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Ian Mitchell - Interview

  by Owen Peters

published: 23 / 10 / 2015

Ian Mitchell - Interview


Oxford music luminary Ian Mitchell has decided to set up a new kind of record label, All Will Be Well Records. Owen Peters meets him to find out all about it.

When returning from a gig, conversations usually turn to the subject of why great bands and artists don't receive the recognition - we think - they deserve. Instead of getting involved with the multitude of rights, wrongs and excuses these debates tend to throw up, Ian Mitchell has decided to set up a supportive, intriguing and entrepreneurial label. His idea is to support bands and artists that operate "under the radar". Those who carry a loyal but limited fan base, or in some cases artists new to the music scene. This month Mit, as he's known, officially launched his new label "All Will Be Well Records". In his home town of Oxford we sampled the local brew and chatted about the concept of AWBWR, his plans and his aspirations for the future. "I knew lots of quality bands in the Oxfordshire and Berkshire area. Some I see live, others I've listened to on local radio or via social media. There didn't seem to be a platform or label which was supporting and promoting their talents. So I decided to set up AWBWR. The concept is simple. Those bands signed to the label (currently 13) are required to promote each other to their own fan base at least four times a month. I believe the collective is stronger than the individual." To hear the phrase sounds as if it's taken from some Marxist doctrine, or a Confucius parable on life. Mitchell expands on the idea: "I believe if we can work and collaborate together it will allow the group to develop and grow a wider geographical fan base. We first started talking about the idea a couple of years ago, now we are ready. Everything's set up" The "we" he's referring to are the label's additional contributors: his wife Alice Mitchell (an animator and illustrator), Anthony Appleby (a filmmaker with Fj2k3 Films) and Ben Gosling (a producer). It's the range of skills available which make the label's idea and offerings so intriguing. Mitchell continues: "We promote the artists via social media and network updates, gigs, promotions, with profile interviews on the label's website. If any of the artists want to set up a differing style of promotion or videos, AWBWR contributors are available to work with the artists one-on-one at their own agreed costs." Although his cooperative amalgamation is novel, Mitchell isn't exactly taking a flyer: he has a solid base in local music. He's one part of the band Little Red with members Ben Gosling and Hayley Bell making up the trio. "We released our debut album 'Sticks and Stones' in October 2014 and are releasing our second EP "The Huntsman" on September 28 via AWBWR." The release coincides with a sabbatical from performing live. Mitchell notes my expression of surprise. "No, nothing sinister - Hayley is pregnant so we are taking time out while she adjusts to motherhood once again". He tells me Little Red have their roots firmly planted in traditional folk music. When pushed for a sound comparison he aligns them with The Staves or First Aid Kit. Having given their new album a few listens I wouldn't disagree with his summary on the band's sound. Some bands require their tag to be Americana: it's cool, new. "Not us," says Mitchell, "we are a trio who play traditional folk music. To be honest we are proud of the fact we don't need to put the word 'alt' before our chosen genre. I've huge respect for the likes of Chris Wood, his lyrics and loyalty to folk music. I hope we have the same type of ethos". When we get to the business end of the interview Mitchell makes it's abundantly clear that he's not setting up the label to make money. "We don't ask for any financial contributions from those signed to the label. Anything we do as AWBWR is self-financed or simply self-promoted, by us, the bands and all for the bands" In days gone by every corporate organization had a mission statement. AWBWR have a manifesto: "To support selected artists via social media and to offer a platform for musicians to gain a wider audience free of charge". If a financial return isn't the main objective when signing artists to the label, what are the key components he looks for when adding new names? "We will consider supporting most genres, AWBWR has already signed an eclectic mix of artists. The Midnight Rambler are Blues/ Rock, while The String Project are a mixture of classical and dance genres. The Pink Diamond Revue offer punky/Tarantino soundtrack flavours with Nelson and The Columns offering an indie vibe. Above all else I look for quality artists with the potential to grow and develop." Mitchell says he's working months ahead, not years. "We officially launched the label on September 1, followed by a showcase of artists at The Rising Sun Arts Theatre in Reading on September 25. Each month the artists will get more and more exposure on the website so fans and anyone viewing the site can sample what each band has to offer. Some of the bands are from Brighton and Swindon, whilst others are from around the Oxford and Reading areas. As we grow we'll reach out to a wider geographical audience. It's feedback from fans and social media comments that will have a big impact on the way we move forward. At this stage I don't want to get into a numbers game, how many bands will we have signed by when. Like I've said, I want musicians to grow and develop. So no, I don't have a detailed step by step plan, but it will take shape - organically. That's the idea," he says, ending with a smile. I pose the question of whether he had thought through the impact of a band making a significant breakthrough due to AWBWR. Unsurprisingly, Mitchell has a clear statement of intent. "Well the bands don't have a contract with us - they have an agreement that can be terminated by either party with two weeks' notice. Their record sales don't come through the label. We take zero monetary returns from an artist's success. If our signings go onto make the breakthrough you mention, or decide on a different direction along the way (which we've helped them with), that would be a success for AWBWR." I ask if he's considered getting other parties involved who can provide financial support for the label, maybe aligning AWBWR with established and affiliated outfits. The thought goes into the same cul-de-sac. Mitchell confirms the label isn't driven by constantly talking money. "While I'm open to ideas as we go forward, we are simply a support mechanism for the talent we have signed at present." Mitchell very openly says that "going forward will be a journey of discovery. I'm not a professional in the record industry. To some degree it is a matter of learning as we go along. It's really exciting to be part of AWBWR". Setting up AWBWR is certainly a labour of love for Mitchell. He has a clear framework for the label, leaving current and potential signings in no doubt what's he hopes to achieve. I also like his future planning process, which is that there isn't a step-by-step blueprint on what is going to be achieved by when. It demonstrates his flexibility in dealing with both business and musical changes which are often unexpected in pace and direction. Thomas Edison apparently said that success was "10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration." Ian Mitchell leaves me in no doubt he'll find his own successful formula.

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