Plan on Feelings
In a recent interview Brandon Jenner did with Michael Heidemann on WGN Radio’s Sound Sessions to discuss his highly anticipated new EP Plan on Feelings, the multi-talented singer-songwriter shared a powerful quote he had recently heard that sums up his hopeful philosophy about his burgeoning career as an indie recording artist and performer: “I’m not sure music will save the world, but I do know it helps people get through the nighttime.”
Launching with the ultra- sensual, slyly playful lead single “Death of Me” (dropping May 10), the five track EP has the power to do just that, showcasing the multi-talented artist at his most candid, intimate and vulnerable. His trademark soulful, warmly inviting vocals and raw, loose guitar and piano driven vibe serve as channels for narratives that take us straight to the bare-bones emotions of his heart – and slowly pierce our own in the process. Brandon is also releasing a visually and emotionally compelling video for “Death of Me” that impactfully illuminates its theme about our attraction to beauty and that inner voice that subtly tells us that it can destroy our lives.
“Unlike the other songs on the EP where I do a lot of internal exploring, ‘Death of Me’ is meant to be a more lighthearted look at the male curse, and what can happen to us if we allow ourselves to get in too deep,” Brandon says. “It’s a song that allowed me to have a good time, without putting pressure on myself to impart a heavy message. In this transitional time of my life, I just wanted to get something off my chest and have a good time doing it.”
The second single, dropping May 31, is “Get What You Give,” a moody, piano driven ballad about feeling helpless in love, unsure how things will play out and begging for everything to stay the way it is now while knowing there’s an inevitable fire to walk through.
Since the release of his acclaimed 2016 debut Burning Ground – whose title track has been streamed over 19 million times on Spotify – Brandon has transcended his well-known family connections and pop culture notoriety by establishing himself as a globally renowned artist of depth and vision. Plan on Feelings is the follow-up to his equally renowned 2018 EP Face the World, whose heartbreaking atmospheric acoustic track “All I Need Is You” has over 700,000 streams. His music has become a staple on Sirius/XM Radio’s Coffee House station, and he toured in the summer of 2018 Rachael Yamagata and Joshua Radin.
Over these past few years, as he’s performed locally in his hometown of L.A. as well as internationally, the singer has learned that the key to fostering these enduring, soul transforming connections with listeners is embracing his deepest, most authentic self and becoming fearless about unleashing his vulnerability – a true “superpower” (as he sees it) that many artists obscure or shade for commercial purposes and/or self-protective reasons.
“The songs are snapshots of what I was feeling and felt like expressing at any given time,” Brandon says. “I start the EP with the confessional, very autobiographical ‘Anybody?’ as a bookmark of things to come, to let people know that this will be my approach to music from here on out. It perfectly captures my commitment to being more vulnerable. I’m an empathetic person who really wants to connect with people, and being honest about myself and touching on both my strengths as well as details that may even be a little uncomfortable is the most meaningful way to do that.
“Allowing myself to be vulnerable is the seed and vessel that carries my art and allows for that meaningful exchange,” he adds. “Being vulnerable means living life unapologetically. We all tend to create a representation of ourselves to put out into the world to make sure people will like us. But that only takes you so far as an artist. What I’m trying to do now is present myself for exactly who I am without filtering myself through the eyes, expectations and opinions of others.”
Brandon titled his new EP Plan on Feelings as a way of welcoming the changes to come in his life and assert that he is looking forward to. “If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that life will have its ups and downs,” he says. “The future will hold periods of struggle and elation, all of which ensure growth if we are open to letting that happen. The title is my way of saying that I welcome all feelings that will come to me down the road, knowing that they will provide me opportunities for growth, reflection and openings to dig deeper even deeper into myself and create more music.”
Brandon’s hard-hitting opening track “Anybody?” will brutally rock the perceptions of anyone who’s seen him on TV and thinks he’s had a charmed life growing up in Malibu the son of Olympic champion and cultural icon Caitlyn Jenner and hit songwriter Linda Thompason; the stepson of multiple Grammy winning producer David Foster; and a stepbrother of the Kardashians via Caitlyn’s marriage to Kris. It’s a stark, profoundly lonely song about addictions to love and sex “just like a little boy, begging for someone to hold me,” while carrying “the weight of my family on my shoulders when they don’t even seem to give a f** about me.”
