Cooking Vinyl set to build on Fanny Lumsden’s incredible year
It’d be an understatement to say 2020 was an emotional yo-yo for country singer-songwriter Fanny Lumsden.
It began with three weeks of bushfires in the Tooma Valley, where she wrote and recorded her album Fallow in a stone hut, and having to drive through a dust storm to get to the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
Fallow, her third album, was released on Friday March 13 – the day COVID-19 shuttered the music industry, slamming shut her media promo and touring schedule.
But at the other end of 2020, Fallow, following its top 10 ARIA debut, was nominated for seven nominations at the Golden Guitar Awards and took out the ARIA for Best Country Album. In November, a 10-date regional theatre tour sold out after being rescheduled three times.
Much of Lumsden’s success had to do with Cooking Vinyl Australia, which signed her for Fallow after the fiercely independent act released her first two albums on her own Red Dirt Road Records.
Says Leigh Gruppetta, co-managing director and co-A&R with Stu Harvey at the label, “Obviously Fallow was an ambitious record for her, and our pitch to her was how to amplify her vision.
“When Stu and I have conversations about signing artists, the first things we look for are, one, first and foremost, songs, and two, working with good people. She well and truly had both those bases covered.”
Gruppetta calls their relationship a collaborative one, with Lumsden, her husband/bandmember Dan Freeman and former manager Dan Biddle highly involved with every aspect of the career “and the driving force behind everything”. Cooking Vinyl expanded her brand to the wider singer-songwriter scene and used its clout with streaming services, radio and mainstream retail where she had relatively little presence.
“It was a timely thing, as Spotify was ramping up its support of Australian country acts,” Gruppetta explains, “and Australia is its third-largest streaming market for country music behind the US and Canada.
“We were able to break her out of just that sole country space and more into singer-songwriter playlists like Broad Chords.”
The ARIA win sees Cooking Vinyl take Fallow back to market, especially around the January 23 Golden Guitars and its first release anniversary in mid-March. What’s more, news of the win led to invitations from overseas festivals and trade fairs.
“We’re looking at the UK as the next frontier. Part of the pitch was our worldwide distribution – we’re part of The Orchard – and we can set up teams for release internationally,” Grupetta says.
Pictured: Fanny Lumsden and Dan Stanley Freeman winning Best Country Album at the 2020 ARIAs. Photographer: Jasmine Pierce
Cooking Vinyl already has a strong country music base, with overseas names as John Prine, Lucinda Williams and Mary Chapin Carpenter, while local signing Tracy McNeill also received an ARIA nomination. Gruppetta readily admits that Lumsden’s success gave Cooking Vinyl a greater presence in the Australian country music sector, and it’s negotiating with a number of acts.
“We’ve learned a lot from Fanny. She has so much energy, her relentless work ethic has made us a better label,” he says.
“Her magic is her fun and playful persona but it’s underpinned by this incredible storytelling.
“The way she continually engages her fans, she brings everyone on the journey with her.”
2020 was a strong sales year overall for Cooking Vinyl, with a spike in streaming, and vinyl sales up 20%. Its strike rate included Sunshine Coast’s The Chats while Gold Coast’s Eliza & The Delusionals got a track added on US radio’s Sirius FM (with 30.1 million subscribers) which led to a tour there.
Upcoming releases include Tasmanian band Luca Brasi’s fifth album, Everything Is Tenuous, on February 12 (last week Spotify put them on the cover of the #localnoise playlist), New York band The Hold Steady’s eighth record Open Door Policy the same month, recordings from Lucinda Williams’ Lu’s Jukebox series (including a night of Bob Dylan songs) and a reissue of John Prine’s catalogue on vinyl.