Skybucket Records Interview with owner Travis Morgan [Label Profile]

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The intent of our new Label Profile feature is to simply highlight a record label that we feel aligns with our own belief here at The Fire Note that music is an experience.

First up is Skybucket Records out of Birmingham, Alabama. A big thank you goes out to owner Travis Morgan for taking the time to answer our questions. If you like what you hear below make sure to go over to the Skybucket site here and give them your support!

TFN: Who are you? Where are you?

Morgan: I am the owner and label manager for Skybucket Records and I also run Skybucket Management which is a new venture for managing bands. That was started within the past year. I’m a tireless worker, hopeful, a realist, excitable, and romantic. I’m a constant backer of the underdog. I’m located in beautiful Birmingham, Alabama.

TFN: When and how did the label start?

Morgan: The label started in 2002, although our first release didn’t see the light of day until January of 2013. BTW, we will be celebrating our 10 Year Anniversary in February in Birmingham.

TFN: How big is your current active roster?

Morgan: The current roster is small and manageable. Currently we are working with Through the Sparks, Barton Carroll, Delicate Cutters, 13ghosts and Terry Ohms. Additionally the Skybucket Management roster includes two bands, Belle Adair and The Magic Math.

TFN: What does Skybucket look for in a band?

Morgan: I try to find artists that would be making music no matter what. I typically pick those who are emotionally mature and have some business sense. Most Skybucket artists are storytellers in one shape or form. The lyrics are key. I’d like to think that Skybucket has great lyricists and well as great songwriters. Also, those that know what they want and are dedicated to make it happen. Most of the artists I’ve chosen to work with are not in their early twenties, so we have to be methodical how we organize their music career. Most of our artists do not make their living just making and performing music. There are other sources of income.

TFN: Is there a “Skybucket” sound?

Morgan: Dark, very dark sometimes. Ha-ha. Poetic, Timeless, Not Trendy, Emotional…Organic in a lot of ways, sometimes home recorded, extremely professional and well crafted. Most records were either recorded in the artists personal studio or within their city limits.

TFN: Top 3 Skybucket releases?

Morgan: Top is a naughty word and may get me into trouble. How about monumental? I’d have to go with 13ghosts – Cicada, Dexateens – Hardwire Healing and Barton Carroll – The Lost One.

13ghosts: Cicada – This was the first album that got a lot of national (and international exposure). It’s what helped us get distribution as a label. The record was also years in the making, had a couple dozen performers on it, was released in 2 editions (now 3), and had over 20 songs. It defied so much of what was coming out at the time. It was eery, yet soulful, psychedelic yet roots-based. Quite a jewel.

The Dexateens: Hardwire Healing – This was the first album (their 3rd or 4th release depending on how you look at it) we did with Dexateens (then The Dexateens. This record had its struggles coming together, but the end result is very impressive. The process had one of two main songwriters leaving the band mid-recording (but then returning after the record was through). It was recorded in Athens, GA with Patterson Hood and David Barbe, as well as, in Nashville, TN with Mark Nevers. It was certainly the most mature and evolved version of The Dexateens. While it still had its punk rock, balls to the wall moments, it also had a softer side which was crafted at Beech House Recording in Nashville. The record was critically lauded as well as loved by fans. This is also our biggest seller and despite it being our biggest seller, we’re still in the hole on it. That’s the true reality of the recording industry right now, or at least it is for us.

Barton Carroll: The Lost One – This was the second release (third for Barton) for Skybucket. It was more upbeat and witty than his eery and dark Love & War. It is also our first release by an artist not from or based in Alabama. Barton is from North Carolina but has been living in Seattle for a while now. That record was recorded in Seattle with Martin Feveyear. This record also got a lot of great press including The # 1 Album of 2008 by the American Songwriter Editor at Large and featured on Top Ten Albums of 2008 List By Editor of No Depression.

TFN: Has the resurgence of vinyl helped Skybucket?

Morgan: Not really. Skybucket is still small potatoes. Vinyl still costs 4x as much to produce as CD. We’re still selling more cds, yet that seems to be slowing down more and more each year. It might be our locale. Perhaps this part of the region hasn’t caught onto vinyl as much as other markets. Who knows. We are still mostly a regional label (or a Birmingham label). I’m pretty proud of my hometown. While we haven’t had many big bands blow up outside Birmingham, we have a tremendous music scene. We probably have 30-40 really good bands currently and another 50 in the making.

TFN: What is in the pipeline for 2013?

Morgan: The big news is that Skybucket will be celebrating its 10 Year Anniversary. That’s a milestone for us. Also, several acts on our roster will also be celebrating 10 or more years as well. That’s also a major accomplishment.

As far as releases go, we are looking forward to releasing a Through the Sparks 10 Year Retrospective. That will come together in the early spring. Also Terry Ohms (and Them) are slowly recording their first full length as a band, which we think will be available in late 2013. (The previous two Terry Ohms releases were solo). Other than that, we will be having a few events, and even special recordings made available. Sit tight. It’s going to be an exciting year.

TFN: Name an album (classic or new) that gets plenty of airplay at the office?

Morgan: It would have to be The Glands – The Glands. This self-titled album is the second by Athens, GA band The Glands. It’s just an amazing record from top to bottom. Almost everyone that hears it eventually grows to love it. It’s a true classic. One of my top 10 of all time.

TFN: What do you think of the current state of music?

Morgan: That’s a big question. Sometimes I’m overjoyed with music…Sometimes I’m bored, but there’s always something great, new, old or undiscovered. I love that music remains the most identifiable form of art. I feel music brings more people together than any other form of art. It still upsets me that pop artists/Top 40 artists get the spotlight and the glory while so many other unique talents continue to struggle. I love an underdog story like Alabama Shakes, but that’s rare. The one thing I dislike the most is how bands with “the look” tend to get most of the buzz and those that look ordinary but play extraordinarily tend to get behind. I like a band for what they “sound like”, not “look like.” Although, on Thanksgiving my wife, stepdaughter and I were all listening to The Flaming Lips in the car on the way to Georgia and I thought “wow, I’m thankful we live in a world where The Flaming Lips are really popular.” That gives me a lot of hope and joy. That’s the best of all underdog stories.

Christopher Anthony

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