We’re wrapping up our first Label In Residence series with George Fontaine, Jr., the founder of New West’s sister label Normaltown Records. Read on to discover a little about Normaltown’s history and roster, how they fit into the New West ecosystem, their creative connection to Athens, GA and much more!
NoiseTrade: First off, tell us about the history of Normaltown Records and what’s all been involved with your role at the label over the years.
George Fontaine, Jr.: We started Normaltown Records in 2012, as a subsidiary of New West Records. At that time, we were starting to invest in younger artists and the future of our company and Normaltown provided us an avenue to sign and patiently develop some new upcoming artists. We also wanted to make a stamp on the Athens, GA community where we had recently opened an office.
NT: As a label, how does Normaltown fit into the overall New West ecosystem and in what ways do the two labels converge and work with each other?
Fontaine, Jr.: As I like to tell anyone signing to Normaltown, it’s all in the same family – same distribution network as New West, same production staff, and while we tend to outsource the marketing a bit more (radio, press, etc.), Normaltown artists have access to the New West marketing staff as well.
NT: Some current New West artists like Lilly Hiatt and Daniel Romano got their start on Normaltown before signing with New West. What role do you see Normaltown playing for artists to help prepare them for future phases of their career?
Fontaine, Jr.: We work with them every step of the way, helping them grow their brand and footprint (through marketing, touring, general planning/scheming, and kicking up any opportunity we can uncover along the way), while they continue to hone their artistic craft.
NT: Mirroring a question I also asked your dad earlier this month… Geographically, Normaltown has always had a strong presence in the Athens music community. What is your personal connection to Athens and what is Normaltown’s history with the surrounding creative community?
Fontaine, Jr.: I grew up in Houston but was well versed in the mystique of Athens, GA (both from a musical standpoint, and as the son of a UGA graduate and huge Bulldogs fan). I first visited the town in high school and was hooked, eventually attending UGA myself. New West has had several Athens artists over the years: Vic Chesnutt, Drive-By Truckers, and Randall Bramblett, to name a few. So when we opened our office here in 2011, it was natural to double-down on that and immerse ourselves in this talented and special community.
NT: Finally, we’re highlighting some incredible Normaltown releases like Ruby the Rabbitfoot’s Divorce Party, White Violet’s AGES, and Cicada Rhythm’s self-titled album. What are some of your favorite Normaltown releases – past and present – from over the years that you think folks should check out for themselves?
Fontaine, Jr.: Ukred by Kalen Nash. This was the first album we released on Normaltown. It’s such a beautiful record and it was recorded almost entirely in our Athens office!
I think my favorite song in our catalog is “What Heartache Is All About” by J. Thomas Hall. JT (a former Ponderosa bandmate of Kalen Nash). We never actually ended up finishing the album, but we released this song on a 7″ record and is it a good one!