Veteran artist manager Justin Eshak had just started his position as VP of A&R at Columbia Records when he came across “Doses & Mimosas,” an infectious party anthem by the Nashville-based electro- pop duo, Cherub, on iTunes in January 2013. Excited by what he heard, Eshak started researching and was impressed by the viral and touring success that Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber had achieved as indie artists.
After receiving a positive response to the digital release of their first album, Man of the Hour, which led to relentless touring (an average of 150 dates a year) throughout the U.S. and Mexico, Cherub released their follow-up, MoM & DaD, on the indie label Elm & Oak in early 2012; that collection included “Doses & Mimosas,” which that August hit No. 1 on Hype Machine’s most talked about songs chart. When Eshak got wind of them, Cherub were just about to release their next EP, 100 Bottles.
“Everything they were doing––putting out records, touring, shooting and posting videos, building their buzz––happened because people were hearing them and liking their music,” says Eshak. “When I reached out to them, they weren’t looking for a major label deal. They had always created good partnerships in their business dealings, and stressed that was important as we progressed towards signing them.”
“They had always created good partnerships in their business dealings.”
Intrigued by “the juxtaposition of upbeat party songs with darker lyrics” as well as their entrepreneurial spirit, Eshak met them for lunch and attended what Kelley says were “two of our best shows,” one at the Highline Ballroom in N.Y., another sold-out performance at the Georgia Theatre in Athens. Later, during one of Columbia’s regular A&R meetings, Eshak presented Cherub to label President Ashley Newton and Chairman Rob Stringer. They ultimately agreed to sign the band.
Kelley and Huber were happy to have the opportunity to bring creative ideas to the label and engage the A&R staff as a partnership. Kelley says, “Jason and I really want to be known internationally and Columbia can put us on a huge platform and release our music to as many people possible. We’ve been touring our asses off for a few years, but the exposure they can give us will take us to that next level.”
Cherub’s first full-length effort on Columbia is Year of the Caprese, released on May 27.
– Jonathan Widran