The EP also includes the hypnotic slow grooving ballad “Upside Down,” a song about defiance and simmering anger in the face of the threat of being taken advantage of. “Even the nicest people can boil over and snap,” Brandon says. “Sometimes I write songs from an ‘I love you’ perspective and some from an ‘F you’ perspective. This is definitely the latter.” The final track is the haunting, ambient gospel piece “The Way You Do,” in which he pleads, like a mantra, “Oh Lord, give me the strength to love someone the way you do.”
Brandon has been around music his whole life, spending many cherished days of his childhood as a “wallflower” in the studio while stepdad David Foster worked with countless pop legends. “The process of making records fascinated me and I was exposed to some incredible musicianship,” he says, “which raised my level of taste and which I draw from as I create music now in my home studio.” Before transitioning into his solo career, the singer was half of Brandon & Leah, a duo with his now ex wife whose sound has been described as indie pop, hip-hop based reggae and electro-pop-soul. Their single “Showstopper” was used as the theme song for “Kourtney and Kim Take Miami” on E! Entertainment. Brandon & Leah’s debut EP Cronies, produced with Tony Berg, was released in 2013, hitting #82 on the Billboard 200 chart and rising to #16 on the Billboard Digital Albums chart. They released their follow-up EP Together in 2014.
“I believe strongly in the adage, ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’ and I want to use my music as a platform to give back and provide something of substance to the world,” Brandon says. “Part of my evolution as an artist has come from not running away and cowering from who I am but accepting it and finding strength and inspiration in it. I have done my share of getting in a van and traveling to play music in places where I wondered if anyone was listening – but have found that paying my dues is more about being completely honest with myself, figuring out what is and isn’t working and discovering what is unique about my sound, my voice and approach to melody and rhythm. If I live and create authentically, I believe I will leave something behind that is important and will endure.”
Nearly 100 years after the Harlem Renaissance changed the world, there’s a whole new cultural and spiritual awakening in that corner of the jazz world. A key player in galvanizing this fresh and dynamic sense of cultural awareness, drummer/composer Curtis Nowosad has been a major force in The Harlem Sessions, a gathering of musicians, poets, artists, philosophers and dancers created to build and explore a new common repertoire with original ensemble arrangements. Organized by post-bop pianist Marc Cary, the performances originated at Gin Fizz and are now based at Smoke Jazz Club. Nowosad was on hand anchoring the groove every week during the gathering’s first years – and he’s still part of the action today.
Having made his home in West Harlem since 2013 when he was working on his master’s at the Manhattan School of Music, the 30-year-old Canadian native emerges as a powerful musical force for social justice on a groundbreaking self-titled jazz and blues-driven collection that illuminates past and present American history while creating some profound history of its own.
While it may seem curious to some that Curtis would self-title his third overall album, it’s reflective of a desire to share his deeper core identity. He imparts his truth and the issues that have long mattered to him via five impactful originals and edgy, intensely rendered versions of three thematically related pieces: Gil Scott-Heron’s “Home is Where the Hatred Is,” Skip James’ “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” and Nina Simone’s “See Line Woman.” Co-produced with Cary, it’s also the drummer’s first collection to feature the explosive and intuitive chemistry of his NY-based ensemble that has held court in NYC everywhere from Smalls, Fat Cat and Rockwood Music Hall to The Jazz Standard and full week residencies at Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
The group includes Duane Eubanks (trumpet), Braxton Cook (alto sax), Andrew Renfroe (guitar), Jonathan Thomas (piano, Fender Rhodes, organ) and Luke Sellick (bass). Guests include Corey Wallace (trombone), Matthew Whitaker (organ) and vocalists Michael Mayo (whose beautiful wordless vocal brings a rich humanity to “The Water Protectors” and “Song 4 Marielle Franco”) and Brianna Thomas, who brings the burning soul-blues angles and edges to “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” and “See Line Woman.” Cary himself guests on Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer and synth.
