You may remember that back in 2013 we spoke with the trio behind Single Lock Records, when they were newly established. Single Lock is an independent record label founded by Shoals residents Ben Tanner, Will Trapp, and John Paul White. At that time, they had just released Overseas then Under, by The Bear (still one of our favorites at The Factory) and were looking forward to upcoming releases from Belle Adair and St. Paul and the Broken Bones—who proved to be a breakout band in the coming year.
In the short time since then, Single Lock has ushered a number of artists to success—both artistic and financial. They have added several artists to their roster (including Daniel Elias + Exotic Dangers, featuring Alabama Chanin graphic designer Maggie Crisler); they also produced a live album for St. Paul and the Broken Bones (plus a special-edition single for Record Store Day on Alabama-shaped vinyl), and LPs for The Pollies, Nashville-based duo Steelism, and the critically acclaimed album from Donnie Fritts, Oh My Goodness.
The three label heads believe that their success is due to a carefully selected artist roster and a lean production approach. As John Paul White told Rolling Stone, “There’s absolutely no criteria for who we want to be on this label, but we have to feel this sense of ‘they’re in it for the right reasons,’ which is that they want to make music that they deeply feel in their heart is great… That sounds simple, but [for] 9 out of 10 people, that is not the way they go after it.” When we spoke back in 2013, the three founders told us that their focus was to make good records, simply and thoughtfully. Their no-frills approach keeps their artists’ debt to the label low—and gives the artist more control over how to spend their money. As John Paul said, “A huge part of what this label wants to do is to put the power back in the hands of the artist, [and] put the profit back in the hands of the artist.”
John Paul was also recently interviewed by Kristi York Wooten for The Bitter Southerner (included in a piece about the Alabama Chanin community). He so clearly describes the importance of keeping artists at home:
“Only when artists realize that leaving can actually hurt their chances and [erode] their grassroots identity, can they begin to understand the nurturing benefits of a small town.”
John Paul also spoke about how our community is coming together to nurture creativity and the importance of doing your best work:
“Here [The Shoals], people have started linking arms with like-minded individuals to create change instead of just waiting for things to happen. Here, we can make our noise far away from New York or Los Angeles, and be a click away from anyone’s desk or home. Selling yourself has diminished; whether you’re writing songs or designing clothes, creating your best work is what’s paramount.”
In tandem with Billy Reid, Single Lock also operates and produces events at 116 E. Mobile, a venue in downtown Florence. They view the process of learning how to play music in front of a crowd as an essential step in the artistic process. The space serves as a place for local or independent musicians to hone their craft, but Single Lock also hopes to create a venue where more established artists want to perform in the future.
With more music emerging from the Shoals, the supporting community of artists grows. Single Lock has become a viable label helping those artists to get their music heard by the world, at large. They have several releases on the horizon, among them a new album by Dylan LeBlanc and a record from newly signed artists Penny & Sparrow. You can purchase all of the Single Lock catalog in-store at The Factory. Purchase their music and support our local artists. We also encourage you to look for/ask for Single Lock releases in your local record shops.