Jamey Johnson No Longer Signed with Mercury Records

May 2, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  44 Comments

jamey-johnsonIt 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.”

Read: Country Music Writes A Letter to Jamey Johnson

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.

44 Comments to “Jamey Johnson No Longer Signed with Mercury Records”

  • Jamey, You don’t need Mercury Records, They needed you! Look past this and keep on bringing us REAL COUNTRY MUSIC! Buck em!

  • No surprise here. He ain’t the sound or the look them suits are looking for.

  • There’s got to be a boatload of labels that would froth at the mouth for a chance on a deal with Jamey Johnson. Hopefully something happens for him soon so he can start getting paid again. Best of luck to him.

    • That depends on what kind of label you’re talking about. I think the big mainstream labels look for acts that can quickly build a big enough fan base to move the needle on their financial results. It is hard for a traditional country artist who marches to the beat of his own drummer to move the needle for a big record label.

      • None of this has anything to do with me.. But I’d say get out of town and go find someone who’ll let him be an artist instead of expecting him to be a product. That seems like all these big labels know how to do. You can bet that you’ll never hear Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean talk about not getting paid…

      • He will sign with Shooter Jennings owned label Black Country Rock Media.

        • I could see that happening

  • I LOVE Jamey Johnson….but sadly this is what sometimes happens when an artist chooses to follow their hearts and do the music they love rather than what is popular at the moment or what will be played on the radio. I hope he finds a place where he feels he belongs and is appreciated so he can keep playing the kind of music he plays…He is an amazing songwriter and has too much to offer to be disregarded.

  • Jamey who?


  • Might be a good match for NewWest… but I am sure he will do just fine. Look forward to more from Jamey.

    • “Might be a good match for New West.”

      I was thinking the same thing. Or maybe Nonesuch or ATO.

  • Hey Jamey,

    If you are looking for a new label, I have heard great things about Curb Records…


  • I think Jamey Johnson would be a good fit for Bloodshot Records…there is a new breed of Outlaws coming out of that label that do things their own way. Imagine a tour with Lydia Loveless and Jamey Johnson…hell, imagine the duets they could pull off together.

  • Good info here.

    I wonder if Jamey Johnson’s comments mean that Universal Music Group Nashville (the label group of which Mercury Nashville is a part) still has 1st rights to distribute/release any new music from Jamey Johnson, but he isn’t formally assigned for radio promotion (because really, in this climate?) to a particular label within the label family. That’s the 1st thing that came to mind trying to understand the mixed nature of Jamey’s comments plus the response Trigger got from Mercury Nashville, anyway.

    Kacey Musgraves was originally signed to Lost Highway, which is part of UMG Nashville, then transferred to Mercury Nashville for radio promotion and so on. I wonder if Jamey Johnson might go in the opposite direction – from Mercury to Lost Highway.One other thing to keep in mind: the regime that originally signed Jamey Johnson (which was headed by Luke Lewis) is no longer on top at UMG Nashville, since Mike Dungan took over in February 2012. It was a year after that that Jamey Johnson made his comments to Rolling Stone, so I don’t know if he was unhappy with the new regime, or whether he was actually unhappy with the deal he signed with the old regime and the new regime actually gave him a chance to work out another arrangement.

    Another question would be who owns the masters of any new music Jamey Johnson might record. That would be central to his earlier unhappiness over payments, I’d think, but I don’t know if that’s something he was in the position to change.

    • Good thoughts as always Windmills.

    • Jamey Johnson likely ends up on a UMG label. The Lost Highway name no longer exists. But he could be a candidate for IRS or maybe his own shingle through Republic or Caroline.

  • Jamey signs with Black Country Rock Media (Shooter Jennings label) I guarantee it. They are friends, play concerts together and he has already done one song under them.

    • Not meaning any offense to Shooter’s label whatsoever, but I think people have to be realistic about just what a big name Jamey Johnson is, and how fledgling Shooter’s label is at the moment. Doesn’t mean Jamey wouldn’t sign with them, or that Black Country Rock won’t be big in the future, but their focus so far has been vinyl reissues and such, and taking on a CMA-caliber star would be a huge step. Not saying they couldn’t, but both the label and Jamey would have to determine it would be the right fit.

      I would say the same about Bloodshot Records as well. They are traditionally a stepping stone label. Whitey Morgan left them because he felt they weren’t big enough. If that’s the case, they would be way too small to handle someone like Jamey. The job of these indie labels sometimes is to launch and artist, and then let the bigger companies take them from there. Jamey is already launched, he just needs to find a better home.

      As much as it drives me crazy to think about Big Machine has a history of taking these such artists under their wing, and giving them creative freedom. Not saying it will happen, but it can’t be discounted.

