In the latest development in the ongoing legal dispute between Curb Records and Tim McGraw, a Nashville court today granted Curb's request to postpone the breach of contract trial.
The long and complicated case basically centers around whether McGraw has fulfilled his contractual obligations to Curb. A press release from the Curb side of the equation states the label's belief that McGraw is still a Curb recording artist. McGraw obviously believes he is not, and announced that he has signed with Scott Borchetta's Big Machine Records on May 21.
Curb has asked the court to postpone the trial "until it has the opportunity to take additional evidence surrounding Big Machine Records' signing of McGraw."
Last November, the court denied Curb Records' request for a preliminary injunction that would prevent McGraw from signing with any other record company until their legal dispute is decided, and, six months of Music Row speculation later, the McGraw/Big Machine deal was announced-as was the news that McGraw had cut 20 sides for Big Machine. But the November decision, important as it was to McGraw's camp (he is managed by Coran Capshaw's Red Light Management), did not close the door on the legal tussle. Curb Records contends that McGraw is still under contract and owes the label another album.
The Court granted Curb's request to postpone the trial until it has the opportunity to "take additional evidence surrounding Big Machine Records' signing of Tim and when the 20 recordings Big Machine says it will release were made." Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals will "soon" hear the appeal of the November ruling, according to the release from Webster & Associates.
Asked for a comment on today's developments, the McGraw's publicist provided Billboard.biz this statement: "Tim McGraw and his counsel have received several requests for comment concerning a recent press release issued by Curb Records regarding the lawsuit between Tim McGraw and Curb Records. Rule 3.6 of the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct makes clear that it is not proper for attorneys to make such out-of-court statements that will be disseminated to the public. It is proper, however, for Mr. McGraw and his counsel to clarify the record in light of Curb's press release. The Court's only ruling was to postpone, at the request of Curb, the trial as to damages claimed by Mr. McGraw and by Curb.
"There was no ruling about anything else, and specifically there was no ruling regarding the substance of either party's claims in the lawsuit . The Court's ruling did not affect, in any way, Mr. McGraw's relationship with Big Machine Records. The Court's Order on the postponement and its prior ruling issued on December 8, 2011 are public documents and are available on the web site of the Davidson County Chancery Court Clerk. Mr. McGraw and his counsel believe that the rulings speak for themselves, and that it is not proper for either of the parties to issue a press release regarding these matters."
Still, in the press release Curb asserts those aforementioned 20 tracks belong to Curb, as they were recorded during the term of Curb's contract with McGraw.
The label further believes, as stated through its publicist, that: "Tim McGraw is still an artist on Curb Records' label; Big Machine had no right to sign Tim McGraw until his contract with Curb Records is over; the new music advertised by Tim McGraw and Big Machine, or that Big Machine may choose to release before the Court ruling, is still owned by Curb Records; and when the Court does rule, it will agree that Tim McGraw has breached his Recording Agreement with Curb Records."
Back in May, Borchetta-whose father Mike, ironically enough, was instrumental in signing McGraw to Curb more than 20 years ago-raved about McGraw's move to Big Machine, which also is the label home of Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts. Regarding the release of McGraw recordings on the Big Machine imprint, Borchetta said, "It's going to be sooner than later. He's 20 songs in to some of the most amazing music I've ever heard." Borchetta added, "He's going to have a very defined say in how his music is presented, which he didn't have at the end of his last deal."
The Curb/McGraw dispute dates back to May of last year when Curb Records filed a breach of contract suit in Davidson County Chancery Court against McGraw in relation to McGraw's recording agreement with label. Eleven days later, McGraw filed a counter suit against Curb Records on May 24 seeking advance payment and recording-fund reimbursement, unspecified damages, and a jury trial. McGraw's counter-suit also asked that McGraw's "Emotional Traffic" record be deemed McGraw's last album due the label and for McGraw to be "free to begin recording for himself or any other party as of July 23, 2011."
Curb alleged in the May 13 complaint that McGraw's "Traffic" tracks were recorded too early prior to its delivery "in a transparent tactic to attempt to fulfill his contractual recording commitment to Curb prematurely in breach of the recording agreement." McGraw's counter suit countered that the material for "Traffic" was recorded and mastered in early 2009-2010, and Curb was holding the album "hostage from country music fans for the purpose of compelling Tim McGraw to serve perpetually under a contract that he has already fully and faithfully completed." The suit added that Curb's "repeated serial releases of what it characterizes as greatest hits albums is obviously a naked attempt to create a perpetual recording contract, forcing Tim McGraw into a repressive environment of indefinite duration."
Even before both sides lawyered up, McGraw's unhappiness at Curb, until Big Machine his only label home, had been well-documented, much of it centered around McGraw's belief that Curb had repackaged his hits too many times. Between 2006 and 2010, Curb put out six compilations or variations on hits packages, the latest being "Number One Hits" in November of 2010. Curb has released a total of seven compilations on McGraw.
In a keynote Q&A at the Billboard Country Summit in June of 2010, McGraw thanked Curb for signing him and jump-starting his career, but reiterated his thoughts that his next album, which ended up being "Traffic," would be his last for Curb. He also weighed in again on the plethora of "Hits" packages from Curb: "It's sort of taking advantage of people," he said.
McGraw is currently on the road playing to packed stadiums with Kenny Chesney on the Brothers of the Sun tour.