Curtis laid the foundation for this current release with two previous critically acclaimed collections, his debut The Skeptic & the Cynic (which spent two weeks at #1 on the Canadian Jazz charts and featured Grammy-nominated pianist Taylor Eigsti) and the WCMA-winning and JUNO-nominated Dialectics (Cellar Live), which made DownBeat Magazine’s “Best of 2015” list, reached #3 on the CMJ jazz charts and spent ten weeks on the JazzWeek charts. The Skeptic & the Cynic was comprised mostly of cover songs by Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd, Black Star and 2Pac, along with two originals. Recorded in Winnipeg in 2014 after Curtis’ first year at Manhattan School of Music, Dialectics featured mostly original music along with arrangements of compositions by Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter and the jazz standard “I Remember You.”
“I recorded my first two albums in my hometown of Winnipeg,” Curtis says, “with a band made up of my former teachers from the University of Manitoba. Those works were geared towards my growth as a musician and gaining a deeper knowledge of jazz. Stylistically, the new one is definitely a departure from those, yet is a much better reflection of who I am and the themes and issues that matter to me. It’s more important to me than just, ‘here are some new songs.’ These social issues were always simmering in my mind, and I was very vocal about them among the people I know and love, but it took a while before I was able to convey my feelings musically.
“It’s safe to say I’ve lived a lot of life between the release of Dialectics and now,” he adds. “I’ve gained a great deal of life and musical experience and been through a lot, so it felt appropriate to self-title the album. The music is very personal to me. I have gained a lot of insight living in Harlem for the past 5 1/2 years, and as a European-descended practitioner of Black American Music, I feel it is my duty to approach this music and these themes in a respectful, earnest and serious manner. I also feel that as I have made the transition from being an ‘outsider looking in’ (being from Canada) to an ‘insider looking out,’ so to speak, I have a unique perspective that I have chosen to express with this album.”
Understanding the world from Curtis’ perspective will no doubt prompt listeners not only to enjoy some of the most inventive, hard-hitting jazz they’ve heard in a long time, but also to start Googling and brushing up on their social history. Four of his five originals are devoted to activists who gave their lives or livelihoods to the struggle for a better planet.
The dreamy and mystical, then percussively busier and bustling “The Water Protectors” is dedicated to the Standing Rock Sioux and all other indigenous people in the U.S., Canada and worldwide who are fighting for their rights to exist without encroachment. Ranging from lilting and simmering gospel to fiery bebop to an electric piano, organ and affected saxophone jam, “Never Forget What They Did to Fred Hampton” reflects both the forward thinking, socially conscious vision and the violent chaos that beset the Black Panther movement. Curtis composed the track on the anniversary of the FBI’s assassination of Hampton, one of the movement’s young, charismatic leaders who was head of the Chicago Chapter of the Party when he was gunned down in December 1969, at the age of 21. “His murder must be remembered and understood as we celebrate his message and vision of a brighter future for African Americans and all people devoted to justice and solidarity,” the drummer says.
The emotional, deeply soulful ballad “Song 4 Marielle Franco” is dedicated to Brazilian politician Marielle Franco, who was the leading voice in her country against police brutality and corruption before her assassination in March 2018. “Blues 4 Colin K” is a lively, high energy blues romp with a hypnotic soul transporting melody designed to shed light on former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who like Muhammad Ali fifty years before him, was robbed of his best years of competing for taking a stand (via taking a knee during the national anthem) against injustice and the oppression of Black people. Curtis balances the heavy themes with a personal statement of a different kind, the romantic and whimsical “Waltz 4 Meg,” dedicated to his wife Megan, whom he has known for over half his life.
Curtis, who started playing drums at 12 and picked up piano at 16, grew up in Winnipeg, the son of a piano teacher mother and saxophonist father. While he grew up hearing jazz around the house, Curtis opted instead for bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Yet his mindset shifted quickly from hard rock to jazz when he heard Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, particularly their 1963 album Caravan. “I liked John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman and started learning with records I checked out of the public library,” he says. “But there was something about Blakey being a thunderous drummer and bandleader that tapped into my spirit and made me realize I wanted to be that kind of musician as well. Why jazz? Its sense of freedom just spoke to me, and I think that’s what attracts a lot of people. There are no limits. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to interact with a lot of New York musicians when I was in high school and college, and that played a large part as well.”
