Omnivore Records’ Cheryl Pawelski:
The TVD Interview

Cheryl Pawelski, co-founder of Omnivore Recordings, summed up her label thusly: “I turned my obsession into a profession.” The Grammy-nominated producer and archivist is a big-label refugee and a self-professed “record nerd” who wants to continue the legacies of artists and bands she loves. Over the last two decades, she’s been responsible for the compilation and curation of demo tapes, boxsets, and reissues from some of music’s biggest names—from The Beach Boys to John Coltrane—mostly for labels like Capitol Records and Rhino.

Since 2010 she’s been at the helm of Omnivore Recordings, an independent catalog label responsible for painstakingly curating legacy, historical, and heritage albums for true fans and music lovers. She and the co-founders of the label come from a variety of major music industry backgrounds and bring their love of music to Omnivore. Their mission? “Create, devour, repeat.”

Cheryl would tell you that Omnivore exists because the world deserves to hear fantastic music. Period. The records Omnivore curates are all over the musical map, ranging from classic soul to new wave to indie rock to unheard gems from some of the biggest names in music—like Bert Jansch, The Knack, Leon Russell, Richard Thompson, Big Star, Wanda Jackson, Merle Haggard, George Jones, the Old 97s and so many more. And the Omnivore crew aren’t stopping with albums. They’re spearheading CBGB, a movie about the legendary New York City rock club, and a documentary about perennial rock and roll influencers, Big Star. 

Cheryl’s deep knowledge and love of music is evident in the reverent way that Omnivore delves into artists’ catalogs. She loves the album format and she loves telling the stories of the artists and bands she champions. If you’ve ever wanted to see what a label would look like if it were run by record collectors and vinyl enthusiasts, read on about Cheryl’s journey through the many facets of the music industry and the work that Omnivore Recordings does on a daily basis.  

I love that your personal tagline is “Music in every possible way.”

[Laughs] It’s just always been that way. I’m hardwired that way. When you’re passionate about something and you get to do it as a profession, that’s just the best thing.

And you started out in the music biz working in a record store?

Yep. [Laughs] Ye olde record store! Actually, when I was in school I was studying advertising through a journalism sequence. First I thought I was gonna be a teacher, then I thought I was gonna be an advertising person. But I quit all that and went to work at the record store because I felt like I needed to more about important things like distribution! [Laughs] One thing kind of led to another, but even the stuff I did in school kinda worked its way into all this stuff; really, it’s one discipline to make records, and it’s another one to sell them. So, one thing informs the other.

Is the store that you worked at still there?

No. Rose Records in Chicago bought it, and then it quickly thereafter tanked. I left after Rose bought it; I’d already moved to LA. It was a place called Radio Doctors. What was great about it was it was also a one-stop. When I first started working there, my first job was down in the warehouse picking and packing stuff up to send to other record stores in Wisconsin. That was a good thing to learn—that’s exactly why I went to that store. I wasn’t aware of the one-stop thing and all the distribution stuff, which is part of the reason why I went there to learn it. But I didn’t even know what that stuff was when I went there. I got a good lesson in record retail! Not every record store is a one-stop.

So, it was a big distribution point for other stores in the area?

Yeah. What happened was some stores were one-stops, and that meant they’d bring in all of this extra product because maybe they had warehouse space or whatever. Then they’d sell ones or twosies to smaller stores. Instead of buying two copies of Born to Run, they’d buy a box and then when local stores needed to buy them, Radio Doctor sold them to them instead of going direct from the distributor. And they got kind of big on that. It was a good sort of extra business to be in. Now the big one-stops have made a middleman business out of helping distribute records to the mom-and-pop stores that the major distributors have cut off for being too small.  That may all change again now that the big box stores have largely stopped carrying records. So, it’s all going to go back the way it was, [Laughs] which is how things happen in this world, you know?

Definitely. There are many aspects of the industry that seem like they’re cycling back to how things were about forty years ago or so. Music is becoming more singles-based instead of album-based, and there are more and more small labels releasing records. It all seems to be coming back around.

It does. The more people recognize that, the better off you are, because that’s when you can sort of peer over the edge and see what’s coming next. I’m hopeful that we’ll actually get back to some regional music because when things first started out, back in the Dark Ages of the last century [Laughs], you’d have regional hits! And those regional hits would get bought up by the big major labels for distribution. So, you could have a hit in Seattle and nobody would hear about you in Boston. But if it started creeping onto the national charts—and that’s how you got the whole payola scandal back in the day—but it leveraged these things up into a national spotlight. But as soon as you started getting traction there, the big boys would come and buy it.

