Chart Beat Podcast: Jimmy Harnen on Running BMLG Records & His Own '80s Hot 100 Hit
Harnen chats with Jim Asker about running the label that includes Florida Georgia Line & reminisces about his own chart success in 1989 with beloved ballad "Where Are You Now."
Jimmy Harnen, Big Machine Label Group executive vice president and BMLG Records president, is a rare find in Nashville. He's the only Music Row executive who is also a one-hit wonder, a moniker of which he's quite proud.
On the latest Chart Beat Podcast, Harnen joins Billboard country, Christian, gospel and bluegrass chart manager Jim Asker to discuss his evolution from drummer in his high school marching band to scoring a top 10 hit single on the Billboard Hot 100 and subsequently becoming one of Nashville's music industry leaders.
Harnen joined the Big Machine Label Group as president of Republic Records Nashville (now BMLG Records) in 2009, reuniting with chairman/CEO Scott Borchetta, who had previously hired him at DreamWorks Records. (Thanks to his earlier career as an artist, Harnen had become a quick study on how songs were promoted to radio.) Harnen was integral in signing The Band Perry, as well as Florida Georgia Line. Today, as head of BMLG Records, Harnen oversees an artist roster that includes FGL, Cassadee Pope, Brett Young, A Thousand Horses and Ryan Follese.
About Florida Georgia Line, Harnen discusses the duo's musical evolution to more mature themes, evident on its recent Hot Country Songs No. 1 "H.O.L.Y." and new single, "God, Your Mama, And Me," featuring Backstreet Boys (currently bulleted at No. 40 on the Feb. 18-dated tally). "Artists grow up," Harnen says. "Florida Georgia Line just wanted to get to that next place. As long as it's honest, people love it."
Harnen also recalls the challenges of promoting The Band Perry's now-signature ballad "If I Die Young," due to its weighty lyrics. He decided to focus on the song's ultimately uplifting message, reasoning that it "wasn't about the years in the life, but the life in the years."
Plus, Harnen fondly revisits his days on the charts as an artist, as in 1989 he hit No. 10 on the Hot 100 with his long-lost-love song "Where Are You Now." "Of all titles for a one-hit wonder to have, mine had to be 'Where Are You Now,' " he jokes. He says that he co-wrote the song as a souvenir of "puppy love. It was about a girl, Greta. Pretty German girl. My mom and dad just didn't want us dating, My mom said, 'You guys need to split up.' So, that song is all about [how] we broke up."
To this day, has the song's title question been answered? "I have no idea," Harnen says. "Where are you now, Greta?!"
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