Bonfire Management launches with hire of Steve Johnson

Lonnie Lassiter, owner of Pinecastle Records and the Bonfire Music Group, along with Bonfire CEO, Ethan Burkhardt, have announced the creation of a new agency, Bonfire Management, which will be based in Nashville. Bonfire marketing director Kyle Watson will also be involved when the company goes active on August 1.

To manage the new venture, Bonfire Management has hired Steve Johnson, a longtime music industry professional in the bluegrass, roots, and Americana world. Steve spent 7 years as the artist relations director at MerleFest, and when he departed he launched management firm, Hoosier Devil, that works to assist festivals, venues, events, and artists with management and promotion. In January he sold that business to Maggie Rainwater who runs it still, and moved to Maine to work as Development Director for a LifeFlight service, a return to the field he initially trained in, as a flight paramedic.

But the pull of the music business proved too strong, and the urge to return had been gnawing at Johnson for a while. He began to think about forming another management and artist services agency, and toyed with the idea of moving to Nashville, where he would also be closer to his extended family around Asheville.

That is where Bonfire stepped in…

“I was working on starting an agency, and had some clients in place. A couple of them were also looking for a label opportunity, and I happened to run into Lonnie at MerleFest this spring, and we got to talking. Not long after he called me and said that he had a job for me if I was interested.

I was pretty excited to get the phone call, since they already have the infrastructure in place. They had been wanting some kind of presence in Nashville, and I had been planning a move there, so everything worked out. The perfect opportunity, and the timing was just right.”

When I caught up with Steve this afternoon, he was in the process up packing up to make the move to Tennessee, with plans to establish a space there from whence he can run Bonfire Management. He is bringing along the artists with he has been working, and a new festival set to debut in 2020, the Earl Scruggs Music Festival in North Carolina.

So when the agency lights up next month, they will be representing Chatham County Line, The Barefoot Movement, Slocan Ramblers, Jason Lee McKinney, Mike & Amy Aiken, and Anna Lynch. All are artists that follow the types of music Johnson has serviced in the past, and the stylistic parameters on which Bonfire is focused.

Steve says he is rarin’ to go.

“I’m looking forward to all the great things ahead with Bonfire. I’ve known Lonnie and Ethan for over 10 years, we have worked closely, and they have turned into family, just like the artists I’m privileged to be working with on the roster. I can’t wait to get things going. I’m beyond excited to be leading their Management Division. We have assembled a strong roster of artists, and will be supporting a few festivals. It’s a fun mix of working with artists and events, really all the fun things I enjoy about the music community. Now, let’s make some wonderful noise and get things going!”

More details are expected soon about the initial Earl Scruggs Music Festival, which will be held over Labor Day Weekend 2020 in Mill Spring, NC. It will be a collaborative effort between the Earl Scruggs Center and WNCW radio, with a lineup drawing from the top performers in bluegrass, Americana, and roots music.

Johnson tells us that he is not looking to expand the roster of clients, meaning to keep the size contained so as to give full focus to each of them. Future plans may include bringing in a booking agent to offer more services in house.

More details about Bonfire Management can be found online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.