Establishing himself on the NY jazz scene, Curtis has played in the bands of Philip Harper, Craig Harris, rising star saxophonist Braxton Cook and renowned pianist Marc Cary (who both make major contributions to the album) while headlining major jazz festivals in Canada and several in the U.S. He has also performed with four NEA Jazz Masters: Candido Camero, Dave Liebman, Jimmy Owens and Kenny Barron. A recipient of several awards and scholarships, in 2014 Nowosad performed at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam as a winner of the Keep an Eye Jazz Award. He was twice selected to participate in Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and also attended the Banff Jazz Workshop.
Curtis is an alumnus of the University of Manitoba, where he studied with Terreon Gully and Quincy Davis, and holds a master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music, where he was a student of John Riley, and performed with the multi-Grammy nominated MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Bobby Sanabria. He currently serves on MSM’s Precollege jazz faculty and is an endorser of Canopus Drums.
“From a purely musical standpoint, this album was creatively fulfilling because it was the first time that I had handled all of the audio editing myself, which was quite a task because there are so many layers, from horns to vocals to electronic sounds,” Curtis says. “It was a challenge to figure out how to bring the right people into unique configurations for each song so that we could best bring their artistry to life, and we were still adding guests a week before the recording session. It was going to be a purely instrumental project until Marc and I talked about adding vocals – which led us to bring the incomparable Michael Mayo and Brianna Thomas on board.
“Thematically, my feeling is that if we never deal with history we will never know how to grow and move forward as a society” he adds. “One of the problems in the U.S, Canada and many other countries is that we don’t do nearly enough to understand that history and take the necessary steps toward dismantling systems of oppression. Jazz has always inherently reflected the times it’s created in, but often when it’s institutionalized in colleges and university programs, we tend to focus on jazz history alone as opposed to the American and world history it emerges from. I hope this project will inspire listeners to read up on the different icons I was inspired to write about, and open their eyes and ears to not only what was going on in previous generations but also today. By better understanding those important connections, we can collectively begin to question all the societal structures around us.”
Currently ranked #153 on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans, Tilman Fertitta has a few words of hard hitting, no holds barred advice for budding and successful entrepreneurs, business people and everyday Americans in his first published book: Shut Up and Listen!
Truly the embodiment of the ethos we know as the “American Dream,” Tilman is a self-made entrepreneurial success whose national and global influence extends across a wide variety of industries, with 600 properties in 36 states and over 15 countries. As the sole owner of Fertitta Entertainment and the Landry’s Restaurant Empire, his organization owns and operates 600 restaurants, numerous hotels (including five Golden Nugget casino/hotels), amusement parks and aquariums. In 2017, the star of the popular CNBC show “Billion Dollar Buyer” (2016-18) fulfilled a lifelong dream by purchasing the Houston Rockets, his beloved hometown NBA team.
No doubt, there are countless people hungry for inspiration who would be fascinated to hear how Tilman rose from humble beginnings and a single restaurant in Katy, Texas to become the world’s richest restaurateur and multi-faceted business magnate. Yet when Tilman was finally able to set aside time to pen his first book, he had bigger things on his mind than telling his life story. As he writes in the very first line of his hard-hitting, no-nonsense volume (subtitled Hard Business Truths that Will Help You Succeed), “If you are in business, want to start a business, or perhaps climb the corporate ladder, you’ve come to the right place. Now, shut up and listen to make that business all that it can possibly be.”
The title is blunt and tough love honest because after 40 years in business, Tilman’s found that approach to be the most effective at getting people’s attention and sticking in their minds. “I’ve used those words many times because if folks would just quit talking so much and listen more, they will learn a lot more,” he says. “As I write, I believe my ideas and strategies can help you achieve success no matter what sort of business you happen to be in. If you want to make money in business, you need to read this book. One of the reasons I have been successful with people I work with and have not had much turnover among my team is that I’m very direct with them. Everyone knows where they stand with me at all times. Even when there’s a moment of anger, I’m always quick to resolve an issue and get over it.“
Tilman’s desire to share his personal insights and foundational strategies with the public for the first-time dovetails perfectly into his overall commitment in his various businesses to help (the word is mentioned 57 times in the book), be of service (30 times) and engage in the granular but sometimes overlooked details of genuine hospitality (34 times). Tilman believes that, no matter the business, customer service and hospitality are everything. “To me,” he writes, “the definition of hospitality is simple. It’s however you handle a customer. Nothing more, nothing less—how you treat him or her, how you respond to what he or she asks for, and your ability (and willingness) to stay flexible. The ultimate goal of interacting with a customer is to make him or her feel like the only customer you have in the entire world. Why? Because as I tell my own employees, there are no spare customers.”
