“We have a choice to keep working the scene on our own, waiting for some spotlight of fame to fall on us, or we can pull together and generate our own wider glow.”
Having grown up in a large family, Phillip St. Ours learned a valuable lesson: that more can be accomplished through the mutual efforts of a collective than by combining the work of individuals. Taking that notion to heart, he recently established County Wide Music, a record label based here in Charlottesville, VA that aims to employ this same ideal within the music community.
It’s common practice for artists on the same label to work together and promote each other’s work, but St. Ours takes this notion a step further: “It’s all about amplifying our talents and sharing common ground,” he explains. “I wanted a bigger brand to unify a spectrum of artists.”
“It comes down to the costs every individual band faces when they’re out there cold and alone. We all need web presence in the digital age. We need studio time. We need promotion and press and radio play. We need fans above all else and friends and we need support. Why should we build a dozen different platforms for every band? Why build something that is only useful once? We’re talking about cross promotion, studio deals, venue arrangements, a shared digital sales platform, radio play…”
His ingenuity will certainly be one of St. Ours’ strongest allies in this endeavor, a trait he has showcased for years as lead singer and songwriter for local indie rock band, Pantherburn. As Anne Williams of WNRN pointed out in an interview a few weeks back, Phillip’s writing style is uncommon for a musician raised in the tradition of old-time music and bluegrass, as he seems to place a higher importance on conveying a feeling or thought than on telling a story or creating a picture for the listener. His approach to County Wide Music is much the same, as he seeks to hold events that celebrate the spirit of the album rather than its marketability.
On February 25, County Wide kicked off its first season of events with a listening party for Pantherburn’s upcoming full-length release, Dark and Troubled. This event, held at the Blue Moon Diner, provided a first look at the label’s unique approach to artist promotion. By inviting several local musicians, including Sam Bush of the Hill and Wood, Sarah White, and Carl Anderson, to play their own renditions of tracks from the album, the event served as a celebration of the community and a tribute to the music rather than a sales pitch. “We don’t sell the records that night,” he explains. “We listen to the record. We listen to the audience. We listen for feedback. We form friendships. It’s the new model and I hope it catches on and lasts a while.”
The fruit of over a years’ hard work, Pantherburn’s new record will see its official release this Saturday, March 10, at the Southern Café and Music Hall. Fellow County Wide Artists Chamomile and Whiskey as well as local singer-songwriter Carl Anderson will open. Chamomile and Whiskey will follow suit with an EP release scheduled for next month, and likewise, Mister Baby will premiere a new record some time this summer. One can also expect listening parties similiar to that held for Dark and Troubled for each of the additional upcoming releases. Phillip’s brother Bobby St. Ours is also working on a record to be released this year.
Though Phillip St. Ours has been the driving force behind the creation of County Wide, he attributes the success of the label’s start to its many supporters, among them Laura Galgano and Rice Hall, owners of the Blue Moon Diner, photographers Aaron Farrington and Bill Hunt, designer Sarah Webb, and local venues the Southern and the Jefferson Theater, to name a few.
He hopes to soon grow the label to include a multitude of other local musicians and showcase the true collective spirit of this community.
In case you missed County Wide’s inaugural event and Pantherburn listening party, come out to the Southern on Saturday to celebrate the release of Dark and Troubled, sponsored by WNRN. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. Doors open at 8 pm.
For more information on County Wide and the artists they represent, visit http://www.countywidemusic.com.