When they released their debut record "Sigh No More" in October 2009, British indie-folkies Mumford & Sons became unlikely superstars practically overnight. Glassnote Records, who scooped the quartet up in the U.S. two months prior to the record's release, has overseen that success, which has included a devastating 88-week reign on the Billboard 200, more than 1.9 million albums sold (according to Nielsen Soundscan), and two Grammy nominations last year, for Best New Artist and Best Rock Song (for "Little Lion Man").
But the group didn't snag either prize at the awards show last February. Last night, though, they raised the bar, landing not two but four Grammy nods for their sole release during the eligibility period, the "Sigh No More" single "The Cave": Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Rock Performance, and Best Rock Song.
Will 2012 be their year?
In this interview, label head Daniel Glass tells Billboard that he is more optimistic than ever about the future of independent music in the mainstream consciousness. With good things on the horizon from Mumford and other Glassnote artists like Two Door Cinema Club, Childish Gambino, and the Temper Trap, Glass talks about his company's artists, the rise of indies, and getting props for the Grammy nods from Drake.
Billboard.biz: Congratulations on your big nominations!
Daniel Glass: Thank you. I was in Boston [at the House of Blues seeing Glassnote artists Two Door Cinema Club] when I got the news. It was pretty exciting. They are good friends of Mumford and Sons, they were happy. We celebrated in Boston and then I came home.
BB: What did you do to celebrate?
DG: The honest truth? We celebrated backstage with WFNX, they sponsored the show, and all the promoters came over, and the roadies and we had a great, great time.
And then here's the truth of what happened after. I'm exhausted, I go to the front desk, I ask the lady, "What time do I need to leave for a 9:00 shuttle, she says "Around 7:15 … oh my God, guess who's coming up with his entourage? Drake!" So I look at him, and he looks at me and points at me and says, "I know you!" and gives me a hug, 'cause we have a friend in common - the guy who's done every Cash Money video since the beginning is a guy who I gave a start in the business, Jeff Panzer. His bodyguard is looking at us like, "Who's this guy?" And I say, "We had a good night at the Grammys," and he says "I LOVE Mumford and Sons. I love them." He starts raving. "And [Glassnote artist] Childish Gambino." And I said to him, "Thanks to you, you lifted up all the boats in the water. We're all gonna sell records. You saved the whole industry." Anyway, that was my good night to him, it was a great night.
BB: You must have been getting a lot of congratulations in the past 12 hours.
DG: It's been unbelievable. I mean, personal friends, industry people, peers. It's one of the best validations. And on a personal note I'm thrilled, over the moon, gratified, ecstatic, and proud. So many artists have reached out -- every single artist and manager in this company, in this family, reached out between the last few hours. The family responds, but a lot of these groups tour together. The first time I met Mumford and Sons was with Temper Trap, it really is a family here, between the team that we have and the artists.
BB: What do you think about all the indies who were on the nominations list?
DG: I think that NARAS doesn't get enough credit for how hard they try to screen and fight for the correctness and rightness of the categories. They try really hard. [To] the people on the sidelines who criticize Grammys -- get involved and vote. Be a part of the process. This year, the sampling was really terrific, in that you saw the playing field very leveled. The lines are completely blurred between independents and majors -- maybe even this year, independents have almost a little bit over the majors. Some people label Adele indie [her British label, XL], some put her on Columbia. But when you see the Bon Ivers and the Mumford & Sons get recognized, it's just fantastic. It's not how many records you sell, it's about who you connect with, and you see these fanbases grow in the last few years. That's all we do here. We're not in a rat race [to count] how many records we sell. It's really about expanding a band's career and providing them with a good home.
But I think [two things are particularly important]: one, if you look at the correlation touring [has], that starts to seep into the process, and that's important. Number two: the power of [non-commercial radio], AAA, and satellite radio is amazing. NPR gets behind something, and the non-coms get behind something, and it bleeds into R&B and Jazz and Country and Blues and Bluegrass, not [just] an alternative rock thing. To me, it's the [new] "Oprah Winfrey Show" [in terms of exposure]. Even our artist Childish Gambino, who is not eligible [for a Grammy] this year [got on NPR]. I think NPR is one of the defining moments of launching the artist.
BB: There are just 73 days until Grammys night. What will Glassnote be up to in the meantime?
DG: The same thing we're always doing. Playing a few holiday shows, our team will be there for our few holiday shows on the West Coast. As far as Mumford & Sons, they're recording the next record, there's really nothing else to do. We're not campaigners; we let the music speak for itself. We don't hire independent consultants.
BB: What are your other artists up to?
DG: I went to go see Oberhofer the other day with [producer] Steve Lillywhite in Brooklyn. Wow. It was like being with Brian Wilson at 21 years old. So that's coming next year. And Givers, typical of Glassnote, we're going to take our time and do well. With Childish Gambino we have a hit with "Heartbeat", and we signed a new band out of Ireland that I think a lot of people are going to be talking about called Little Green Cars. They're going to go into the studio in a few weeks, it may not come till the end of [next] year, though. It's really a euphoric day here. I have to tell you, we have a lot of gratitude actually. We're just hugging -- we hug. I met Phoenix in a brasserie in Paris and I remember, it was a three-and-a-half-hour meeting. I remember it distinctly because I had to go to the bathroom so badly, but I didn't want to get up because it was like the coolest meeting I had ever been in in my life. And at the end of the meeting, we didn't know what to do with each other. We fell in love on the first date and then we hugged. These guys are not huggers -- these guys are four guys from Versailles who do not hug. And now, forget it. We see each other, it's double kisses and hugs. We're definitely huggers here!