Shut Up and Listen! is divided into six sections, each providing powerful strategies to help business owners break through to the next level – as well as illuminating key blind spots that can kill even a currently thriving venture if owners, despite their best intentions, are not aware of them: Hospitality (“If They Want Scrambled Eggs…”), You’d Better Know Your Numbers, The 95:5 Rule: What’s Your “Five?”, See the Opportunity, Seize the Opportunity, Live Your Leadership and Persistence.
Each of the 15 chapters includes a “Listen!” section with a core teaching that summarizes the chapter. For example, in Chapter 8, titled “Know and Leverage Your Strengths,” he starts this section with “How you best build on your strengths depends on what those strengths are.” Each chapter concludes with “Tilman’s Targets,” a series of bullet points summarizing its main points. For Chapter 6, “Know Your Numbers,” the targets include: Knowing your numbers is the most essential part of being able to take your business to the next level; Make daily flash reports and budgets a priority; and A complete knowledge of numbers is also critical to any sort of successful sales pitch.
Shut Up and Listen! is chock full throughout with “Tilmanisms,” quick, witty, easy to remember wisdom-filled phrases Tilman has uttered naturally in the course of his business dealings over the years. “Friends of mine and those who work for me came up with that term, but for me these are just things that make sense to me,” the author says. For the reader’s convenience, Tilman includes in his afterword a complete list of over 20 “Tilmanisms” he peppers throughout the book. These include: “Be plappy” (play happy), “Why is it so easy to say no when you can say yes?” “When things are bad, eat the week and grow your business.” “Know your numbers. Numbers don’t lie.” “Never become partners with someone who has the same skill set as you.” “No matter the circumstances, be the bull.” “Don’t ever think that your position is too high to teach others. Because I still teach every single day.” All of these concepts revolve around the core themes of Focus on the Customer, Know Your Numbers, Go the Extra Mile, Find (and Take!) the Opportunity, Change Change Change and Keep Fighting.
One of the most impactful chapters in Shut Up and Listen! is “Get To Know Your ‘Five,’ in which Tilman – ever attentive to every last detail of deal making and customer interactions - explains that the 5% of the business that owners overlook can be the difference between leading it to the top or taking it down. This 5% can include overarching concepts like over- or undervaluing the product or service, letting ego get in the way of what’s best for business, not knowing blind spots or being willing to go that extra mile with customers. It can also be some of the minute but still critical details Tilman lists in his examples relating to the restaurant business. Negatively speaking, it can be a server who brings a drink without a napkin, a four-person table with one chair that doesn’t match the other three, a perfectly prepared meal served on the wrong type of plate, or trash and cigarette butts in the parking lot. On the positive side, the 5% can be everything from knowing the names of repeat customers and where they like to sit to escorting a new customer to the bathroom if he or she doesn’t know where it is.
Tilman sums up his 5% concept this way: “I’ve heard it from all sorts of entrepreneurs: How can a measly 5% help or hurt my business so much? How can such a small part matter, especially when most everything else is working so well? Believe me, it can. By the 95 percent, I’m talking about the portion of your business that functions well. It can refer to the core competence of your business, be that food service, landscaping, or any other activity. (The 5% are). . .those elements that, when executed well, can set your business apart and help propel it to the next level – or at the same time, hinder your growth if they’re not done right or ignored together.”
“Stories have been written about me saying that I can see a burned-out light bulb 40,000 feet in the sky,” Tilman says. “Why is that? Because when I go into my businesses, I pay attention and look for what’s wrong. I’ve trained myself to see little things that matter. It drives some of my colleagues crazy, but I take their complaints as compliments. Little things truly matter in taking a business from good to extraordinary.”
