Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans , where we meet some of the people behind the local music scene -- those who aren't necessarily members of local bands, but more the people who make the scene move.
Tony Edwards was almost certainly a hummingbird in a past life.
He darts, moves, and talks at a blur of a pace. And he's done so in the name of promoting music in our local scene and beyond since the mid-'90s. Back then, he worked alongside Aden Holt for the great One Ton Records, a regular back-in-the-day winner for "Best Local Label" at our annual Dallas Observer Music Awards
Then it was on to working signed recording artists on a more national level as an artist and development man for BMG music. It was an exciting gig for Edwards. And, if it was an excited guy they wanted, well, they sure got them one.
See, Edwards has a reputation for being an excitable dude -- kind of like the way Dick Vitale gets excited about college basketball.
After BMG, Edwards worked for a stint at Dallas distributor Crystal Clear, before most recent setting up his roost at FanCorps, a company was started to promote new artists, local and national, utilizing grassroots methodology and street teams. Started in part by South FM drummer G.I. Sanders, the company's really thriving today.
Edwards deserves a lot of credit for that. He's fun. He's a cheerleader for new artists. He's also no slouch of a musician himself, having fronted the occasional rock project himself. Mostly, he just seems to be all over the place, and, through all of his stepping-up in the music and label industry, he's never seemed to have lost sight of his hometown scene.
After the jump, he explains his role in the local scene these days and how he got to where he is. And with much more verve and enthusiasm than I could ever muster.
My experience with you starts in 1999 when you were with One Ton. But take me back farther: When did your interest in the music business begint?
My interest in music has always been there. I remember listening to a my parent's split eight-track (yes, eight-track!) of John Denver and Harry Nilsson when I was a kid. I still love to listen to both to this day. Then, one day, a friend of mine turned me on to The Buck Pets, and I realized that there was amazing music coming out of our own backyard. Bands like The Nixons, Tripping Daisy, Funland and all the One Ton bands fueled my passion for music. From there, I wanted to be around music all the time. I was in marching band. My first job was at Sound Warehouse, and I eventually I got an internship at Arista Records. We won't mention my high school garage band, Zereaux. Oh wait, I just did.
In 1999, One Ton was not only a big player locally, but regionally. Amongst the heavy-hitters you guys worked with was Slow Roosevelt. Tell us about that time, and trying to blow that record up.
Working for One Ton was the best! I was just a kid working as a college rep for BMG Distribution and used to go to all the One Ton shows. I met Aden Holt and offered to help him track college airplay, and then one day he called me and asked me to come work for him full-time. I nearly dropped the phone, but didn't hesitate for a second. We had the most amazing bands: Doosu, Slow Roosevelt, Caulk, Buck Jones, Fixture, Cottonmouth and so on. It was a constant battle trying to get our bands on radio, in magazines, and in the record stores. You and I met when I was tryin' to pimp out SloRo to you when you were at The Edge. What a crazy first night that was.
I remember! You guys gave Slow Roosevelt a good, hard push...
We pushed SloRo so hard, and had bites from Roadrunner and a ton of other labels. Eventually, SloRo left One Ton and I went back to work for BMG, but I had the pleasure of continuing to work with those guys as their manager. We put the last record, Weightless, out through Brando Records and got signed to Reality Entertainment. Things were lookin' up. It was right about that time that I came up with the great idea for the Slow Roosevelt suspension shows -- we actually had guys hanging by hooks in their backs and suspended over the band while they performed. We shocked a lot of people with that move!
Then, of course, there was Doosu and Caulk and so many others. Any particularly standout experiences or memories from supporting and promoting those artists?
I've have so many amazing memories from all of these bands. The one that takes the cake was being on the Goo Goo Dolls and Sugar Ray tour. I spent a whole summer on the road with Buck Jones, who were opening the shows with Frogpond on the second stages. And Sugar Ray toured with a bar right on the actual stage! When Buck Jones took a week off, we went out with Doosu and the reaction to them from the fans, the headlining bands and everyone on the tour was amazing. The coolest rock moment I've ever had in my life was in Knoxville, Tennessee. Fastball had the day off and I begged the Goo Goo Dolls tour manager to let Doosu open the main stage. We went out on stage and, at first, the crowd was like "What the fuck? This ain't Fastball." But, halfway through the second song, and right about the time that Casey Hess busted into his first back bend, the crowd came alive -- 20,000 screaming fans rockin' out to Doosu! After that show, we had fans coming up and asking for autographs, the tour crew telling us how badass they were and Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray hunting us down to tell us how much he loved the set.
