For bluegrass bands, there’s no better place to be seen than the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards. When The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys got nominated for a Momentum Award, everyone who could accelerate their career saw them. The morning of last year’s ceremony, a 20-minute spot in front of 500 of the genre’s biggest movers included Rounder Records co-founder Ken Irwin. “I remember seeing him and it scared the daylights out of me,” recalls lead singer and mandolin strummer C.J. Lewandowski in his typically understated drawl.
Irwin tracked him down during the ceremony itself and expressed his desire to sign the band. Despite Rounder’s interest, the group was mulling over two other offers. Still, Irwin and fellow label creator Marian Leighton-Levy knelt with them in their hotel’s hallway and negotiated a prospective agreement. Months later, however, the band came close to inking with a different label, but had doubts. They abstained and, two days after witnessing their performance at Boston’s Joe Val Festival, Irwin made an official offer via conference call.
“Rounder was the only way to go,” reflects Lewandowski, noting the label’s storied history with bluegrass. They also knew Rounder could aid them in reaching the widest possible audience. Extracting themselves from their RandM Records arrangement proved no obstacle; CEO Paul Cavanaugh insisted they deserved a home better versed in bluegrass, even declaring they needn’t sign a release.
Around this time, they also hooked up with Mike Drudge of Rainmaker Management and Barron Ruth of Crossover Touring. Lewandowski insists these opportunities came not as a result of searching but rather hard work combined with a relentless focus on their music. “You can’t push that kind of stuff,” he muses. “There’s a natural process to life. And if you let that natural flow go, everything’s going to happen better than you can even plan.”
Date Signed: April 30, 2018
Label: Rounder Records
Type of Music: Bluegrass
Band Members: C.J. Lewandowski, vocals, mandolin; Jerome Brown, banjo, vocals; Josh Rinkel, guitar, vocals; Jasper Lorentzen, bass
Management: Mike Drudge, 813-867-7209 ext. 18, firstname.lastname@example.org
Booking: Barron Ruth - Crossover Touring, 404-793-7023 ext. 102, email@example.com
Legal: George Clark Shifflett III, Gshifflett3@shifflettlegal.com
Publicity: Katie Keller - The Press House, 270-929-5505
A&R: Ken Irwin - Rounder Records