I’ve talked to people who are of a certain age who remember how regionalized music was back in the day. For people on the West Coast, the big rivals for The Beatles initially were The Beach Boys; on the East Coast, it was the Four Seasons. It’s amazing that such differences even existed and that they don’t exist at all anymore.

I have a feeling that we might start seeing a little bit more of that again. Everybody said that digital was the great leveler—an equal playing field for everybody. But that’s not true because people still have to find out about your record. The sort of utopian vision of the internet as the end-all, be-all to everything is just so wrong. The forest is bigger now. Unless you have somebody paying money to tell people about you as an artist… how do people find out about you? You have 200 “likes” on your Facebook page? Well, who cares? Millions of dollars went into making Jackson Browne, Jackson Browne. Is he good? Yes, he’s good. Is he handsome? Yes, he’s handsome. All of the things that you need to be “a star” [are there], but Jackson Browne is Jackson Browne because people dumped a boatload of cash into him. That’s the long and short of it.

But you worked in A&R for a major label. Surely you can see that A&R, along with artist development, seems to be going by the wayside. If a big label is going to pick up your band today, you’d better be fully formed with the exactly the sound or look they want.

Well, development has gone by the wayside more than A&R has. There’s a lot of really great independent labels that are doing some wonderful artist development. That’s where A&R resides in the way that we used to know it. A&R is “artists and repertoire.” Remember back in the day, you had a whole separate publishing business. You had song pluggers. So, that’s why you had Carole King coming out of the Brill Building and Neil Diamond writing songs for other people, and it was the A&R guy that said, “Okay, you’re a good singer.” There was no such thing as artists that wrote their own songs back then. It was an entirely different job; it has some logical development.

That’s not to say that you don’t get a Dave Matthews Band or an Amanda Palmer or people like that that can last off of their own popularity for whatever reason. With Amanda Palmer, it’s her incessant Twittering. [Laughs] With Dave Matthews, it was his regional, live act—that’s how he came to national prominence. There’s different ways of doing it, and the internet might be one of those things, but we’ve also seen how fleeting that is. I don’t even know who that one girl was who had a terrible song about Friday or Saturday or something—that lasted thirty seconds. How valuable is that?

To me, right now the majors are pumping out stuff that’s sort of tried and true and fitting into a particular box. They’re not doing any artist development right now, and that’s largely economic. It’s where we came after the CD boom when you could sell anything on a bright, shiny round piece of plastic and aluminum. Those days are gone, so that’s been leveled out, but that doesn’t mean that all of this other stuff isn’t bubbling under and happening as far as development and how you get noticed as an artist. There might just be additional tools, but as we’ve seen—they’re not necessarily the end-all, be-all tools because somebody still has to tell the world about you. And that’s hard to do, and it’s harder these days because our attention as a culture is fractured. It’s a sticky wicket. [Laughs] Everything comes around again, so what does that tell you? There’s things to be on the lookout for. I don’t know what they are, but… [Laughs] If I had a crystal ball, I’d be a zillionaire!

You’d mentioned before this conversation that you had some huge things that you were preparing for. Can you tell us what you have going on?

They’re in progress—I can’t tell anybody! [Laughs] There’s a lot of stuff in the wind right now. We re-did ourselves as a company; we started out wanting to be a catalog label, which is essentially what we are. But then we started a publishing company, and now we publish the songs of Dennis Wilson and we’re working with some other writers. And we represent some artists for film and television uses. So, there’s lots of other business that are sort of back-end things for us.

When looking at the Omnivore crew’s bios, I see a lot of Warner Brothers and Rhino. I’ve always heard that Warner Brothers is the artists’ major label, and what Rhino does as a catalog label is nothing short of amazing. Los Angeles Nuggets is one of my favorite box sets of all time.

Thank you! That one was pretty fun to pull off and was an amazing odyssey, and largely the vision of my friend Andrew Sandoval. We’d all been big fans of the original Nuggets. Before I got to Rhino, my other friend Alex Palao produced the San Francisco version of that. When I was at Rhino, we go to do the LA one, which was really great. And, of course, two days after it came out we all got blown out. [Laughs] That was kind of sad, so it was our going-away present. [Laughs]

Brad Rosenberger, one of my partners [at Omnivore], was at Warner/Chapell for twenty-one years on the publishing side, which has enabled us to start our publishing business. Duch Cramblitt, my other partner I actually met at Rhino when he was the head of sales there. It was a good place to be for a while!

