It has been since September of 2010 that fans of CMA Award-winning country music star Jamey Johnson have heard new music from the singer and songwriter. His critically-acclaimed double album The Guitar Song has had to tide listeners over for a protracted period, from an artist that before had been quite prolific. Johnson did release another album in October of 2012, but it was a tribute album, Living For A Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran.
Since then fans have been in a fog about when new music could be expected from the Alabama native, or even the nature of his label status. Then in an interview with Rolling Stone published February 10th, 2013, Jamey Johnson spelled out in specific detail that he felt he was getting a raw deal from his long-time label, Mercury Records Nashville.
“Financially speaking, they treat me worse than they ever did the Dixie Chicks,” Johnson explained to Rolling Stone. “I feel pretty used by the music industry, in that my contracts are written in such a way that I don’t get paid. It’s time for us to regroup and it’s time for us to look at these contracts. The problem is, I don’t trust any of the people that I’ve worked with so far. I believe they’ve all hidden the truth from me or lied to me or deceived me in one way or another. Because the end result is that no matter what they said or did or what they said they did, I didn’t get paid… As a musician I never studied music law. I can’t even read the contracts I’ve signed. But I’m fairly sure they don’t say what I thought they said.”
Beyond The Dixie Chick’s public blackballing from country music after making disparaging comments about then President George W. Bush, they also were part of their own contract dispute, and claimed they didn’t get paid properly for their music. Jamey also explained that the ordeal had put a damper on his desire to write songs.
Well, I wish I could tell you that I am writing. I’m not. I wish I could tell you I’m gonna go home next week and record another album. It’s not likely to happen. We haven’t reached such a gridlock that we can’t continue to do work with them in the future. But we can’t do anything right now until that gets resolved.
Well apparently it has been, though initially the nature of that resolution still left us with more questions. While playing the Mahaffey Theater at the Progress Energy Center in St. Petersburg, FL on January 17th of this year, Jamey Johnson said to the crowd,
“Last time we did a show without a record deal was ’06. Tonight’s our first show without a record deal. And somehow we’re still on the same label. We just didn’t have nowhere else to go. They set it up where now we just don’t have to stay. And here’s one for all of our friends back at Mercury Records in Nashville, Tennessee.” (video below)
After the remarks, Jamey launched into the Waylon Jennings song, “Freedom To Stay.”
Jamey’s remarks would seem to allude that he’d stayed with the label, but also that he’d left it. Or that maybe they had restructured his deal so he could leave, but he decided to stay anyway. The comments seemed to create more questions than answers—more questions there had been before. But maybe that was Jamey’s intention.
So Saving Country Music, wanting to get to the bottom of Jamey’s contract status—called Mercury Records. This is a rough sketch of how the phone conversation went.Hello this is Trigger from Saving Country Music. I’m calling to see if I can ascertain the contract status of Jamey Johnson. Jamey who? I don’t know who that is. Jamey Johnson? I don’t know. Does he or she work here? Jamey Johnson. Is that a new artist or something? Won a CMA for Song of the Year? Wrote “Honky Tonk Badona Donk”? (going for the least common denominator in desperation) Huh. I’ve never heard that name. The rest of the staff is in a meeting. I will have to find out for you.
About 5 minutes later I receive a phone call back from Mercury Records Nashville.No. Jamey Johnson is no longer signed with us. So he didn’t restructure his deal or anything? He’s not signed to the label whatsoever? No. He was here, but he’s no longer signed with us. That’s all the information I can give you.
So there you go. Jamey Johnson has been stricken from the consciousness of Mercury Records Nashville and has moved on. Though this is no guarantee there’s new music coming from him, this certainly moves him one step closer.
Jamey’s remarks about his contract status can be seen at the 28:55 mark in the video below.
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