The Hot Seat: Rod McCormack

Published in The Music Network


Sony Music Australia is expanding its country music activities through an alliance with Core Music, the new label owned by celebrated producer Rod McCormack. McCormack’s production credits include albums with the likes of ARIA winners Troy Cassar-Daley and veteran singer songwriter Paul Kelly, and accomplished country artist Adam Harvey. TMN rounded up McCormack for a glimpse at Core, and a look into the issues surrounding country.

What’s Core all about?

It’s a new label set up through Sony Music’s distribution channel. We’ve got releases coming out with Beccy Cole and Gina Jeffreys in September. Later we’d like to establish a songwriter branch. We’re hoping to develop and foster much more domestic Australian country talent than Sony has had the chance to do in the past.

CMC’s Tim Daley had some carefully worded criticism about the direction of Tamworth Festival. Is Tamworth a drag?

I agree with a lot of what Tim says, but it’s easy to generalise. What’s hard is to come up with the answer that will make a difference. I’d like to see Tamworth move forward and progress but we have many challenges in country music.

Is an image problem at the root of those challenges?

The demographic is generally older. The reality is that’s where the records are being sold. Along the way it’s vitally important that we also nurture new talent that can in-turn sell records to a younger demographic. So far, we probably haven’t seen an artist come through and do that as successfully as Kasey Chambers. But I’d love to see it happen more.

Keith Urban is a mainstream star in the US, but here he’s best-known as Nicole Kidman’s husband. What’s holding back our country artists from hitting the mainstream?

In America, country music is a part of their culture and way of life. People discuss Beyonce and George Strait in the same breath. It’s easy to talk about how we’re going to market artists here and what image we want them to have. The challenge right now is for our artists to come up with music that people want to buy. Then you can package it. The industry has to come up with that product that people want.

Country is strong in the US, Canada and Australia. But will it ever expand elsewhere?

Absolutely. Some of our artists are already seeing sales in other countries. Not large, but enough to back tours. Kasey Chambers has a very solid fanbase through Europe and the States. Adam Harvey does very well in Canada and other territories. The McClymonts have a great opportunity to do that. It’s about young artists, and coming up with the product that can do that.

How do you break a new country artist here?

That’s a good question. It comes down to the artist. With the new artists we definitely have to be creative and find new ways to utilize the online world, and certainly TV is very important. We need to find interesting and good ways to service them to radio. We’ll certainly be looking to be innovative (at Core) with the new artists we break through.

Is commercial radio too restrictive with its formats?

Often that’s the case, but that’s ok. I’d love to see more stations that are permanently programming 24/7 country music, and I think they’re slowly emerging. But they’re more at a community and grassroots level. The lineup of the Gympie Muster includes contemporary rock bands, such as Spiderbait.

Does the country scene need to crossover?

I love the idea of mainstream artist coming to town and working with the country artists. I’d much rather they actually did songs with Rod McCormack with them rather than just a set. That kind of interaction can really help bring audiences to new country artists.

Is there any such thing as a new “wave” of Aussie talent ready to break the US? I hope so. I’d like to think those artists can do it just from their own originality, rather than just the fact they’re Australian.

Who do you see doing the business abroad? Adam Brand and the McClymonts have made tremendous inroads and they’re fantastic ambassadors. The person who comes through maybe we don’t know yet. If I knew the answer to that, I’d be putting out the album every week.


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