Throughout Shut Up and Listen!, Tilman illustrates these truths with well-placed anecdotes about his indignation over things that might seem insignificant to others – no garnishes on a room service hamburger at his Post Oak Hotel, and a guest having to wait much too long to check into his room at the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, LA because of a discrepancy about having an iron in the room. Another key insight is his commitment to “Change Change Change.” As he writes, “Change gives every one of us the opportunity to improve, to reinvent ourselves, and to correct past mistakes. And, if you don’t change, then change some more, the paddle I mentioned at the beginning of this book is going to find your ass. . .There’s always a force out there, something that’s taking square aim at your business’ success and growth.”
Tilman brings four decades of an exemplary work ethic, powerful deal making and profitable ventures into the stories and strategies he shares in Shut Up and Listen! One of the largest employers in the nation with more than 60,000 employees, his restaurants include a signature collection of eateries, as well more than 60 different restaurant brands and award winning concepts, such as Mastro’s Steakhouse and Ocean Club, Morton’s The Steakhouse, The Oceanaire, Vic & Anthony’s, and Catch, while the multi-unit restaurant brands include such well-known favorites like Chart House, Landry’s Seafood House, Rainforest Cafe, Saltgrass Steak House, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Mitchell’s Fish Market, Dos Caminos, Bill’s Bar & Burger, Joe's Crab Shack and McCormick & Schmick’s. Tilman is also one of the principal shareholders in the fast-growing restaurant platform for online ordering and secondary on-demand food delivery, Waitr Holdings.
Tilman owns and operates numerous hospitality and entertainment venues, including the award- winning San Luis Resort and several other outstanding hotels. In March 2018, he opened the much anticipated Post Oak Hotel, the newest ultra-modern, luxury destination located in Uptown Houston and the city’s only AAA five-diamond award recipient. His entertainment destinations include the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, The Kemah Boardwalk, Downtown Aquarium Denver and Houston and Tower of The Americas in San Antonio which are all featured on the Forbes, Travel Channel and USA Today’s top five lists of attractions.
Tilman’s many personal honors include Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Ernst & Young and induction into the Texas Business Hall of Fame as the second youngest inductee. In 2012, he was named Amusement Today's Person of the Year, and in 2013, he was named Casino Journal's Executive of the Year and is one of Restaurant News' top executive almost yearly. In honor of his contributions to the travel and tourism industry in Texas, he was the recipient of the Texas Travel Industry Association's Heritage Award in 2016.
Tilman believes in the importance of giving back to the community and devotes a substantial amount of time to civic service and charitable organizations. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board for the Houston Police Foundation and Houston Children's Charity and is currently serving his fourth year as Chairman of the Board of Regents, University of Houston. He is on the Executive Committee of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is one of the nation's largest charitable organizations. Additionally, he serves on the boards of the Texas Heart Institute and Greater Houston Partnership. In 2016, he donated $20 million to rebuild the University of Houston’s basketball home of Hofheinz Pavilion, since renamed Fertitta Center, along with donations for the construction of the school’s TDECU Stadium.
“Being in the restaurant and hospitality industries is fun, challenging and keeps you at the top of your game, plus it’s an opportunity to serve millions of customers and interact with the public regularly,” Tilman says. “Though I have made my mark in the restaurant and hospitality industries, Shut Up and Listen! isn’t just for people engaged in those worlds. Athough much of what I write seems geared towards someone who is new in business, or trying to get to the next level in business or on the corporate ladder, I also believe what I have learned can apply to the way people conduct their personal lives as well.
“If the overall idea is to find ways to separate ourselves from what everyone else does, that can be just as meaningful for a stay at home mom taking care of her kids as a Fortune 500 CEO,” he adds. “We can all relate to these simple truths. As I write early on, through all the unbelievable highs and lows in my life and business, I don’t fear anything, but I worry about everything. When things are good, understand they will someday be bad and vice versa, so don’t panic. And the more successful I’ve become, the more I’ve realized that while it’s nice to be important, it’s more important to be nice.’