      I think Jamey is in the cat bird’s seat here. I think he’s seen as valuable enough to still sing with a major, though he could also go a different route if he felt it was a better fit.

      • I said Shooter’s label because after this contract thing with Mercury Jamey has trust issues (he talked about it somewhere) with suits labels and contracts. He is going to want to be with someone who he knows won’t screw him and dictate his albums. Will he trust Big Machine Records if he doesn’t know somebody there? I think he trusts Shooter not to do that. Black Country Rock has distribution deals and can do CD’s and downloads as well. Jamey records to record anyway (he did on Guitar Song). They have Jessi Colter on the label as well and Waylon’s estate. Just having the rights to Waylon’s music on the label (just released the never before heard Fenixon Waylon’s 1996 concept album) and the sales that generates is going to give them distribution and income to do things. Jamey can be their first current major artist. Shooter has two hubs in Los Angeles and Nashville for the label so I think they can handle Jamey. Shooter may be prepping things to do just that.

        • You very well might be right. It is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. I just think with the type of name recognition Jamey Johnson has, he might be looking for something more well-established.

          The major difference between a deal with someone like Black Country Rock and a major label is the tour support. Generally speaking, indie and minor labels offer little or nothing to artists when it comes to touring, aside from maybe trying to help set up tour pairings or opening slots. Major labels downright pay an artist to tour. They give artists lots of cash in tour stipends, they pay the crews, they pay for the buses and gear rental, and for promotion for the dates. The reason they do this is because touring is where all the money is these days. There is much more to a record label than manufacturing and distro. Even a 20-year-old label like Bloodshot has its limitations when dealing with bigger names. Also there’s that whole thing about doing business with friends. It’s a very sexy idea, I’m just not sure if it’s in the cards. We’ll see.

          • That may be the one hang up with BCR. I know they do concert days/nights where it will be a day of concerts with Shooter and other BCR acts like his mother and non BCR acts like Hell Bound Glory and Jamey Johnson and of underground acts and such. The thing is Jamey has been touring with or without a label so he is willing to tour without a lot of money invested in the tour. I would say when it comes down to a label if he has to choose between a fully funded tour and full album control he is going to choose full album control.

      • Good point about Big Machine. Looks like the Mavericks are pretty happy there.

  • Well one label I could see him signing with is Zac Brown’s Southern Ground label. Brown would let him make the music he wants to make. But as many have alluded he’ll probably sign with Shooter Jenning’s label. Wherever he ends up I hope he gets to be himself and that he releases some great, new music soon. I’ll be one of the first in line to buy it. Thanks Trigger for getting to the bottom of this.

  • After witnessing music company’s treat their artists like sharecroppers for so many years, watching them squirm from the effects of file-sharing doesn’t really trouble me a lot.

    I don’t know the specifics of Jamey’s problems with Mercury, but I hope they are in the rearview mirror forever now.

    It is rather refreshing to see so many quality artists going indie or small label and having more control over their music, its publication and their performances.

    I hope that Jamey makes a lot of quality music going forward and that he makes a lot of money.

    He is a great song-writer.

  • What’s to keep Jamey from starting his own label, with a distribution deal from a larger label. That happens in rap a lot, and could see it working well in this situation. I would be pleased to see him with Black Country Rock, because I know Shooter would give Jamey, or any other artist for that matter, complete control of their music. Maybe Jamey could use BCR for distribution of his own label and completely bypass the major labels. Not much of a stretch really, considering that I don’t see a major investing any money on a traditional artist for radio play or video production, and store shelf space is dwindling down to non existence anyway.

    • His own record label with a distribution deal certainly could be in the cards for him. I think the key question for Jamey is, how hands on is he going to want to be. Sure he wants to make sure he maintains control, but how much of the back end stuff does he really want to handle? He’s a songwriter. Something tells me Jamey would trade money for both freedom, and the ability to not have to worry about anything but writing and performing.

  • Honestly, what is downright ridiculous about the whole dilemma is that this record label is refusing to allow an artist to make money for them. He’s got an insane amount of talent, a couple of huge hits, many other great tunes, and draws big crowds. Awards under his belt, yadda yadda, and they won’t work with the guy..

    Like a pimp not letting the hookers wear makeup and heels…

  • I can’t believe I am going to say this but it would not suprise me if Scott Borchetta gave him a call. The Mavericks were allowed to do “their” music. I know the album did not get any radio play but sales have been good. If Jamey’s fan base is anything like the Mavericks that would keep him on the road for a long time.

    • Scott has a history of picking off talent mismanaged by other labels and doing great things with them. As much as I love to vilify him, he does give his artists a pretty good amount of artistic freedom, and you can’t argue with what he does for his artists.

      Also, Scott just brought on Dot Records. THey’ll need to fill the roster with someone. Jamey would actually be one of the few names that would to the Dot legacy justice.

      • And if he really is still a UMG artist of some sort, DOT would make a lotta sense as it’s a UMG co-owned label.

        • Very good point Matt. Since DOT is a partnership with Big Machine and UMG, that may be what Jamey meant during his concert comments.

  • Trig, you’ve absolutely crushed my spirits but great work finding this information out so fans like myself quit hanging to a string and waiting for new music. I find it very disturbing that a CMA winning artist, like Jamey, cannot get paid and therefore has no other option than to split from his record label, further assuring that new music will not see the light of day anytime soon. Serious thought though, I know it would take a large sum of money but what are the odds of Trig starting a record label? I know that’s completely far fetched but at some point as a fan you start throwing out asinine ideas as you start to completely lose faith in the whole deal. You keep waiting for someone to come along and change things and when a guy like Jamey comes, you see the light at the end of the tunnel, only to have that light be a freight train heading your way. We’ve seen the deal with Hank 3, Shooter, and now Jamey and you really start to believe it isn’t gonna work. I do apologize for being a “Debbie Downer” though and once more, thanks for all you do!

    • Hey KYChirs,

      It’s flattering you would think that somehow I would be in a position of starting a record label. There’s been lots of suggestions and ideas over the years of making Saving Country Music something more active in the marketplace, but in the end I’m just a writer. That’s what I do, and that’s what I’m good at. Everything else I’ve dabbled in aside from producing albums generally becomes a distraction from what I do best.

      • Trig,
        It’s not so much that I think you are in the position as I know it is a huge expense but more of thinking out loud and wishing you could. You really have introduced me to a lot of fantastic music for the last 4 years or so and I really wish someone out there would promote and pay the artists that others and I find appealing. It just becomes very upsetting as a music fan to watch so many talented artists get thrown to the waste for what I would consider actors in cowboy boots. Anyways, where do you honestly see Jamey going now and any chance you snag an interview with him to get the scoop on what happened and what his plans are?

        • Thanks for the compliments man, I really appreciate it.

          I am actively working on this story and trying to run down more specifics about Jamey’s situation, and what we may expect from the future. He’s known for not liking interviews, though certainly if I had the opportunity to interview him, I would not turn it down.

  • OK, you guys get on my nerve sometimes! You’ve given up on Hank3 and now Jamey got screwed by his Record company and what, you’re willing to give up on him too. That is kicking someone when they’re down. If you don’t believe me, read your dumb stupid comments again. I’ve read all of them and I don’t like a lot of them! Just shut up if you don’t know what to say! Or wait until you assimilate all of this before you start writing. Jamey’s got the kind of talent that does not exist no where in country music right now and quite frankly, I don’t know any country artist dead or alive who sings/sang better than Jamey. Before all of this is over with, they are going to regret their insolence.

    • Sonas, what exactly are you talking about? People pretty much wrote what they hope Jamey does next and that’s release new music. No one has given up on Jamey, the only thing comparable is what Adrian wrote saying Jamey does not have the look or sound right now. That is pretty much what you said “Jamey’s got the talent that does not exist no where in country music right now.” I have to add your comment is wrong. his traditional style may not be on the radio but it exists. Go one YouTube check Wesley Dennis, Billy Yates, Kevin Denny, Darryle Singletary, Shane Worley, Ken Mellons and I am sure others on here can drop a few more names. As a matter of fact there is this cat on Youtube that is always putting on great country music both older and newer artist that goes by the name of Australianfan.

  • Today I looked at UMG website, regarding artists:

    There you can see Jamey Johnson is still listed. This could be due to the fact they have not had the time or ambition to delete his name OR they still have some kind of record deal.

    However, the link to a twitter account seems to be to the wrong Jamey…

    I think it’s strange that Jamey wasn´t aware of record companies ambitions to make extra money on their artists. From Wikipedia “Johnson was dropped from BNA in 2006 and signed to Mercury Nashville Records in March 2008″. “He also self-released an album called ‘They Call Me Country’.” I guess most die hard Jamey Johnson fans has heard that album as it is available for listening on youtube.

    Maybe the best solution for Jamey would be to go back to where he started. Self-
    released products you have full control over… You know the costs and get most of the profit… I wish Jamey the best of luck. In today´s world he is really outstanding!

    • They still have the rights to whatever work Jamey have done for them while under contract with them. So Jamey will always be listed as one of their artist for all who are interested in purchasing his earlier works. Shelton is still listed as a CURB artist under their website even though he is no longer working for them.

    • Hankaboy I would like to contact you to discuss some Jamey songs

  • Who is Blake Shelton?

  • Jamey will be the Spotlight Artist on Opry Country Classics this Thursday, May 8th.

  • Now get a goddamn album out. We need you and your talent.

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