I love that you pick such interesting artists for Omnivore. What does an artist have to do to make the cut for you guys?

It’s predicated on a lot of things. We’re a catalog label, which means we’re not signing and breaking new artists. That’s not our area of expertise. We all largely come from the catalog world. My job is to find artists and music with an interesting story that may have been overlooked or never released before. And we’re all crazy collectors, too. If you’re a fan of, let’s say Jellyfish, I knew that there was a little group of fans that were dedicated to that band, but they weren’t big enough for a major label to pay attention to now, just because of the numbers. Fair enough—that’s why we exist.

We can do those kinds of projects because our overhead is lower. It’s okay if we don’t sell a million units. There are underserved audiences out there who really love this music and because we’re collectors, I always take a look at stuff that way too, and think, “If I were out at the record store and were a big fan of this band, what could I do that would entice me to buy that record?” What throws it up over the top? What makes it so cool that you can’t put it down, you’ve got to walk out of the store with it? I take a look at all that stuff, and I take a look at the audience that is there for the band, or if the music deserves a second airing.

There’s a band, Spain, that was really active in the ‘90s and early 2000s. They’ve recently regrouped and put out an album in Europe. I always thought their records were amazing and never got the attention that they deserved back then. It could be anything like that, you know? It’s making a case for an artist like Spain, or revisiting something that’s a complete classic record like Sam PhillpsMartinis & Bikinis, or finding something that’s never been released before that adds to an artist’s discography—like The Knack demo record that we just did; that’s all stuff that Doug and Berton were writing before they became The Knack. But some of those songs like “Good Girls Don’t” and “That’s What Little Girls Do” turned into some of their bigger hits, and here they are in sort of their incubation stage as demos. To me, as a fan of The Knack, that’s the stuff that’s really interesting to me. To me, that’s worth spending the time and the money and the resources and the effort to tell another part of their story.

So, it could be any of those things, it could be a combination of those things. There’s a lot of stuff that’s out of print these days that I feel need to come back into print—like this Bert Jansch record called Heartbreak. That’s been out of print and it’s a really beautiful record. The guys who produced that record were also working closely with McCabe’s at the time. When Bert was out here cutting [Heartbreak], he did a show at McCabe’s—that’s now a bonus disc in that package because it shows what he was doing at the time, actually live, while he was recording this record. Some of the songs from the record show up and some of his better-known songs show up as they would in a live show. But [the live bonus disc] contextualizes that record and gives it a reason for it to come back out onto the market again.

The passion that you have for all this is so obvious.

[Laughs] It’s fun—everything is a big puzzle!

Do you feel that your work with Omnivore is the most rewarding part of your career so far?

Well, there’s a lot of different steps to that. When I first got a temp job at Capitol Records… that was amazing. When I was sitting outside of Pete Welding, the A&R guy in Catalog at Capitol, I used to sit outside his office and answer phones for this guy I was working for. [Pete] came out of his office as I was talking to a music supervisor about some period jazz stuff—about Sidney Bechet—and Pete came out of his office and said, “How do you know who Sidney Bechet is? You’re too young!” And I said, “Well, Mr. Welding, anybody can buy records!” He was like, “You wanna work in A&R?” And I was like, “Yes.”

It’s all been through those degrees. Moving to LA, falling off the turnip truck, and then finding myself working at Capitol Records was pretty amazing. There’s little rungs all the way along the line. I talk to a lot of friends of mine who tell me I have that entrepreneurial thing. And I think yeah, I know, but I’m always happy to be part of a team, too. For twenty years I did that at various labels at different places. Everything is kind of a stepping stone and it all adds up to an experience level that finally enabled me to do this. To me, it’s like another stepping stone I guess. Every record I put out is another stepping stone—it’s all exciting. Being nominated for Grammys is exciting; being able to give back and do benefit records is exciting; they all have their own rewards. They’re all a heaping pile of work, but it all adds up to something eventually.

That’s the thing—it’s being receptive and open and learning at every step and realizing that the more you know about what you do, the less you know because there’s always so much more to learn. So, I don’t know if I could say conclusively that any of this stuff is a high water mark. I’m certainly doing things that I’ve never done before, but I’m drawing on all the experience that I’ve amassed. I find myself having to be smarter than I’ve ever been at things that I’ve never done. [Laughs] I find that at every plateau. I don’t know if anything is the topper; I think it’s a journey.

