Glass first saw Mumford & Sons perform at the tiny Mercury Lounge in New York in March 2009. They shared the bill with atmospheric Australian rock act the Temper Trap, which was already signed to Glassnote.
The Glass/Mumford romance involved a long, slow-burn courtship. It's not as if dozens of American labels were clamoring to sign four British bluegrass nerds, so Glass had the time required to get to know them.
"The song that got me was 'White Blank Page,' " he says. The track captures the spare, confessional lyrics ("Can you lie next to her and give her your heart as well as your body") underscored by anthemic crescendos of messy alt-country singalong noise that has become Mumford & Sons' signature.
The band -- vocalist Marcus Mumford, 23; bassist Ted Dwane, 25; keyboardist Ben Lovett, 22; and banjoist Winston Marshall, 21 -- met each other in the mid-2000s through the British folk scene, which is fueled by various country nights held at London pubs. They formed as a staunch democracy, with Mumford writing most of the lyrics and lending his name to the project, but the members share songwriting credit and switch instruments onstage.
"The live show is what we love," Dwane says, "the idea of people coming to enjoy the night, having a bit of a drink and a dance."
Under the guidance of manager Adam Tudhope of U.K.-based firm Everybody's Management, the band recorded "Sigh No More" and released it on the group's own label, Gentleman of the Road; the act happily playing "in pubs to bearded men," Lovett says. "We call those the glory days," Dwane half-jokes.
"Sigh No More" came out in the United Kingdom in October 2009 and during the year that followed, Mumford & Sons fever swept England. When the band eventually dipped its toe in the American market by licensing "Sigh No More" to a U.S. label, Glassnote was a natural choice.
"Daniel approaches it from the right direction, like our manager and our lawyer -- they're straight-up normal people who don't really care about the money side of things as long as they can just keep doing what they're doing," Lovett says.
It's not that Glass doesn't care about money. It's that he's convinced that sincerity and authenticity sell.
"I'm looking for something that's from the heart, that's real," Glass says. "You analyze the top 10 and nine out of 10 are going to be dance or hip-hop records -- whether it's Jason Derülo or Kanye West, they're all fantastic records, well-produced, amazing stuff. But we believe our records are as good, if not better.
"Indie labels fail for two reasons: They have a lack of funding or they have a chip on their shoulder; they lack a strategic know-how about what to do with their taste," Glass says. "What do you do with the ball once you get it? How do you get down the field and into the end zone? I love the end zone. It's my favorite."