Friday , July 12 2024
Simply Red and Eleni Mandell are doing fine without major record label deals.

On Their Own

The march to self-sufficiency among musicians continues. One of Britain’s great soul singers, Mick Hucknall and his group Simply Red, are going it alone:

    Redhead popstar MICK HUCKNALL has denounced his former record contract as “immoral”.

    The SIMPLY RED star says he was deeply unhappy with the terms of his deal with EASTWEST, part of WARNER MUSIC, which expired in April 2000.

    Hucknall is angry at the fact he paid for recording and marketing costs – but the record company still owned the master tapes.

    The 42-year-old and his band have released their eighth album, HOME, on his own label, SIMPLYRED.COM. By releasing his own record he hopes to earn royalties up to 400 per cent higher than on a standard record company contract. [Financial Times – subscription required]

I’m not sure how much ‘morality” has to do with it, but it was a bad deal. Hucknall’s new CD, Home, was released Monday in the UK:

    HOME, the brand new album from Simply Red, is released today in most of Europe, Japan and South Africa and should be available in all your usual High Street stores right now!

    It’s release in South America, South East Asia, Australasia and Eastern Europe will follow soon afterwards and then later this year it will be released in Canada and the USA.

Go get ’em, Mick. Simply Red has always been much more popular in Europe than here, but their greatest hits package, with the mournful, beautiful “Holding Back the Years,” the jamming Euro-soul dancefloor winners “Money’s Too Tight to Mention” and “Right Thing,” as well as the cover of the Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ classic “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” is well worth owning.

A thus far lesser-known artist, Eleni Mandell, is also on her own and doing well. She was profiled yesterday in the Chcago Tribune:

    anyone who thinks it’s impossible for a young songsmith without perfect cheekbones and industry clout to make a go of it should consider the career of L.A.-based singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell. While Mandell hasn’t experienced a fraction of Jones’ acclaim, over the course of a four-year recording career she’s found that it’s possible to make a living while working entirely outside the mainstream music industry.

    As a child growing up in the L.A. area, Mandell played piano and violin before eventually switching to guitar as a teenager when she began to explore songwriting and playing in bands. According to Mandell, nothing clicked until she had a chance encounter with legendary L.A. songwriter, raconteur and scenester Chuck E. Weiss. (Weiss is a well-known pal of Tom Waits and the subject of Rickie Lee Jones’ 1979 hit “Chuck E’s in Love.”)

    Not a commercial style

    At Weiss’ urging, Mandell began focusing more intently on songwriting, and within a few years she began issuing a series of albums on tiny independent labels — “Wishbone” (1999), “Thrill” (2000), “Snakebite” (2002) — that showcased an impossible to categorize, non-commercial songwriting style. While there’s an instantly identifiable Mandell sound, it encompasses jazzy torch songs, quirky Waits-style junkyard balladry, old-time C&W and wild jazz-folk excursions that Mandell invests with all the searing vocal drama of PJ Harvey.

    “Tom Waits and X were very big influences on me, but I love all kinds of music, and I think that comes out in my writing,” Mandell says. “I never really liked records that stuck to one style, so I never thought I should follow any rules.”

    Mandell’s latest album “Country for True Lovers” is a straight C&W effort that mines such influences as Tammy Wynette and ’60s-style Bakersfield honky-tonk. As with Mandell’s other records, it’s been released on a small independent label, the Canadian imprint Zedtone.

    Although it might sound as if Mandell’s career is stuck in a rut, she says that’s not at all the case. “Things have been getting better all the time. More and more fans come to my shows, and I’m seeing a lot more interest in my records through my Web site [].

    “I started getting booked in Europe about a year and a half ago, and after I finish my current U.S. tour I’ll be taking my trio to Europe for a month. Basically, I’ve been able to make a living at music for the last couple years.”

    Mandell’s career underscores the increasing viability of the do-it-yourself methodology in the Internet age. She self-released her first album, “Wishbone,” and after receiving some good reviews, she was able to arrange for national distribution. A Canadian fan named Ian Pearson heard the CD and was so taken by it he started the Zedtone label specifically to release Mandell’s music.

Here is her own description of the new record from her website:

    Dear Friends,

    A few years ago I heard Tammy Wynette’s first record, Your Good Girl is Gonna Go Bad, and I was mesmerized. Her voice was so full of feeling, sadness and love. The characters were rich and dark. Lots of heartbreak. I guess I could relate to the way she sang and what she sang about. Country music, traditional country music, is a really soulful art form.

    When I was out on the road, touring the United States and Canada, I just loved singing along to her songs and those of The Louvin Brothers, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and many others.

    I decided I would make a country record, too, and when I saw my old friend, Tony Gilkyson (Lone Justice, X), playing guitar with my local favorite, Mike Stinson, I thought “there’s the man to produce my record”. We made this record really fast (14 days) and had a really great time from beginning to end.

    I know that if I had to sing country music for the rest of my life, I would be happy. I really feel when I sing those songs and I get to yodel and growl a little bit, too. The good news is that you can grab your honey and dance real close when you listen to this record. Nothing would please me more.

    Love, Eleni

Again, good luck.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted,, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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