?

Well that question was quickly answered with the release of his third and latest album, Family Ties. The album was easily in the conversation for best country album of the year (and it was our pick for the #1 album of 2023), and Charles told us that Big Loud never wanted him to change his sound:

“I think if that’s something that somebody finds themself in, it’s not a good fit. That was never on the bargaining table, a situation like, and Big Loud’s been great about that. They’re fully supportive.”

In fact, Charles completed Family Ties when he was independent – and Big Loud accepted it and released it without any changes.

So what’s the point of signing with a record label when he could have just released the exact same album as an independent artist? Well according to Charles, for him it was the access to resources that a label like Big Loud provides:

“It’s been much more support around the whole thing, with press and advertising and opportunities that come up, it’s the whole reason why I signed with a label. It’s all seeming to look like it was the right decision to get that kind of team around me.

I think it’s going to help serve the music and just let more people know about it and know that it exists, touch more people and allow more people to enjoy it and improve their lives, hopefully.”

And it’s those resources and opportunities that seem to be paying off for Charles in a big way.

Since the release of Family Ties, Charles has headlined the Ryman Auditorium with two sold-out dates last year, and is working his way up the bill on festivals all around the country. He’s also appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, made his late-night television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and released a documentary and live recordings of some of the songs from the album.

His monthly listeners on Spotify have shot up by nearly a million in 2 months. Family Ties has nearly 10 million more total streams in that same time period.

In 2024, Charles will play Stagecoach and Bonnaroo, as well as play Buckeye Country Superfest with Zach Bryan at Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium.

And most recently, Charles was named to the Grand Ole Opry’s 2024 Opry NextStage class for the best upcoming artists.

Would Charles have had these opportunities without a record label? There’s no doubt that he’s deserving of everything he’s gotten and much more – but it’s hard to argue that having a label like Big Loud behind him hasn’t given CWG the opportunity to get out in front of a much bigger audience than he would have had otherwise. (And once Charles gets in front of an audience, he can easily do the rest and turn them into a fan).

I know that it’s always a little scary for fans when their favorite artist signs with a record label. And sometimes it doesn’t work out.

But when it does work out, like it seems to be for Charles Wesley Godwin, the result can be magical. It’s always nice to see the good guys win, and Charles is as good as they come.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock