In response to the Freakwater article which ran in the November 22 issue of your paper [Post No Bills], we would like to clarify a few things.
First, we do not consider the main stumbling block in completing a deal with Freakwater to be creative control. Regardless of the fact that major labels (of which we are aligned to Warner Brothers) do not give up 100 percent creative control lightly, we still must take creative differences into consideration when we are signing artists to E-Squared. With the band's previous recorded history in mind, it would be hard for most people and/or labels to consider them anything more than a niche artist. We, however, felt that they were much more than that and that they could reach an entirely different and much larger audience if they could only be heard (think Alison Krauss story). In our minds, due to the expense and obstacles involved with putting Freakwater on the road to promote their records, we would have to depend largely on radio airplay to expose them to the aforementioned larger audience, specifically AAA radio and, if we were lucky, mainstream country radio. As we are sure you are aware, those formats dictate a higher level of sound quality and production value than Freakwater's previous recordings have captured (due largely, we are sure, to their minuscule recording budgets). Because we are essentially an independent label, we must feel about both the artists we sign and the records they make that we stand a modicum of success once those records come out. Otherwise, we go under.
It is our intention with all artists that we sign to make records of which everyone involved can be proud and that we feel we can market with the resources we have at our disposal. If we don't feel we can do anything with a record we have made, it is our responsibility to the artist to cut them loose to find a better home. With Freakwater, we ultimately came to feel that we were not seeing eye to eye, and we unfortunately did not trust that we could come up with a record with which we could all be happy. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, it began to feel like an unrewarding relationship.
Incidentally, the players we suggested using on the band's record if they signed to E-Squared are Peter Rowan from San Francisco, Norman Blake from Stone Mountain, Georgia, and Roy Huskey Jr. from here in Nashville. We hardly consider them to be your stereotypical Nashville session players. If the band thinks that they are, that is just another example of the unlikelihood of us being able to have a conducive relationship with the band.
E-Squared is essentially an independent record label working on independent label budgets, and therefore we must always take finances into consideration. We were willing to offer Freakwater a substantial amount of money for such an act since we had Warner's backing on this deal, but the band's lawyer kept coming back for more and ultimately we had to pull out, feeling that we simply could not afford the band and the concessions for which they were asking. As for Richard Grabel's "pro bono" work for the band, we were informed by the band that he would be receiving a percentage of the monies he procured for them. With that in mind, it would appear that the work would not have been pro bono for long.
In the end, we are all still great fans of the band and feel that Catherine Irwin is an exceptional writer with a great deal of potential. We regret that we could not feel comfortable making this deal and wish them the best of luck.