“The label started with a passion to create music and to make records,” Hubbard tells Billboard via phone. “It happened organically [as] we continued to find the artists and friends that we love, believe in and thought had a gift and talent that we wanted to try to nurture. It turned into something that we are really excited about. [We’re] trying to do some trailblazing in this record label space.”
Last year Smith signed to Tree Vibez Music – the duo’s publishing arm founded in 2015 – and Kelley says the pair have believed in him for years as a songwriter and artist. Previously signed to Mercury Records Nashville, Smith saw success in 2015 with his second single, “Love You Like That,” which reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart.
While FGL, who remain signed to Big Machine as artists, have plans to put out records from other writer/performers signed to Tree Vibez, they say they will also sign talent beyond the publishing company. Hubbard and Kelley declined to mention names, but say they have three more acts “we’re about to put music out on real, real soon.”
“If we find a songwriter/artist that has a publishing deal somewhere else, they don’t have to be on Tree Vibez to sign with Round Here Records,” Kelley says. “Tyler and I are looking for great people, great talent and great songs, and that’s what Round Here and Tree Vibez is always focused on.”
Round Here Records will partner with AWAL, Kobalt’s label services division, to handle marketing and distribution, among other services. Hubbard says they teamed up with AWAL because the company shares the same passion for Smith and his music as he and Kelley.
“We continue to grow our presence as well as our commitment to the Nashville music scene,” said AWAL North American President, Ron Cerrito in a statement. “Brian and Tyler are a true creative force in the industry that is surrounded by an incredible team — their business model and artist-first approach are a perfect match with our global capabilities and core values.”
Smith’s debut single on Round Here Records, out today, is the infectious party tune “Beer Drinkin’ Weather,” which he penned with Hubbard, Kelley and Corey Crowder. “We wanted to put out something fun, that would show his personality and had the potential of connecting with the fans,” Hubbard says.
Adds Kelley, “We all talk about the single choice: ‘Does a song have to come out based on what time of year it is? Can you put a party song out going into Labor Day?’ The cool thing about it is, it’s always beer drinking weather.”
Round Here Records has no immediate plan to take the song to radio or to release an album. Hubbard says the label will release a steady stream of music from Smith and if a song raises its hand for terrestrial radio they will look into hiring an indie promotion team or partner with a major label.
Hubbard and Kelley are confident that their experience as artists, songwriters and publishers will help in their new roles as label chiefs. While there are no plans to branch out of the country genre yet, Hubbard says the idea to sign artists from other genres of music isn’t too farfetched.
“I think for now, we all know that our strong point is the country market and our relationships are in the country genre, but we’re starting to grow our relationships in other genres as well,” Hubbard says. “Our main focus is good songs. If somebody were to come in and have a bunch of great songs or a specific style of music that lent itself to the pop world, then we’d definitely be open to pursuing that with the right partners.”
As a bonus, artists signed to Round Here Records will likely have an opportunity to tour with the duo. Smith will serve as an opener for Florida Georgia Line through the remainder of its 2019 Can’t Say I Ain’t Country Tour.
“BK and T-Hubb are like brothers to me, so doing this with them is a dream,” Smith said in a statement. “I believe in this team and know we’re going to do great things together. I’m honored to be the first artist on this label that’s sure to explode.”
For Kelley and Hubbard, working with new acts is a reminder of their early days. “The thing that Tyler and I love seeing is a little bit of me and him in each of these artists,” Kelley says. “There’s something about each artist, each songwriter, that reminds us of us and that’s what we’re drawn to. Each time we fall in love with music and this journey over and over again.”