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Producer Fred Mollin talks about Melody Place Music, digital age (Includes interview)

“I had gone to Lamont Dozier in 2017 and pitched an album that we would do together of Lamont doing his most famous material, unplugged and intimate,” he said. “I then went to Leigh Shockey, a wonderful woman who I had gotten friendly with through Gerry Beckley of America. Leigh was known as being a great patron of the arts and someone who I also remembered, knew Lamont.”

“After we had done the project and I was able to get it licensed in Japan, Europe and in the US, I decided to pitch the idea of a boutique record label to Leigh,” he said.

“As a record producer pretty well all my life, and also having spent a good year and a half as the vice President of A&R for Walt Disney records in 2006 and 2007, I realized that I could run a small label, and I wanted to keep the album art form alive. I also wanted to look at doing no more than three albums a year, and only signing veteran, sustaining or iconic artists with strong project concepts that their fans and the world would find compelling,” he elaborated.

“Leigh thought it was a brilliant idea, we shook hands and as of January 2019, we started our label, Melody Place, and I’m now a one-man paper hanger-president. It was a great validation when we signed our distribution deal with BMG,” he added.

His Melody Place Music roster includes Lisa Mills and Mandy Barnett. “It’s wonderful to have both of these incredible artists on the label. Lisa is very much an unknown to many people, but she will become well-known with this particular album we are releasing Jan 17. I believe it’s going to be her Cinderella moment. She may be one of the most soulful r and B/blues singers I’ve ever heard, and the concept for our album gives us a wonderful story to tell,” he said.

“Mandy is, in my opinion, a national treasure, although many people just think of her as a Nashville treasure. There’s just no one in the world who has that beautiful million-dollar voice. Mandy is incredible. She’s deeply bright and has been through so many incarnations, yet she is still young, and her artistry is challenging and impossibly astute,” he said.

“The single we just released, ‘The End of the World’ was a love song to classic country, but the album that we are finishing right now, takes her in a completely different direction, very much like what Linda Ronstadt did when she started working with Nelson Riddle and did those incredible albums including ‘What’s New’,” he said.

On his plans for the future, he said, “We are always looking for the next artist and concept. Right now I have my hands full with the marketing and releases of our first two projects, but we have a number of people we are having great discussions with, and I hope to announce two new signings over the next few months.”

On working with Mandy Barnett on the Skeeter Davis cover, he said, “It was really quite something. We had a 60 piece orchestra for two days in Nashville doing the album that will be coming out in March, which is an album of torch songs brilliantly arranged by Sammy Nestico, who did all of the arrangements this year at the age of 95, and last time I spoke to Sammy, he wanted to do some more.”

“With the kind of musicians that we had on the live dates, I knew I’d have some extra time in the studio, and my publicist Victoria Varela, had suggested that we do one classic country cover to show solidarity to that genre that Mandy has been so well-known in and in a way, a thank you to Ken Burns for his beautiful Country Music documentary series,” he said.

“Mandy decided the best song choice was ‘The End of the World,’ and I completely agreed. We literally cut the entire track in 20 minutes with an orchestral arrangement by my dear friend and old partner Matthew McCauley stepping in the night before, to write the strings. On the tracking day, Matt was conducting the orchestra, and I was working with my rhythm section, while Mandy sang it live. We did two takes with everyone going down live, Mandy fixed a couple of lines later and added a couple of doubles and a few harmonies, and Bill Schnee mixed it and I think we knocked it out of the park,” he said.

For young and aspiring producers and label heads, he said, “Create media and newsworthy concepts for the projects that you do. Try to get right to the fans. Sign artists carefully. Songs are critical. The song comes first. Be passionate and be directed by the music and the importance of the artist that you might be signing. We don’t need more mildly interesting records, we need great important records.”

On being a label head in the digital age, he said, “I don’t really feel like a label head, as it’s a small, but hopefully powerful little label. I’m just the guy running it. I’m working out of my home office and studio and finding some business matters extremely challenging, but exciting.”

“For the first time, it is a true delight to be the true captain of my own ship. Blame me for signing someone, and blame me for every other decision. I’m going to try to make the most out of these projects and I would love to be responsible for some beautiful success for these wonderful artists and for my label,” he said.

Mollin defined the word success as follows: “Honestly, I always had the feeling that I never had the killer instinct. There are certain people in music who I will not name, but they truly have the killer instinct and it was never enough to be number two, they would do anything to be number one. I mean anything. That’s not me. Success for me is exactly that. I’ve always wanted to be successful in music. To have a life in music that was a worthy and successful life as well as a worthy and successful career.”

“I never cared if I was number one, as long as I was making a difference and that I was making music that people loved. Music that made a difference in people’s lives. That is true music success. The other success is to be a good human being, a good dad, a good friend, a good spouse, whatever. Just being a worthy person,” he said.

“A life in music is a great and honorable pursuit. I have had success just having a musical life. And I still have the passion and energy that I have always had when I step into a studio starting an album. I’ll be thrilled to have a number one album for our new venture, but if it only gets to number two, I’ll be smiling,” he concluded.

To learn more about Melody Place Music, check out its official website.

Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 17,000 original articles over the past 16 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a six-time consecutive "Best of Long Island" winner, and in the past three years, he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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