LIKE A ‘BAT OUT OF HELL’,
CLEVELAND INTERNATIONAL RECORDS
IS READY TO ROCK AGAIN WITH THE RE-RELEASE
OF AN ALL-STAR ROSTER COMPILATION, DIGITAL
RE-ISSUES OF CLASSIC ALBUMS AND A MISSION
TO BREAK NEW ARTISTS
The Re-Launch of the Legendary Indie Label – Originally Formed
In the Mid-70’s – Is the Vision of Steve Popovich, Jr., Son of
The Brand’s Late Founder, Famed Music Industry Exec Steve Popovich
Forty two years after Meat Loaf’s epic, multi-platinum global smash Bat Out of Hell put Cleveland International Records in our collective musical consciousness, the legendary indie label is back in business, re-launching with a CD and LP re-release of its mid-90’s all-star compilation, the first time ever digital releases of up to 15 of its iconic albums, and a mission to start signing and breaking new artists.
The third incarnation of the label that gave us everyone from Ronnie Spector & The E Street Band and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes to polka great Frankie Yankovic is being guided by Steve Popovich, Jr. a veteran radio and entertainment executive whose father, the late famed record industry exec Steve Popovich, founded the label in the mid-70s. Prior to launching Cleveland International, the elder Popovich rose through the ranks at CBS Records, becoming their youngest ever VP of Promotion and later VP of A&R who worked with Cheap Trick, Boston, Chicago, Ted Nugent and had a hand in signing The Jacksons.
“My dad’s story is so interesting, this guy growing up in coal mining towns in Pennsylvania and becoming the person who signed the Jackson 5,” says Popovich, Jr., who began working at the label out of high school during its second incarnation (1995-2003) out of high school. Over the years, his roles included inventory control, production, artwork, manufacturing, distribution, promotion and A&R. He will run Cleveland International out of his home base of Nashville.
“The idea to relaunch had been simmering a while,” he adds, “and when my father’s estate was finally settled seven years after his passing, it seemed like the perfect segue to me transitioning away from my label services company to relaunching Cleveland International. This means everything to me. I was a firsthand witness to how much this label meant to my dad. This label is his calling card for life and a way for his kids and grandchildren to remember him. This isn’t about me, it’s about him, an opportunity to pick up that torch and carry on his legacy.”
On April 5, Cleveland International is set to re-release their Cleveland Rocks compilation on both LP and CD. In addition to Meat Loaf’s “Paradise By The Dashboard Light,” the 13 track collection includes label classics by Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople (the anthem “Cleveland Rocks”), Ronnie Spector & the E Street Band (“Say Goodbye to Hollywood”), Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes (“I Don’t Wanna Go Home”), Just Us Girls (“Time Warp”), Iron City Houserockers (“Have a Good Time But Get Out Alive”), Euclid Beach Band (“There’s No Surf in Cleveland”), The Boyzz (“Too Wild To Tame”), Essence (“Sweet Fools”), Mike Berry (“I Am A Rocker”), The Rovers (“Wasn’t That A Party”) and Bat out of Hell collaborators Jim Steinman (“Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through”) and Ellen Foley (“We Belong To the Night”).
From April to July, the label will re-issue on digital platforms for the first time 10 to 15 albums from its catalog. Though the release schedule is not finalized, it will likely include recordings by Meat Loaf, David Allen Coe, Iron City Houserockers, Southside Johnny, Ian Hunter and The Boyzz.
In addition to working on a documentary about his father’s life, Popovich, Jr. says that the label will launch an apparel line and other creative projects unrelated to the signing and recording of new artists and digital releases. “There are so many possibilities,” Popovich Jr. says. “The fun is not knowing what the future holds.”
Cleveland International’s original heyday ran from 1977-83. By 1983, Meat Loaf was one of the the hottest acts in the world, having sold over 40 million copies of Bat Out of Hell worldwide. Yet the label was $6M in debut because everything was cross-collateralized with CBS at the time. In 1986, Popovich Sr. became Senior VP of Polygram Nashville, working with everyone from the Statler Brothers and Johnny Cash to Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Paycheck, The Everly Brothers and Frankie Yankovic. Relocating back to Cleveland in 1995, Popovich resurrected the label, which released ten albums its first year. Becoming more eclectic, the label expanded from its pop-rock roots into such genres as polka. Cleveland International scored a Best Polka album Grammy in 1999 for Polkasonic’s Brave Combo.