Jerry Salley, Ed Leonard launch two new labels

Bluegrass and Americana music have two new Nashville-based record labels dedicated to promoting their artists. Billy Blue Records and Billy Jam Records have been launched under the umbrella of Ed Leonard and Daywind Music Group. Popular bluegrass performer and writer Jerry Salley has agreed to come onboard as A&R and Creative Director for both of them.

Billy Blue will be a bluegrass label, with Billy Jam taking on more adventurous acoustic music. Since Daywind is known as a Christian music company, they figured that forming new labels was the best way to differentiate among them. The Billy labels will be primarily secular, though Gospel music will be welcome there as well.

Jerry told us that he and Ed had been discussing this for several months, and now that all the paperwork is done, they are ready to start looking at potential signees.

“There are lots of great labels in bluegrass. I just think there’s room for another player. Since I come from the creative side, I appreciate the support from Ed to give this a shot. I think we can really be successful and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m glad to be a part of this.

I had thought about creating my own little label to help the artists I work with, but Ed already had the whole thing set up and running.

He saw the growth in bluegrass and Americana, and I asked him if he had ever thought about starting a bluegrass label. He said that he had, and was interested in the roots world as well. As those talks progressed, things got more serious, and now here we are.”

Salley will be looking at new acts, and more established ones as well, and says that they expect to sign their first artists over the coming weeks. He anticipates a couple of new releases in 2018, ramping up after that.

“We’ll start out pretty slow. Our goal is to sign 3-4 acts before the end of this year. We may lease a couple of masters, so we should have a couple of releases this year.

Smart and slow… we’ll be very selective at the start.”

He calls it his Field Of Dreams approach: if we build, they will come.

Leonard is likewise confident that they will hit the ground running.

“Jerry Salley’s considerable success and sterling reputation in the bluegrass and acoustic music worlds make him the perfect fit to lead our newest venture. Jerry’s experience and creative abilities combined with Daywind’s talented staff and distribution reach allow artists at the new labels to compete from record one.”

They both recognize that the criteria defining Americana are a bit loose, but Jerry says they know what they are after.

“Some people define Americana as a hodgepodge of whatever radio won’t play. We’re thinking more along the progressive bluegrass vein. Americana is kind of hard to define, but I have 4 children, and I watch what they listen to. It’s sure not country radio.”

Jerry may produce some of the projects on Billy Blue and Billy Jam, but there are no concrete plans laid out just yet. And he certainly won’t stop writing, recording, and performing on his own.

All their releases will be distributed through Orchard, Sony’s independent division. They have chosen a motto for the new companies that stress how they put the creative process first: “We’re here to play!”

Look for Jerry and Ed at World of Bluegrass this summer, and at a number of Americana gatherings as well.

Share this:

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.