Guy Forsyth Says You Shouldn't Trust Your Record Labels

Guy Forsyth (Deana Mason)

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At the Granada Theater tonight, Austin singer-songwriter and founding Asylum Street Spanker Guy Forsyth will perform songs from his latest album, which is either ten years old or brand new, depending on how you look at it. Forsyth's Calico Girl, released Tuesday, consists of rerecorded versions of songs from his 1999 album Can You Live Without. This isn't a case of an idea-challenged artist scavenging from his past, though. Forsyth says that because of the label's failure to live up to its side of the contract, he doesn't receive any money from sales of the original album.

Forsyth redid the entire album and added a scathing diatribe against the music industry as an introduction. But he didn't stop there. Forsyth went on to create his own music label, Small & Nimble. He also formed an organization called Artist Authorized that allows artists to download a logo indicating that they approve a music release.

We caught up with Forsyth to talk about his tour, latest album and his efforts to help protect musicians' interests.

Tell me about your upcoming tour. Are you playing with a band, or solo?

I've played in a lot of different lineups. Right now, I'm working with Will Landin, who plays bass and sousaphone, and Rob Hooper, who plays drums and cajon and percussion. So we're playing as a trio, which I like a lot. We can play a festival, like a 20,000-person festival, and it feels like it fills the space, and we can also play little quiet rooms, too. They're both such monster players, it feels like it can go anywhere. I refer to them as my musical ninjas. [laughs]

So the new record is actually something you put out about 10 years ago, but you had trouble with the label, right?

Yeah, it was a record that was put out about 10 years ago. A lot of people that have a career that goes more than a couple years have trouble with the record business. The record business, being a business, you know, you get what you negotiate, not necessarily what you deserve. I think it's a business that takes advantage of the fact that a lot of younger musicians are really optimistic and they're doing everything they can to get their music out there. Artists and businessmen are working on different poles. And the way it works, is the artists are usually the last ones to get paid, and that's a shame.

But these are songs that I really wanted to have out. I write songs all the time and have no shortage of new material, but this record is important to me because these songs are things that I really want to say. I hope that whatever sort of impact that I have on the world, these songs communicate what I want to say, which is basically 'love.'

So it's essentially the same album plus the introductory track "Where'd You Get the Music?"

The first song is something we came up with in the studio while we were checking mikes and just loosening up, and I thought we'd use it as sort of our thematic statement. But the difference from the original record and this one is 10 years of practice and refining, I think.

Tell me about setting up your own label.

Now I'm in a situation where I have my own record label, rather than give control over to someone else. What's important to me is that, with all the changes in technology, I can control all these different parts of my career and call the shots, make the artistic decisions I want without compromise, and also control the business decisions. It's a hell of a lot of work. I wear so many more hats than I ever did 10 years ago. It's nice to succeed or fail on my own merit, rather than depend on someone else.

What is Artist Authorized?

We put together this web site that makes the logo available to artists, not the record companies. It basically informs the record-buying public that the artist is getting paid for his or her music. Because there are a lot of labels out there that do deals and don't pay. They're breaking contracts, but it's hard as an artist to litigate because litigation is so expensive and takes so much time. If you're a hustling artist out there, you're not likely to have $10,000 to throw at a legal problem—especially if the legal problem is that you're not getting paid. --Jesse Hughey

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