Ethan Johns, the acclaimed producer of Kings of Leon's first three albums, has joined the U.K. team of Atlantic Records in an A&R capacity.
Effective immediately, the partnership will see Johns source and nurture artists that will be signed to Atlantic Records and released via the U.K.-based producer's existing imprint, Three Crows Music. Johns' relationship with the label dates back to his production work on Paolo Nutini's sophomore set "Sunny Side Up," which was released by Atlantic Records/Warner Music in 2009 and debuted at No. 1 on the U.K. albums chart.
In addition to working alongside Angelo Petraglia on the Kings of Leon albums "Youth and Young Manhood," "Aha Shake Heartbreak" and "Because of the Times," Johns' production credits also include Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble" and "Gossip in the Grain" and Ryan Adams' first two solo records, "Heartbreaker" and "Gold." More recently he produced Tom Jones' "Praise and Blame" and a succession of acclaimed albums by U.K. folk singer Laura Marling, 2010's "I Speak Because I Can" and this year's follow-up "A Creature I Don't Know."
A versatile multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Johns - whose father is engineer/producer Glyn Johns, who worked with The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and The Who, among others - has also toured and recorded with such artists as Crosby, Stills & Nash, Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams and Rufus Wainwright. In 2011 he was nominated for the best British Producer Brit Award.
"Aesthetically there are few people who can really create a respectful backdrop to incredible voices and Ethan is one of those people," Max Lousada, Chairman of Atlantic Records U.K., tells Billboard.biz. "The backbone of Atlantic is about trying to find incredible voices and it felt like the logical next step to bring someone into the fold who was amazing with voices like that," Lousada goes on to say, paying tribute to Johns' "ability to capture emotion on record."
"Really great producers are patient," continues Lousada. "They are great listeners. They allow an environment for an artist to become vulnerable lyrically, melodically and performance-wise. If you look at most [artist's] success [outside] the genre of rhythmic pop, what they all have is emotionally incredible performances and unique voices. That is where Ethan excels, on top of the credibility that he brings when he introduces an act."
Lousada says that he expects the first new signing to Three Crows/Atlantic U.K. to be announced within the "next three to five months." Artists that have released music on Three Crows prior to its major label tie-up are not included in the terms of the deal. Julianna Raye, Sarabeth Tucek and Dave Palmer are among the musicians who have previously released records via Three Crows prior to its incorporation into the Atlantic family.
"Ethan has the desire to create a stable of incredible acts that he can develop and can steer through that artist development stage," says Lousada. "The next stage is really about him finding and signing great acts." Commenting on the deal, Johns said that he was drawn to Atlantic Records on the back of working on Nutini's "Sunny Side Up."
"I was impressed by the way Atlantic Records gave Paolo the time, space and support to find his voice as an artist and make an un-compromised record," he said in a statement. "To then take that record and back it with such sustained commitment kind of blew me away. Max is an instinctive, passionate record guy with an amazing level of commitment. He'll go down as one of the greats and I'm honoured Three Crows has this opportunity to work with him and the other guys at Atlantic."