Black River Entertainment, a fixture on Music Row with country and Christian hit songs and records since 2010, has plunged into roots music with its new imprint Black River Americana and the signing of husband and wife duo Carolina Story.
And a classic Nashville story it was. An industry friend tipped off Black River Executive VP Rick Froio, who invited Ben and Emily Roberts in for an audition.
“And they came in with the harmonica strapped to his chest and her with her tambourine and they started singing and we all looked at each other like you have to be kidding me.”
Froio says the company wasn’t planning a move to the Americana format, but that the music led them that direction.
“They opened the door for us because that’s where they fit. And we were like you know what, what a perfect way to launch our efforts.”
Ben and Emily, from Arkansas and South Dakota respectively, met at a Memphis music college in 2007 and moved to East Nashville together to make a base for touring. They’ve played nearly every state in the nation as well as the Grand Ole Opry. And they’ve earned acclaim for the intimacy of their performances and the timeless qualities of their songs.
“It was about those artists are worth pouring our lives into,” said Gordon Kerr, CEO of the private family business. He added that on-boarding Carolina Story and taking on their career development fits with Black River’s model - a coordination of labels, publishing and studio.
“We can write a song that day and we can go into the studios downstairs and create demos there and then we can plug those songs to other labels and other artists. There’s no question that there’s a synergy that goes on and it’s absolutely by design.”
Kerr says their inspiration is Motown with its tight knit family model. During a recent songwriting visit, Motown legend Lamont Dozier told the CEO that the music enterprise is on the right path.
Black River Americana will host its first ever showcase event for registered attendees of AmericanaFest on Thursday Sept 14 at its Music Row headquarters.
Craig Havighurst covers music news for WMOT. Follow him at @chavighurst.