Americus serves as ideal backdrop for local’s Southern-Indy music label, “This is American Music”
By MICHAEL MURRAY
AMERICUS — With its relatively laid back living pace and various southern charms, the city of Americus and the surrounding area has, for years, attracted all types of talented and interesting people. Different individuals have run some very successful and exciting enterprises from this small town ranging from very small, mom and pop-style shops to hugely successful non-profits with a global span that reaches nearly every far corner of the world.
One relative newcomer to the town, Corey Flegel, has recently taken up residence in Americus with the idea that the town will serve as an ideal backdrop for a small, independent record label. The label, aptly named, “This is American Music” (TIAM) finds its roots in the ideals of America that can only be found in the Southeast. The artists that the label serves offer a series of different variations on Southern Americana music, ranging from calm and contemplative ballads to chaotic alt-country rock infusions that would satisfy even the most die-hard progressive rock fan.
Though he is relatively new to Americus, Flegel is certainly no stranger to the South. Born in Albany, Flegel has lived in the Southeast for most of his life. He attended Auburn University before returning to Albany to help care for his ailing mother. Flegel went on to complete his degree program at Georgia Southwestern State University, commuting from Albany. He spent a great deal of time while at Auburn pursuing one of his other passions, golf.
Through their love of all things Southern, Flegel and his partners have carved a niche for themselves in the music industry by championing the type of small, independent Southern artists that they, themselves, enjoy listening to and watching perform.
In the catalogs of TIAM, a listener can find an ideal soundtrack to accompany a variety of scenarios, whether it be a sweet tea-fueled morning of sitting on the porch, waiting for the azaleas to bloom … or a raucous trek down a dirt road, illuminated by the shimmering glow of a bonfire reflecting off of a trail of empty cans in the background.
Flegel recently sat down with the Times-Recorder to discuss the blooming business.
“I’ve always been a big music ‘nerd’… that type of music fan and I’ve always had this penchant for trying to find new music, even going back to when I was a little kid,” he explained when asked how he initially became interested in the music business. “In middle school, I wanted to listen to the stuff that wasn’t necessarily mainstream.”
From there, his involvement in the founding of the label happened almost organically, he said. “At some point, I became friends with a few bands, just from knowing them over the years. Basically, I got invited out to go on tour with a band named Glossary … They just let me ride in the van and drink their beer … I almost became this liaison between them and their fans. I was kind of a quasi-tour manager … I was doing all of these different things. Along the way, it got to the point where, basically, I would go along every time they went out on tour.
“I was always touring with them and, at some point, I realized that these bands need more help,” he continued. “These do-it-yourself bands weren’t getting label support and weren’t getting the publicity support that they need. Their managers weren’t doing their jobs … There were all of these little things. We were seeing all of these bands playing and just realizing, ‘Holy cow. We can build a network. We know what a lot of the things are that these guys need.’ I just started doing them, basically for Glossary and a few other bands. That’s pretty much how it got started … just being out on the road.”
The label consists of partners, Flegel, Jay Cooper (in Atlanta), and Nick Nichols (in Chattanooga). Sean Courtney, of Wiggins, Miss., is involved as well. Flegel and Cooper handle the day-to-day operation of the label.
“We talk to Nick and Sean just about every day,” said Flegel, “but Jay [Cooper] and I are the ones who are devoting ridiculous amounts of time to this. We’re the ones doing it on a daily basis.”
“At some point, we became an official record label. We, basically, figured it out on our own,” he said. “We have a distribution deal and they press records and they supply Amazon and things like that. There are all of these other ways that bands can sell … and we help them out with merchandise, like records, CDs, and T-shirts and other stuff that we sell.”
Flegel wears several different hats in the organization, performing duties in both the managerial side of the business as well as working hands-on alongside artists to ensure that they receive appropriate press and exposure.
Flegel also handles the distribution of merchandise from his home in Americus. “I do all of the distribution that comes directly to the bands and to the label. When you order from one of the band’s websites, or to our website, the order comes here … I ship all over the world. I guess I go to the Americus post office two or three times a week, sending packages. I’ve become close with all of the personnel at the post office. It’s kind of funny, actually … I definitely feel like we’re supporting the local economy, at least a little.”
