The Talent Cultivator: Interview with Locher Grove

Through the Rosedale Collective, Locher Grove and his team aspire to cultivate great voices of color in country music, celebrating their talents while building a better future for the music industry

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What comes to your mind when you hear “country music”? First emerging in the 1920s, it is home to great artists such as John Denver, Dolly Parton, and Hank Williams, mostly depicting the lives of working-class Americans. The genre is also more than just road trip-staple music; following its fast growth, it serves as an art form for racial progress, yet many artists of color in Country music still need to be included in the industry. Responding to this phenomenon, Locher Grove collaborated with Sam Viotty and Dennis St. Rose, co-founding

Rosedale Collective, a genius platform for artists of color diving into the realm of country music. Rosedale Collective is the first black-owned music label and accelerator dedicated to developing and celebrating the art of unique voices of color in country, folk, and Americana music. The label has also launched several programs, including Cohort Zero on November 3, 2022, where musicians of color were invited to perform an original set. In a conversation with DAMAN’s Mitchell McCormack, Locher Grove, a co-founders of Rosedale Collective, shares his work, the music industry, and the future of music.

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Mitchell McCormack: Remind me where you’re from?
Locher Grove: Roanoke, Virginia, which is in the southwest part of the state. Beautiful, surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains. I’ve been in LA now for about 4.5 years.

MM: The Appalachians. Was  country music always a big part  of your life? Is that how you found  yourself in country music?
LG: Growing up, country music was always there—in coffee shops, playing over the loudspeakers at the grocery store, at ball games. It’s definitely a part of who I am and a genre that means so much to me. I feel honored to be able to be working in this space with such incredible people who are trying to create change. Now how I found myself in country music is a whole different story, one that is a bit longer to tell.

MM: We’ve got time!
LG: Alright, where to start… For the better part of the last decade, I’ve been working in operations, finance, and partnerships. First with the federal government and then when I moved to LA, at a social impact firm which works at the intersection of impact and entertainment. As the Chief of Staff at that company, I began going deeper and deeper into the narrative and change space in pop culture—mainly TV and music. In early 2021, my incredible co-founders, Sam Viotty and Dennis St. Rose, and I began to consider what we could do in the music space, applying Dennis’ entertainment background and talent expertise, Sam’s arts and culture programming background with the Obama Foundation, and my operations, strategy, and finance experience. We began looking at the pop culture landscape to see where we could be additive and build a business that would generate social change. Following a lengthy 7-month listening and learning tour around the music industry, Rosedale Collective was born.

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MM: Okay, so high level, Rosedale  is a label and accelerator for  BIPOC talent, but how did you  pick country music and why?
LG: Recently, there has been a major push by creatives, storytellers, artists, and artist groups to advance diverse and accurate storylines, characters, and culture creators. With only a few exceptions of some truly extraordinary artists, there is one genre in pop culture that has fervently resisted—country music. We want to be the vehicle for that change.
What I don’t think people realize is also that country music is the fastest growing music genre. Communities of color are drastically changing the landscape of listening audiences, and yet they are not represented on stage or the charts. Audiences of color makeup at least 17 percent of the total listening base of country music and yet studies show that BIPOC artists only account for about 3.5 percent of charting artists. There is an opportunity here for us to make a substantial impact while also creating a viable business model for growth, success, and scale beyond country music.

MM: Beyond country? Where are  you headed next?
LG: I think to actually answer that question, I’ve got to take us a couple of steps back. Indulge me for a minute and stop me if I get too wonky.

MM: I will absolutely stop you if  you get too wonky.
LG: Okay, the music industry, specifically the major label system, is broken. Currently, creators and major labels are no longer aligned as artists look for support services and a retention of power. This is the whole debate you see playing out in the public eye about ownership of masters and creative control, et cetera. Sam, Dennis, and I knew for us to even be a part of the music industry, regardless of the genre or focus of our work, we would have to address the failures of the system. So Rosedale has the first-of-its-kind structure that is revolutionizing deals with artists. We are starting in country music because we believe in the power of this work and this genre. We are going to build Rosedale beyond the boundaries of country music in the future as our system of development and working with artists grows.

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MM: How does this structure work with your artists?
LG: This is where the accelerator comes in. Our accelerator— The Rosedale Residency—is a 12-month exclusive label deal and development program for five artists. Really it boils down to this: Rosedale provides finances to artists for a career “jumpstart” and take “equity” in an artist by revenue sharing with the artist across distinct revenue categories; all of our artists retain ownership of their masters; and we provide comprehensive wrap-around support services to fill the development gap in the industry. We are empowering artists and ushering in the next generation of artists via our revolutionary deal structure, redefining the label-artist relationship via a “venture-model” of investment.

MM: Wow, you’re providing all of these services and developing artists. How are you servicing all these artist needs?
LG: That’s a great question and really the secret sauce of our work. So following our launch with the GRAMMY Museum and National Museum of African American Music in late 2021, we focused the first 6 months of 2022 on building the programs to work with artists. That’s when we connected with David Ryan Harris (DRH). DRH is an acclaimed singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. For the past 17 years, DRH has written and played next to John Mayer, Dave Matthews, and Santana while producing for Cassandra Wilson and Guy Sebastian—with whom he co-wrote the RIAA platinum-certified “Battle Scars”. He is a true “musicians’ musician,” and he joined the Rosedale team as the Director of A&R & Industry. In this role, DRH is the shepherd for all Rosedale talent, leading them through their creative process and guiding them to authentic and compelling expressions of self through their music.
Since then, we’ve Solidified partnerships with industry leading firms; launched a Hyper Accelerator called “Cohort Zero” with Cracker Barrel, Gibson, Uncle Nearest Whiskey, Song House, and Sweety High that reached over 14M across socials; and we’re now preparing to launch our Residency program in early 2023 – the 12 month program for 5 country musicians of color.

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MM: Who are some of the artists you’re working with?
LG: They’re incredible. The three artists we worked with most recently were Dzaki Sukarno, Jennah Bell, and Gabe Lee. All three have such unique and different sounds. Dzaki is reminiscent of the old-school country sound with a pure energy and warmth, Jennah is so multi-dimensional but has a way of drawing in a crowd with her haunting melodies and amazing tone, and Gabe is a powerhouse that pulls out the raw emotion of every note. We’re working with a few more artists in the new year and then 5 insanely talented individuals for the year-long residency in 2023. Keep a look out for them.

MM: What’s next and how does someone get involved?
LG: With our incredible production partner, HollandWest Productions, we’re starting work on a docuseries following young BIPOC talent in the country space. We’re also about to kick off our seed funding round in the new year. We’re always looking for new partners and value aligned individuals and organizations to become a part of this work. Reach out!

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