Talk to us about One Ton's amazing and successful Buzz Oven campaigns.
Buzz -Oven was actually an idea from a One Ton intern, Matt Gunter, who wanted to get more local music in the hands of high school and college kids around the Metroplex. Aden and I took the idea and ran with it. We pitched it to Coca-Cola, and they immediately saw it as an opportunity to brand their products to the same crowds. The idea was simple: We picked three bands per disc, printed up 50,000 copies and built a network of "buzzers" to pass them out all over town. Then, the whole thing built up to a series of killer showcases for those three bands. When I look back on it, it was amazing what we were able to accomplish just with some amazing local music and some die-hard music lovers!
What were some of the other biggest milestone accomplishments of One Ton? Awards? Charts? Give me the best of the one-sheet braggery!
We were never able to really branch out of our region, but we had some great high points along the journey. Winning the DOMAs for best local label for. like. 10 years in a row or something was rad. We felt the kings of Dallas. But getting our bands on the Goo Goo Dolls/Sugar Ray tour, scoring the demo deal for Doosu with Columbia Records and, finally, getting SloRo signed were all highlights from the great One Ton years.
Jumping forward to nowadays: FanCorps has been going strong for years at this point...
Absolutely! It's been an amazing experience, starting a company from nothing and taking it to the level of working with artists like Lady Gaga and Motley Crue. For anyone who doesn't know what Fancorps is, we're a fan engagement platform and service that allows bands, artists, non-profit organizations and brands the ability to connect with their fan or consumer base and mobilize them as brand ambassadors. We started out running the communities for Bowling for Soup and Blue October, and now our roster is international and includes acts like Gaga, Crue, Toby Keith, All Time Low, To Write Love on Her Arms, Jac Vanek Clothing and many more. Now, we're in the process of developing our mobile and Facebook apps and looking to build our roster of clients even more beyond music. We're positioning ourself to run the consumer communities for Frito Lay, Starbucks, M&Ms and more.
Everyone who knows you knows that, when you go crazy over a record (local or national), you really go crazy! Enthusiasm seems to be a knack of yours. What records are you going crazy over right now?
That's always such a hard question because there's just so much out there. But, right now, at the top of my playlist are Mumford & Sons, Manchester Orchestra and This Will Destroy You. I'm so looking forward to the rest of 2011 and some amazing upcoming albums from Taking Back Sunday, Thrice and Blink-182. I'll tell you one thing I can't get on board with: Arcade Fire. Don't try to convince me otherwise. I've tried a hundred times and, to me, it's just average, indie-pop -- nothing to write home about. As far as local music goes, I'm a huge fan of The Burning Hotels, The Phuss and House Harkonnen! Also, look out for the new Fair To Midland coming out on July 12 -- it's killer.
You've been married a good while now. And yet you're a known workaholic. How in the world do you manage both?
[Laughs.] I get asked that question a lot, and the simple answer is that I have the best wife in the world. I think the key is that opposites really do attract. Kimberlee loves to relax at the house with some alone time and lets me go out and play -- as long as I'm home by 2 a.m. I mean, anyone who's spent a good amount of time with me, knows you need a break sometimes. But we love spending time with each other. All we know is that we love each other and we need to let each other be our own person. As long as we both respect that, it works!
What about adding kids into the fold? Would that be too much for even the energetic Tony Edwards to handle?
Yes! Kimberlee says I need to settle down a little bit before we do, but a little Tony will definitely be running around soon, I think. Can you imagine that? I love playing with my nephews and nieces, and I can't wait to have my own. Actually, I think my wife and I just decided that we're going to start trying to have kids on December 22, 2012 -- the day after the end of the world, y'know? If we're all still here by then, look out!