Wayne’s World: Wayne Connolly launches new label Scenic Drive
It’s not hard to see why Wayne Connolly has been referred to as Australia’s Rick Rubin, a nod to the giant American record producer and American Recordings chief.
Connolly is the man with the golden ears, an Australian producer, engineer, artist and composer who has helped shape the recordings of at least 200 acts, from The Vines and Youth Group, to Boy & Bear, Josh Pyke, Neil Finn, The Living End, the late Grant McLennan, Custard, Jimmy Barnes and more.
Connolly won the first of his eight ARIA Awards back in 1996, as engineer on You Am I’s Hourly Daily.
The list goes on.
For his many years making records and guiding some of the most influential and successful artists in Australian music history, Connolly has never been at the helm of his own label.
All that changes with the launch of Scenic Drive. Connolly’s new venture starts life with its first signing The Nagging Doubts, a young Sydney act who those close to the label say possess the special ingredients to make the world take notice.
The first release, ‘Shot In The Dark,’ is scheduled for release 20th August, supported by a gig that night at The Vanguard in Newtown.
Scenic Drive’s infrastructure is supported by digital distribution and label service provider Believe, which has enjoyed early success working with Michael Chugg and Andrew Stone on City Pop Records, Gold Coast producer Paces’ Off Leash Records and others.
Perhaps those music peeps got the Connolly connection all wrong. Rather, Rick Rubin is America’s Wayne Connolly.
The Industry Observer caught up with Connolly for a look into his new label venture.
TIO: Wayne, welcome to label land. You’ve such an impressive career as a producer, why now launch a record label?
Wayne Connolly: Thank you! It’s nice to be here.
Well, my first real love is writing press releases. I’ve always been involved in the mechanics of releasing music with my own bands and I genuinely enjoy the industry side of it. But mostly I enjoy collaborating with artists – musical, visual and all. So, unwilling as I am to use the phrase ‘creative synergies’ so early in my label career, it’s about taking a step into the unknown and seeing what happens.
If I thought about it too much I might not do a label, but I’m often inclined to go against all my better instincts. I went to drama classes many years ago and met my wife, and I once went for a job interview as a studio manager when I’d hardly set foot in a studio.
Anything that gets me out of the producing chair is probably a good thing. They say sitting is the new smoking.
I know a few people who have started labels and by and large they are very happy people, very happy people…
TIO: You’ve called it Scenic Drive. Was there a brief moment where Wayne’s World was an option? What’s the ethos for the label.
WC: It would have obviously been a more financially prudent thing to do.
The name Scenic Drive springs from the idea that the music on the label will take you somewhere away from your daily cares.
The ethos would be endeavouring to foster a community that is involved in putting out some great music, and I have some great people (Same Same Music Group Director) Maddy Hume, (Believe Senior Label Manager) Troy Barrott and the folks at Believe to help me.
So many great music scenes existed because of the venues, promoters, labels and managers who nurtured them, from CBGBs and Mercury Lounge in NYC to the Hopetoun, Annandale and Oxford Arts Factory in Sydney.
All those people who went out on a limb to make something that was, in effect, a creative hub.
TIO: The label is supported by Believe, which has a global network. Is the mission to develop global careers for your artists?
WC: Yes, being able to tap into their global network has great appeal. I have a deep love and respect for Australian music and I’m happy to be helping more people in the world aware of it.
TIO: Will you produce all the acts on your label?
WC: I’m not really planning to but it is good to be able to help out and get bands across the finish line if they get stuck with technical, mix or production issues.
The ideal scenario is to be handed a great finished EP or album.
I look forward to the idea of collaborating with other producers and I think it’s always valuable to come at things from a different perspective.
TIO: And will you continue to produce acts not on the label?
WC: Yes, production is my livelihood so I’ll be doing that until such time as the label explodes onto the world stage.
TIO: The Nagging Doubts are your first signing. It’s a tricky time, seeing as intentional touring is out. What are their plans for the months ahead?
WC: It’s just a matter of doing what you can do. Obviously radio and support from streaming services becomes crucial.
Nagging Doubts are an impressively self-sufficient band who are really good at home recording and they have stockpiled dozens of ideas and demos that need finishing. So it’s a bit of a long game and really no one knows what’s going to happen – it’s about loving music, moving ahead with a stiff upper lip and not trying to push beyond what everyone’s comfortable with or what the law allows.
TIO: Speaking of the pandemic, many artists have delayed their album releases because they can’t play the live dates in support. On the flip side, we all need good quality new music. Is launching a new label during a pandemic a challenge or an opportunity?
WC: Yes, it’s probably a bit of both, but leaning very heavily towards the challenging side.
Traditionally so many releases are hung around record launches and tours. It may be that the label will have to look at starting and running its own airline, like Virgin, to get our acts overseas and put some money in the coffers.
And as you say, many of us need good music and a lot of people in the industry like myself don’t question why they are drawn into the vortex of getting involved in putting out music – it’s just the tractor beam of a life in music.
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.