Cris Lacy, Executive VP A&R at Warner Chappell, discovered her passion for music at a young age. She remembered listening to a tape of her and her grandfather singing “You Are My Sunshine” and she was correcting him on how to sing it! She has still been helping artists such as Dan + Shay, Kenny Chesney, and many more make it in music.
Cris Lacy was always surrounded by music. She went to Vanderbilt, interned, worked for a publishing company, and eventually became a song plugger for twelve years. Cris reminisces on what it was like to be around writers all the time. She explains her love for when “somebody shows up with something that didn’t exist 5 or 6 hours before.”
“I think it’s the most magical thing. And then…you go and try to find a home for that”.
She describes the difference between roles in publishing versus A&R. She did not want to relinquish control from the songs while in publishing. Moving to A&R allowed her to keep control of the song from start to audience.
What does it look like to find new talent?
- Great team scouring to look for new songs and live shows. (You go to shows every night of the week and travel on weekends.)
- Recommendations for artists come from everywhere: writers,, publishers, club owners, agents, etc. (Main question asked from writers, producers or musicians: “Is this worth my time?” If they are spending time with these people- they’re worth it!)
- Research and analysis team watching for trends on DSP’s.
What does it look like to get signed? Every artist has a different journey.
She explains how she met Cody Johnson and saw him play 8 years ago at a show for 20 people. “His voice was so unique”, she remembered. However, it took him 8 years to sign. Ashley McBryde is another artist she signed. “Incredible vocalist. Great personality self deprecation very funny. Clear perspective in her banter.” They signed Dan + Shay on the spot. Even the time between signing and putting out music is different for every artist.
“We call it fairy dust… even if the songs aren’t perfect, the fans aren’t perfect, the venue isn’t perfect- there’s just something that’s intangible with artist.. It’s like there is a light emanating from them.”
What does it feel like when you know? Cris explains, “It feels like something in my chest.. It’s a very physical specific feeling… It’s a warm & fuzzy feeling.”
A&R’s role? “It’s our job to dive deep on finding new people”. If people are talking about something big that’s happening, A&R has to see who the artist is. “It’s finding out what their vision is and trying to figure out if we can add value to that.”
What you really need a label to do is to be “honest and tell you your babies are ugly.”
You don’t want everyone to agree- you need someone to tell you the truth.
“An artist needs a label to tell them when their art is ready”
Does an artist need anything in place before being signed?
Biggest thing: Know who you are! It’s good to have a big following, put music out, and play shows, but if you don’t know who you are then it’s going to crumble. All the artists who were successful: they never waited for someone else to do it for them.
“There is no substitute for hard work”
Advice for artist who has been in Nashville for 5 years and has not gotten a deal:
Keep going!! “It can take 10-12 years. It’s like winning the lottery! You’re gambling a lot… but the win is big. I don’t think it’s a game for anyone who can do anything else.” Also, “Creating. That feeds your soul- find joy in the creation. Put emotion into whatever you’re doing. People can hear that.”
“If you can’t imagine doing anything else, that’s probably a good indication you’re on the right track.”