That Represents Man: Hillgrass Bluebilly’s Keith Mallete Interview


“We represent MAN, in the form of music.”

An interview with Keith Mallete of Hillgrass Bluebilly.

I first became aware of Hillgrass Bluebilly way back in 2005 around the time I was releasing The Last Country Store. Their graphics immediately caught my eye (and I am really dating myself here) on Myspace, remember that? After checking out more about them I learned about Keith Mallete and began following his exploits in the music world and his work for Hillgrass Bluebilly. Keith comes across as and is very passionate about what he believes in. You see it in the evocative way he writes about his artists and the care he takes to bring the message to the people. I had the privilege of meeting Keith in 2007 at the inaugural Deep Blues Festival. He is as passionate in person as he appears elsewhere. I asked Keith to do an interview about Hillgrass Bluebilly and also give some input that might be helpful to the burgeoning artist(s) to be, much like I did with the Marian Salzman piece I did a while back. I merely sent the questions and Keith responded and I appreciate him taking the time and more importantly for offering his unique insight about what he does. So here it goes:

1) So what are you and what do you do?
I am a promoter, for lack of a better term. I like to think that I can take what touches my heart & soul and share it with folks. In this case, music is what shares our light, without going into specifics. I do not “own” anything, Ryan Tackett & I “found” Hillgrass Bluebilly Entertainment about 7 years ago, after 2 years of helping Ryan Tackett and friend Adam “Otis” Senter with “Roots & Boots” in Phoenix, AZ. Otis kinda showed me the ropes and when then that met it’s end, Hillgrass Bluebilly was birthed. We started featuring events/concerts/shows several months later….. fast foward… we have expanded/matured into a record label.
2) What are some of the most exciting things going on in the HBE universe right now and in the last year or so?
With so much work to be done, I do not know how much of it is “exciting”, but that just may be my personality. Right now, community and shared ethics and finding the folks that do this across the world and joining hands with them is pretty exciting to me. A few months ago, Tom VandenAvonds’ “You Oughta Know Me By Now” (feat. Larry & his Flask) was nominated BEST ALT. COUNTRY ALBUM for the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards, along with Possessed by Paul James’ “Feed the Family”, which won the award, and was also nominated for BEST AMERICANA ALBUM. More recently, we attended the Muddy Roots Festival, outside Nashville, TN, and was able to connect/reconnect with alot friends, fans & bands. Also in the last year or so, it serves to notice radio stations and various writers and certain podcasts giving a lot of artists tremendous coverage. In’tha last year or so you can find me at savingcountrymusic.com a lot. I believe in them, more than I can express in words….

3) What are some things the world can look forward to from HBE?
We are gearing up for our release of “Yeah, I Carve Cheetah’s” by REST^vRANT, for a November 2011 release. We also recieved GREAT news that we will be releasing Possessed by Paul James’ new release, scheduled for this winter. Tom VandenAvond just finished up his record, which will be released this winter on Hillgrass Bluebilly Records as well. Our pile of rereleases are stacking up… Mario Matteoli’s “Hard Lick Hittin” and there are negotiations for Hillgrass Bluebilly to rerelease both Doo Rag albums, “Chuncked & Muddled” & “What We Do”. You can also look forward to the rerelease of “Good Times” on vinyl by the Weary Boys along with a “Weary Boys – Greatist Hits” in 2012. Soda will also be releasing a double album soon and we hope to get the details on that out as soon as possible. Also, we have our dirtyfoot testing out all kinds of waters, as usual, we expect the unexpected for the better…in our future. I can guarantee you this though, what you get from us will raw, will be roots, and real… and will stand on it’s own…with or without us.
We are almost out of all of our releases as well, we really look forward to repressing everything we have in the next 6 months.

4) The music spectrum is wide open and the old ways of “disseminating”(terrestrial radio, CD’s, etc.) are dead and or dying. Young people seem to be less genre-oriented, where before people identified (“I am into hip-hop or I am a metal-head.”) with a narrower, more exclusive membership. How do you see the type of music you present reaching a larger audience? What will be your vehicles?
Great question, but I am not sure all of that pertains to our releases. They stand on their own and their shelf life will never expire. We represent MAN, in the form of music. I believe our audience is a physical one, they want hard evidence… and we do our best to get it to them. I am not one to believe that we will be denied. The message is there, the determination is there, the will, power, struggle.. is all there… we believe in what we do, we live by it every waking moment. Our vehicle is providing proof & word of mouth takes over from there.

[Alright all you indie musicians, here is some advice from Keith Mallete of Hillgrass Bluebilly. I included this series of questions to Keith because he has been at this a while and when I mean “at this” I mean “on the grind.” His answers are direct and to the point, pay close attention.]

1) What should be the goal and means to an end of an independent music artist when utilizing social media (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr)?
Sync ’em all together and try and use just one. Display imagry & sound, tour dates & be yourself….

2) What are some of the new social media outlets you see on the horizon that will be a useful tool to the independent artist?
for now, it’s Facebook & ReverbNation

3) What are your views on piracy and how can the independent artist “flip” free music to their benefit, is streaming/subscription the new answer?
No comment, no thought/views at this time.

4) Should an artist forgo the old school press kit and go for a total online one or a mixture of both?
Whatever it takes I reckon….

5) What are the ways you discover an independent artist and what are the things that make them “sticky” to you?
It’s the point where I cannot not think about their music and how it affects me. I let them know that, and a relationship is formed.

6) What would you advise an independent artist to evaluate and try in order to improve their “stickiness?”
I‘d say try whatever strikes you, if it works… it works. I’d rather sit back and see what these folks can do on their own… I do not dazzle, I am dazzled, and only a reflection of a dazzle, regardless the angle… you know there is a dazzle nearby…

7) Where do you see music going (how it is presented, acquired, utilized) in the next 5 years?
I don’t know… I guess we’ll find out!

8) If you were an independent artist with an album of material what would be the first 3 things you would do to get it noticed?
Packaging, quality and all variations of it’s display

9) Do you think major record labels are a thing of the past? Will they evolve into new things or just fall completely in on themselves?
I do not know what will happen to other folks, we do what we do and are not going anywhere that we do not want to be, unless it’s by our choice.

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