That’s the entrepreneurial thing your friends are talking about, I think—putting yourself in a place to make things happen and then making them happen.

I think it comes down to your—it’s not even an appetite—it’s your willingness to take chances. I could just go back and take another job and that would be fine… I guess it’s that risk/reward thing; I always feel like I have to push forward. I don’t know if that makes you entrepreneurial at the end because you finally come to a place where the challenge is outside of all the other things that you’ve done?

I think that’s the point that I came to when we started Omnivore. It had been something that had been in the back of my mind for a long time, but it was more like, “Do I have all the tools in my toolbox to get there now?” I thought about it for a while, but I was also working in pretty good jobs and fairly high-profile jobs, and that was rewarding in and of itself. But I kept looking for the next challenge. To me, the way the business has gone, coupled with the places I had been, it was just the time to take that chance, to roll those dice. I waitressed for a long time, and it was one of those things where it occurred to me that it wasn’t the job I didn’t like, it was doing the same thing every day. The music business—and I don’t know how it compares to a lot of other businesses… but I think if you make a can of Coke, that can of Coke that you make today is probably going to be the same can of Coke that you’ll make tomorrow. But every record I make has a different audience, and there’s a different way to talk to those audiences and a different way to sell [their records]. Queensryche and Anne Murray are two very different things!

I feel like there’s one constant, and that is that every record is somebody’s favorite record. It’s my job to respect that and do the best job that I can do as if it’s my favorite record. Every project that we do is different—no one is the same. To me, that’s fun because it’s a challenge. Some people don’t like that. They find comfort or run their lives differently and that’s why when it comes to starting your own company and stuff, you might have to have a screw loose somewhere. [Laughs] Or just have the stomach to be willing to take chances.

It’s clear that you treat every release like it’s your favorite record, as evidenced by the artwork, packaging, and media you use. I see lots of cool, colored vinyl. Do you feel like vinyl in particular is an important component to presenting the albums in your catalog?

Well, vinyl is a deliberate format. By that I mean… CDs hold eighty minutes of music. You can put that on in your car or whatever and let it roll. With digital as a configuration, you can put things on shuffle and just let it roll. With vinyl, you actually have to go, pull it out, flip it over at some point—it’s a very deliberate act. To me, it’s a different way of listening to music and I like that it’s an active, physical choice that you have to make. And I like the fact that it’s restricted by time. I think that a lot of people would agree with me that when you could double the length of an LP on a CD, things got a little long. Things got a little verbose, a little windy—maybe not as concise and pointed and crafted as the choices you would have to make if you only had twenty minutes per side.

And so, records were constructed differently, right? As an artist, you had to think about how you were going to start and end a side. You had to think about how you were going to start and end a record. If you recorded 100 songs, what were the ten or twelve that were going to go on that thing, and what were you going to say with that? There were a lot of choices that had to be made and, in essence, I think it boiled it down to possibly the best or the most concise thing that an artist wanted to present. Making art is more about what you leave out than what you put on sometimes. It forces you to confront all of those artistic choices. So, as a work of art, I find [vinyl] to be—these days—unique in that.

I don’t dislike CDs, I don’t dislike digital. Any time people are buying music and enjoying music, that’s a great thing. But I especially do like the fact the artist had to make choices, and those choices are reflected in that piece of work that I’m getting on a [vinyl] album. I think the art might wind up being better sometimes. If you look at the limitations that The Beatles had and the amount of tracks that were available to them to make their songs… now we’ve got unlimited amounts of tracks. Has the art gotten better? I don’t know. Some of it, maybe—maybe artists are so good they can make those particular choices, but I think when you have an envelope to push… sometimes it makes you define what you’re doing better.

With the way time and attention is fractured among a variety of formats and devices, vinyl seems like a way to bring focus back to music as an experience.

I agree with that, but that’s not to say you can’t have an eighty-minute record or a library of 1,000 tunes that aren’t exemplary. It’s just when you’re having to whittle it down to a certain thing, you have to make some really critical decisions. “Critical” is the operative word because you critically have to think about what you’re presenting. I think that often times, that creates better art.

Given the options available, Do you feel like mom-and-pop record stores are still relevant as a way to distribute music?