Since its inception in 2011, the label started by this group of friends/business partners has bloomed into a force to be reckoned with in the music world, helping to shape the industry’s current landscape while bringing attention to the independent Southern songwriters that the organization’s founders are so fond of.
Since the label’s beginnings, TIAM has put out nearly 60 records. Asked how many bands are currently represented by the label, Flegel told the Times-Recorder that it is difficult to come up with an exact figure, since many groups have ceased touring or are on hiatus between projects. “Right now, we serve maybe 12-15 working bands,” he said. “We’ve probably worked with close to 30 over the years.
“Some of our projects are kind of passion projects. I think about this all the time. Really, what we basically just want is to work with our friends,” he added. “That’s kind of how this whole thing started. To this day, it still amazes me when people hit me up, which happens nearly every day … random folks wanting to work with us. It just doesn’t work that easily. We feel like there’s a courtship, at least with new people. Pretty much everybody we’ve worked with, we’ve known for quite some time.”
Under TIAM’s tutelage, many of the label’s artists have seen some exciting successes.
“We’ve worked with a few bands that have been on late night TV, like Hurray for the Riff Raff, who have done, basically everything … Letterman, Conan, etc … ,” Flegel offered, as an example of one success story during the interview. “Glossary performed on the Jimmy Fallon Show a few years ago,” he continued. “Late night TV is kind of like the golden goose for small, independent bands, especially bands that we work with. It’s a nice little crowning achievement.”
Another one of TIAM’s signed performers, Caleb Caudle, was recently highlighted in an article on the Huffington Post as his upcoming album’s release date approached. “Caleb has gotten some of the best press that we’ve received for anything. I always feel like we do well with getting our bands press, whether it’s through us or a publicist, or whoever … We’re expecting really big things from the new [Caleb Caudle] record.”
As a label, TIAM, has also helped artists get their music featured in nationwide advertisements and prime time television, most recently on ABC’s “Nashville.” “We’ve been featured on a couple of reality shows and another ABC show called ‘Resurrection’… That was pretty cool,” Flegel said.
Asked if he has a specific position or title within the company, Flegel, an avid sports fan, said that he considers himself the “team’s quarterback.” “It’s kind of funny,” he explained. “Jay [Cooper] and Sean [Courtney] are lawyers … At some point, somebody called me the quarterback because I do a little bit of everything within the business … president, CEO … I think that is, technically, me. Jay [Cooper] jokes that he’s the punter … He’s on special teams because he does the legal work that we have to take care of.”
Since his recent move to Americus, Flegel has begun inviting some of This Is American Music’s signed musicians to his house for small, intimate performances. “We have a really cool house,” he said, referring to himself and his girlfriend, Angie. “Our house is a good space for it and it sounds really good in here. It also fills a need for our bands … It’s a good way to have these small, concentrated shows where these bands make a little money and they get to hang out with friends. Usually, these house shows are attended by fairly like-minded folks. It’s a really cool, intimate affair. People buy records and merchandise. It’s a good thing. There are a lot of people that do house shows. It’s just a good, intimate way to see a band before they get bigger,” he concluded, adding, “We plan on continuing to do this once in a while.”
As a result of these small house performances, Flegel said that he has been contacted by booking agents from other labels, interested in having other bands perform as they pass through the area during a tour.
While flattered, Flegel told the Times-Recorder that he doesn’t wish to take on that extra burden at this time and would prefer to simply continue hosting artists represented by TIAM.
The label’s artists, including such talented groups as Great Peacock, Have Gun Will Travel, Tedo Stone, Caleb Caudle, The Holy Ghost Electric Show, and Glossary, among many others, regularly take off on small tours throughout the Southeast. Flegel has also expressed interest in the possibility of booking groups represented by TIAM for performances in and around Americus when the artists are on these tours, when feasible.
With the plethora of talented individuals on the label’s roster, TIAM’s will hopefully continue to thrive in this community for years to come as they promote their particular flavor of Southern Americana music throughout the country.