Meet Sam Newsome
SN: Well, the group had started to gel and I had all the instrumentsit just started to feel really good and I just felt like, "I really need to record this now." It felt like it was at a place where I felt like the three or four years I had been putting into itI think it had finally gotten to a place where it was time to document it. So I went into the studio and I recorded a CD.
AAJ: You paid for this?
SN: Yeah. So after we recorded the CD, an agent in New Yorkwe have a mutual friend and she had been telling him about the group and telling him she wouldn't be surprised if a major label didn't pick us up soon. I had known him from when I used to play with Terrance Blanchardand he said, "Yeah, I heard them once. You should tell him to give me a call. I'd love to shop it around for them." So when I got it finished I gave him a copy and he gave me the rap of like he can't promise anything, that a lot of major labels weren't taking chances, that the industry wasn't doing that well, but he would try. But to everyone's surprise, Columbia went for it and bought the master.
AAJ: Were they supportive of the first record in terms of promotion?
SN: They did some stuff. But the thing with the record industry is that it's so complex, it's hard to know exactly what's being done. It's like just seeing an ad in Down Beat or Jazz Times or one of those publications, that's just one side of it, especially with a company like that where when a record comes out you have international distribution. So you have your office in France, your office in London, you have people on the West Coast, Canadaso it's like all of that costs money to put in stores, to put it in listening stations. So, from that perspective some stuff was done. They did help to get us on some festivals. They helped with tour support and that sort of thing. So they were supportive. But with a company like that the drawback is that you never really get the full push unless they start to get some returns immediately or there's like some kind of excitement around the record like when it first comes out. Because if that doesn't happen within the first couple of months it's like they pull back.
AAJ: Is that what happened with you?
SN: Pretty much. In the beginning I was just angry with them because I felt like they just weren't pushing it. But for whatever reason, the public just didn't take to it the way I thought they would. Because, maybe I would have a case that they didn't push it if it were on the top of the radio play chart or if it sold a lot or if it got a bunch of rave reviews. If I had all of that and they didn't support it then you say, "Look, what's going on? We're not getting support." But you know, if the critics aren't behind it and people aren't buying it and they aren't playing it a lot on the radio, I guess from a business perspective they probably think, "Well, what do you want us to do?"
AAJ: What was the critical response? Did you get a lot of reviews?
SN: I didn't get a lot. You know, they thought it was interesting instrumentation. But a lot of times there were references to what Leon Parker had put out maybe six months before. So, I think a little bit of it was like, "Oh yeah, this is like what Leon was doing." So, I felt like they never really gave it up. Like if mine had come out first they would have seen it more as being an original thing. But since it came out after Leon's it was kind of perceived as, "Oh yeah, he's kind of doing that Leon thing."
AAJ: So they didn't really give it a close examination?
SN: I don't think so.
AAJ: Why don't you think the public didn't take to it like you hoped?
SN: Maybe my role on it wasn'tI think maybe because it was so band oriented. Maybe they don't really realize that it was me that made this whole thing happen. You just think of it as a band and I'm playing and everyone else is playing but I'm not really playing that much more spectacularly than everybody else it's just kind of all in the same realm and I just happen to be on the cover. So I think it was a lot of that. I don't think there was a real star on the record.
AAJ: So what happens now? Do you see a future for the group without a major label behind you?