Sure. I think that they’re especially relevant because they’re a place where people talk about music and learn about music. I’ve gone into a lot of stores where I’m like, “What the hell are they playing?” [Laughs] I remember the first time I heard anything from Sea Change by Beck, there was an advance copy playing in the store and I was like, “I know that voice, but what is this? This is genius! This is beautiful!” I went up to the clerk and said, “What the hell is this? This is the best thing I’ve heard in ages!” But what a cool way to learn about it, because I’m in the company of people who are there because they really love music and they’re looking for something—maybe the latest whatever, I don’t know. The guy behind the counter said, “This is the new Beck,” and there were at least three other people saying, “Oh, I was wondering what that was!”

To me, that community… it’s a place of learning and it’s a place of sharing. We all still go to the movies even though we can download whatever or stream whatever. There’s all that stuff, but there’s a communal thing about going to the movies or going to see a concert that isn’t replicated when there’s not a hundred other people around you sharing that same experience. I feel that there’s a little bit of that in the record stores, and I feel that they’re valuable for that reason. It’s not just the distribution of the artifact and the good and the hard copy; it’s about somebody behind the counter that might know of something you might be into.

In some places record stores are so few and far between that you know whoever works there must do so because they really love music.

Yeah, and I find them springing up all over the place now. LA, Brooklyn, Chicago—even Milwaukee where I’m from—there’s new record stores springing up because they serve that particular function. Yeah, you can order anything you want off of Amazon or go to the artists’ website, but there’s that chance by walking into a record store that you might find something that you didn’t know about before. It’s harder to do when you’re looking at six bricks on a screen. Or Amazon says, If you like Melissa Etheridge, you’ll like the Indigo Girls! It’s like, well… okay, but maybe I just really like Melissa Etheridge and I’m not interested in the Indigo Girls. If I like Art Pepper and Miles Davis, it doesn’t mean I’m a big jazz freak where suddenly I must be interested in Thelonius Monk. Maybe I am, but a lot of times I think that’s where the [cover] art comes in on the record side.

I try to make stuff look so good that you pick it up and it lures you in and says, “Hey, this is interesting!” If you’re walking through a record store, something might catch your eye that you don’t know about. And it could be anything. It could be a great South African artist you didn’t know about. If something pulls you in, you might take a chance on it. I don’t know that you can necessarily replicate that experience online. Make no mistake—the greatest way to learn about and sell music is word of mouth, like your friends turning you on to stuff. Music is a passion and an emotional thing so [your friends are] a great way to discover music, but nobody can really buy or pay for that influence. So, the happenstance of walking through a record store is kind of a cool thing. I can’t tell you how many records I bought just because the cover looked cool!

Speaking of cool record covers, you had part of your own record collection—hundreds of sci-fi and space-themed record covers—displayed at the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, among other places as Spaced Out! The Final Frontier In Album Covers. Did you collect them because they looked cool?

Well, it started out that way! I have an enormous record collection because it’s sort of a living, breathing reference library for me. It’s what I do. But I’m also a collector and a record nerd. I noticed one day as I was moving things around and organizing that I realized that I had a couple of space covers. I kept looking through stuff and realized, oh my God—I have a lot of space covers! [Laughs] It had gotten to the point in my record buying and my career where I would pick stuff up if I wanted to learn about them or if I thought they were interesting. So, somewhere along the way I must’ve just started picking that stuff up. And when I realized I had sort of a critical mass of it, I thought… wow!

If you have enough of anything it starts to organize itself, so I recognized that all the covers that I had that depicted outer space came between the ‘30s and ‘40s to when we landed on the Moon. I started thinking about that because my collection largely cut off in ’69. It occurred to me then that after we landed on the Moon, the art changed. It became these crazy fantasy covers like Yes and Journey and all that other stuff because we had been there. We didn’t have to imagine what it was like anymore. So, the naïveté and fantasy of those early covers during the whole “space race” era of the last century really were beautiful and they depicted something that you just couldn’t necessarily… I realized that this really ties to my childhood—my obsession with this stuff. So, it was just cool. It was a cool thing to discover. I’d like to do a book of the covers and maybe an audio sampler with it. That’s all stuff when I have some spare time again when. Things are a little bit drastic these days. [Laughs]

Do you have particular artists or catalogs you’d like to work with for Omnivore? Or is that too political of a question?

