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Jay DeMarcus’ Red Street Records Launches Country Division

Johnny Chiang joins as vp radio promotions and artist development to support the label's first signing, Ryan Griffin.

Rascal FlattsJay DeMarcus is expanding his Red Street brand with the launch of Red Street Country after launching the company as a Christian label, Red Street Records, in 2018.

DeMarcus, who is Red Street’s owner/CEO, and owner/chairman Dan Crockett are celebrating the label’s expansion with a press conference Thursday (Jan. 27) at the label’s Nashville headquarters. DeMarcus and Crockett are funding both labels, which are self-distributed.

Red Street Country’s first signing is singer-songwriter Ryan Griffin, whose self-released single, “Salt, Lime & Tequila,” reached No. 3 on Billboard‘s Country Digital Song Sales chart last year and No. 1 on SiriusXM’s The Highway. Griffin is working on a new album.

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Several notable music industry veterans have joined the Red Street Country team, including Cox Media Group director of operations and country format coordinator veteran Johnny Chiang as vp radio promotions and artist development. Kelly King, president of King Pen Music, will continue in that role in addition to joining Red Street Country as senior director of A&R.

“With the success of Red Street’s Christian division, we started to take a look at what we wanted to do next, and how we wanted to continue to grow,” DeMarcus tells Billboard. “The next, obvious step was for us to expand into country music. It’s an exciting time in country music, and having spent most of my career there, I am excited to provide a platform for the next generation of country music superstars to realize their dreams.”

“Rascal Flatts was a huge reason I moved to Nashville,” Griffin says, noting that he first met DeMarcus during a co-writing session. “He was the most gracious person. It was like we’d known each other for a while and were two friends catching up.”

Griffin recalls that DeMarcus texted him “out of the blue” after Thanksgiving last year and asked to catch up: “At no point did it ever cross my mind that he was going to offer me a record deal. It’s hard to explain what it feels like when someone offers you the chance to do what you’ve dreamed of your whole life. What he didn’t know is I had already been through two previous record deals with major labels and I didn’t want to do that again. So this was, in a lot of ways, an answer to a very specific prayer. The fact that we can move quickly and shift with the market gives us a huge upper hand.”

DeMarcus tells Billboard he was impressed by not only Griffin’s music and voice, but his tenacity and work ethic.

“Those are attributes you can’t teach. After having been with a couple of major labels in town, and going through a pandemic, it would’ve been so easy for Ryan to have just given up, and to have stopped moving forward; but Ryan turned lemons into limes — see what I did there? — and released a No. 1 hit on SiriusXM last summer,'” DeMarcus says. “He made his own way, when there seemed to be no way forward on the surface. Ryan’s talent speaks for itself, but he also has all of the other intangibles, and those are the kinds of artists Red Street wants to be in business with.”

The Red Street Country team also includes president/GM Mark Lusk, senior vp radio promotions and artist development Alex Valentine, director of field promotion Sally Allgeier, executive assistant and project manager Mary Thorsby, marketing and distribution manager Taylor Day, social media and artist development manager Cambria Mackey and vp A&R and publishing, Red Street Christian Don Koch.

For DeMarcus — who was part of the Christian group East to West and worked with CCM artist Michael English prior to helping form Rascal Flatts — his experience as an artist in both the Christian and country genres has been an invaluable asset when it comes to running Red Street. The label’s Christian roster includes Avalon, Jason Crabb, Lauren Camey, Iveth Luna and Cade Thompson, who has reached No. 18 on Billboard‘s Christian Airplay chart with “Every Step of the Way” and No. 23 with “Provider.”

“I know firsthand what an artist needs, and expects of their label in order for them to execute their artistry in the most effective way,” DeMarcus says, but adds he’s been a student of the industry all along. “Throughout my career with Rascal Flatts, I always tried to learn every aspect of the music business along the way. I was always intrigued by the nuts and bolts of it all. Now, because I did take the time to do a deep dive into the business side, I’m able to apply that knowledge and experience here.”

DeMarcus says he hasn’t set a limit on how many artists he will sign to Red Street Country. “We will sign as many as makes sense for our bandwidth. We have assembled an incredible staff, but we have to be effective, and serve our artists well. Exciting days are ahead.”