July 29, 2009 — Gretchen Wilson is in the market for a new record company now that she's departed from Sony Music Nashville, where she took the country genre by storm five years ago with "Redneck Woman."
Sony indicated the two parties have "mutually decided to part ways" in a press release issued Tuesday. Gretchen leaves three CD releases for the label to mine for catalog sales in the future, but it appears she may be taking her newest recordings with her as she goes.
Gretchen had started recording an album more than a year ago, fitting sessions in between her work on the road, studying for her GED, and her commitments as a single mom. She looked specifically for songs that mixed country roots with a Southern-rock background, attempting to rekindle the fire she experienced when she first gained national attention.
She released one single from the project, "Don't Do Me No Good," in June 2008, but it failed to crack the Top 40 on the Country Aircheck chart. The album, titled I Got Your Country Right Here, was originally supposed to come out last fall, but finding songs that Gretchen and Sony could agree on apparently became difficult.
"They thought the record was missing something, and we went on a hunt," Gretchen told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Typically, record labels shoulder the costs for recording sessions and retain control of the masters. In this instance, Gretchen is attempting to buy back the tracks from the label, allowing her to get them to fans through another avenue.
Gretchen and her management are "still working that out," her spokesman, Craig Campbell says. "Everybody's hoping that's gonna work out, because from what I understand, she was pretty much done" with the album."
If Gretchen is able to reclaim the rights to her master recordings, she would then be free to shop the music to another major label or an independent record company, or to release it on her own.
"All that stuff is being talked about," Craig said. "There's nothing in concrete at all. I don't think there's anything even in clay right now."
While record companies are in the business of knowing what will and won't sell, they don't always get it right, and artists have been known to rejuvenate careers by taking their work from one label to another. The best-known instance came 10 years ago when Toby Keith angrily left Mercury Records in a dispute about the quality of his latest recordings. He bought the masters and took them to DreamWorks, where the album in question launched him from a middle-of-the-pack artist to superstardom. The album in question: How Do You Like Me Now?!.