I’ve been asked that a lot throughout my career. It’s not so much political as it is really hard to answer because the nature of what I do… I have my favorites. I’ve gotten to work with some of them and some of those artists are my friends now. But it’s strange—some catalogs have been done really, really well. As a fan, I’m happy that they’re there. Some stuff I would love to work with, but it’s hard to define because the way that records come to me is through twenty years of relationships and knowing what’s out there, and it’s mixed with the aesthetic and the stuff that I like against the business realities of what I do. I used to say that my job is filling the holes in the bins. And that was during the whole re-issue era where there was so much that had been on LP that needed to be put on CD. That was a different concern; that was serving the market and serving those fan bases. To some extent I still do that, but what we’ve done is blown it out.

Take The Knack. When I was at Capitol, we reissued their records with bonus tracks. Now part of what I do is to continue to tell that story, but adding to the discography and not just getting stuff on CD that was on LP before. Now I’m looking for things that adds story, that haven’t been out before.

You can see that I can’t as a label just do things that I like—not that you’re implying that—but are there things I’d love to work on? Sure. But there’s business realities to some of that and some of that has other caretakers. I could reel off a bunch of artists that I’d love to work with, but… I might still get to work with those people. That’s a hard question to answer just because there are so many mitigating factors as to what gets done by whom, how and when. [Laughs] That’s a hard one—I don’t mean to be evasive!

I’m very grateful for the artists that I’ve always been a fan of that I’ve gotten to work with. Things from The Band and The Beach Boys to Richard Thompson and Big Star.

I’m insanely jealous of your authentic neon Big Star sign, by the way.

[Laughs] Believe me—that was a gift, and a deeply meaningful one. Like I said, it’s a journey and it’s a weird one. In some ways when people that you’ve been a fan of your whole life suddenly become your friends, you’ve got to look at things in a different way. Sometimes that works out great and sometimes—I’ll quote Bruce Springsteen—you’ve got to trust the art and not the artist. Because artists are people, too, and you may or may not get along with them. We have a tendency to project things onto artists because of their art that has nothing to do with the artist. So, it’s a tricky wicket. [Laughs]

Especially from the artist’s perspective, it’s difficult. You have all of this stuff that comes with being an artist and sometimes, because I work in the catalog area, there’s baggage that comes with that. I wasn’t there when they originally signed to certain labels. I don’t know if they had good or bad experiences, so when you come along as a catalog person as a representative of a label—and I don’t have that anymore because I’m not an agent of those companies anymore, I’m an agent of myself—which is a different way of coming to an artist. You’re there because you appreciate their work. That’s different than sitting at the label and going to them saying, “Now we want to reissue this.” You may or may not be received well, predicated on the history that artist has with the label. There’s a lot to deal with on the back end that the public never sees that, frankly, nobody’s really at liberty to talk about because it’s none of my business what happened between an artist and a label and a manager and an attorney and the band members, and oh my gosh. [Laughs]

I imagine you get a lot of grateful hardcore fans who are interested in the albums Ominvore releases.

I think about this a lot because we get a lot of email and Facebook messages and all this other stuff from people who are really, really intensely passionate about this stuff. If they get a record with a skip on it, suddenly I’m the villain. There’s so much that can happen in manufacturing and stuff… but I feel like anybody who’s buying a record that we put out is a friend of mine I just don’t know yet.

I say that because I’m that fan of other stuff I get to put out, so I want to treat everybody with that respect. But, you know what? If the Toyota Sell-a-Thon is happening and you miss the sale, you don’t get ticked off and write a letter to the company. The sale’s just over. It’s different in the music industry, and it’s crazy because it’s so emotional. I do my best to respectfully respond to everybody and everything, but people get really emotional about music. That’s what makes it so awesome and that’s what makes it really hard! [Laughs]

You and your colleagues at Omnivore are big-label vets. What do you think about the state of the industry now?

We’re kind of at a point in the business where it needs to reinvent itself. It got very big and very bloated and it’s contracting now. I want to come out the other end of that as a trusted source. I would like nothing less than people to see… if there’s an Omnivore logo on something, it means quality and that care went into it. We’re fans, too, so we get it. We understand it and we’re doing our best to make something great that might wind up being your favorite record. The more I can explain this stuff, the better I’m doing at my job. I’m always happy to blather on about this stuff, because this is what I do. [Laughs] I’m not gonna go do something else.

My challenge right now is to, to some degree, evangelize about this because everybody has a favorite record. Everybody loves music. Music is an integral part of the human experience. If I can build a company that gets our fans to say, “I trust you guys. I may not be a jazz guy, but I’m going to try something else because I trust your curating.” If we can do that, then I get to do this forever and that’s good for me, that’s good for my company, but it’s also good for the fans because there’s a fan at the wheel.

Photo: Greg Allen

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