What prompted you to start the label?
A bunch of my friends growing up in Omaha, NE were playing in bands and making what I believed to be some of the best music around. I never really considered myself much of a player myself but I knew I wanted to be involved in whatever way I could. And since all my friends were writing, recording, and touring the country it just made since for me to help out from the promotion and marketing side of things. I was always more left-brained to my right-brained counterparts.
Saddle Creek grew out of Lumberjack Records, which started in Omaha as a collective of sorts. Members of Bright Eyes, Cursive, and Norman Bailer (which would turn into The Faint) were all hanging around each other as friends; playing in each other’s bands and going to shows. There were a few early releases under the Lumberjack Records moniker that laid the groundwork for the label; and when Mike Mogis and I were in college in Lincoln, NE and had to come up with a business concept for the final project of the entrepreneurship class we were in, we decided to focus on Saddle Creek. We were already working on it outside of class and this not only allowed us to get school credit, but it also forced us to put together a business plan as well. Around that time, Cursive was trying to get signed, Conor Oberst was working on solo 4-track recordings that would ultimately become the first Bright Eyes release, and The Faint was becoming a band that needed a label as well. We said ‘Let’s just do it ourselves.’
What has been your proudest moment of the label so far?
Obviously there are certain milestones, but just being able to sustain it for as long as we have makes me proud. When we were really getting going during college I would never have predicted that we’d all still be doing it 20+ years later.
Which three to five albums would you recommend to someone who maybe doesn’t know the label and wants to start checking it out?
This is always a hard question since it’s like choosing your favourite child, but here’s a starter pack with a mix of catalog and newer stuff:
If money was no object, which artist(s) – past or present – would you love to sign to the label?
Beyonce, Fugazi, and The Replacements
If you had one piece of advice for someone wanting to start a label, what would it be?
I would encourage anyone that wants to start a label to do it, but you have to really want to do it – almost NEED to do it. It’s always been a tough thing to get going, and it’s probably even harder today. If the incentive is to make money then there are way better options out there for sure. But if someone has a strong work ethic and a passion for music then by all means, I don’t think there will never be a shortage of artists that need some honest help.