Ever wonder how a country artist’s career gets started? We asked Damon Moberly, Vice President, Promotion at Mercury Records Nashville, to provide some insight on how Universal Music Group and Mercury Records discovers the next big country artist.
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Central Kentucky. I grew up on a tobacco and hay farm with my parents and grandparents. Later on, I got a job offer at Mercury Records Nashville, so I moved to Nashville and have just started my 22nd year here. I was interested in radio at a very young age, and shortly after, began a career on the radio when I was 14 years old. At 28, I moved to Guam and did a morning show for a couple of years. When I returned to the states, I began programming for a country radio station in my hometown WVLK-FM in Lexington, Kentucky.
What is your role at Mercury Records Nashville?
I am the Vice President of Promotion. Our current artist roster includes Chris Stapleton, Travis Denning, Maddie and Tae, Shania Twain, Lauren Alaina, and Billy Currington. Our team of people are advocates and ambassadors for these artists so we can help them get their music exposed and played at terrestrial radio stations, HD and online stations, and digital streaming services. Once the music gains traction and the artists are having some success, we spend a lot of time advocating for our partners in the market, helping the artist continue the relationships they build early on. We’re the ones fighting to make sure the radio stations continue to play their music.
Left: Lauren Alania
Middle: Easton Corbin
Right: Billy Currington
After a new artist records a record, what is the next step?
The promotion teams take these artists on the road all over the country and introduces them to radio stations to help get their careers started. We have chart panel of roughly 160 radio stations that we deal with on a weekly basis. We build connections and relationships with these stations and programmers that can last 20 or more years for our artists if we are lucky.
What’s your daily schedule like?
I wake up around 6 a.m. and look at the charts to see what radio stations are doing with our singles. If stations are lagging or playing the songs less than they were the week before, we jump into to resolve that. We are hustling to make sure the records continue to move up the chart. We spend a lot of time planning showcases and station events with our roster of artists as well.
What role have boots played in songwriting and or in stage presence?
Since Lucchese came to Nashville, I’ve seen a huge difference in the way artists are styling themselves as far as footwear is concerned. They have always worn boots, but they weren’t always custom. The boots they wear on stage can be an obvious statement and they can get really creative with something that they are able to custom design. We’ve seen artists really get into the design and layout of what they want to wear on stage. Lucchese provides that option to artists who aspire to design things they thought they never could. Lucchese boots are artwork in my opinion, just beautiful, comfortable, wearable art.
Artists like Kane Brown, Tyler Farr, Travis Denning and Easton Corbin have mentioned Lucchese in their songs. It seems that if you hear an artist talking about cowboy boots in their songs, it’s Lucchese. I think having a Lucchese store in Nashville has given the Lucchese heritage brand a huge presence in this Music City market.
You’ve worked with a number of really talented artists, what’s the secret to knowing how someone will perform in the industry?
At first, it feels like it’s a gut thing. When we watch new artists perform and are actually moved by the words they write and sing, you can feel like you are on to something. I don’t sign artists. We have a very talented team of people that are much more in tune with who has a real shot to make it, but when I see or hear someone that has something special, I can get excited. There’s not enough space in the market to give everyone who sings or writes a hit record on the radio, so something has to stand out. Whether that’s being different vocally, having a great look, a lyric that stops you in your tracks or a great stage presence. There’s no handbook, but when you are moved, it's easy to get interested really quickly.
When an artist gets a No. 1 hit or releases their first album, how do you like to celebrate?
I have been so fortunate in my relationship with Lucchese because sometimes I like to celebrate by building an artist their first pair of Luccheses. I love to be the one to introduce them to this classic American heritage brand. Once we get new artists, or friends into a pair, they seem to become long term, repeat customers, but that first pair is special and I like to be involved in that process if possible.
Damon talking to Lionel Richie about designing him a pair of custom Lucchese boots.
You travel a lot with a bunch of different artists, what’s one thing you never leave home without?
I never travel without my Lucchese stonewashed mad dog goat boots or my battery pack cell phone charger. I'm on the phone A LOT!
What did you wear to the CMA’s?
I wore a custom version of the Luca chukka boots with a navy-blue tux.
How big is your Lucchese collection?
I have about 45 pairs of Luccheses. I don’t own anything else. My first pair of Luccheses were square toe hornback caiman boots. These boots have been resoled many times because I wear them everywhere.
What do you feel every day when you put on your Lucchese boots?
Class and style! A Lucchese employee once told me, “What we’re best at is fit.” I’ve never put on a pair of Luccheses where I have to take them off later due to discomfort because they were brand new. There is no breaking-in period for me with these boots. I can put them on and wear them for 12 hours. As I said before, this is art. Really beautiful, comfortable art.
Is there anyone our audience should be on the lookout for as an up-and-coming artist?
We have so many new artists that I’d love to share, but one of Mercury’s newest is Travis Denning. Travis is a huge fan of Lucchese and wears Luccheses every night on stage. I gave him his first pair of rattlesnake boots. He’s a left handed guitar player and a great writer and performer. Another new signing is Parker McCollum from Texas. Parker is new on MCA Nashville, which is in our company. They’ll be launching new music from Parker next year. He’s working on the record now and what I’ve heard is GREAT. These are two very talented artists to definitely keep your eye on!
For more information about Damon Moberly and Mercury Records Nashville, visit https://www.umgnashville.com/.
To listen to Travis Denning music, click here.
To listen to Parker McCollum music, click here.