Nate Lowery, GM/VP Creative at Cornman Music, grew up in Muscle Shoals where his love for music and songwriters began at an early age. His Dad, writer Donny Lowery, encouraged him to write songs, but innately Nate knew he wanted to be a publisher. His first gig was at Windswept Music with Steve Markland, working in the tape copy room. He then moved to Oglesby Writer Management/19 Entertainment and eventually to his current slot steering Cornman Music.
“I’m still constantly calling people like Pat Higdon, Scott Gunter, Steve Markland or Ben Vaughan if I don’t know the answer to something,” Lowery says humbly. “Those guys have been amazing help through the years.”
Cornman is headed by songwriter Brett James and features a select group of writers including Kip Moore, Justin Weaver, Caitlyn Smith, Erik Dylan, Aaron Benward and Steven Lee Olsen.
“We hired Creative Director Shea Fowler about a year ago,” Lowery adds. She’s highly organized, on the street listening and just been a big help.”
If ever there was an official indie publisher survival manual, today’s evolving industry has left it severely outdated. Nevertheless, Cornman Music has forged steady success across its seven year history making Nate’s view of current challenges and possible solutions required reading. Read on…
NEKST: Tell us about Cornman Music?
Nate Lowery: Brett James owns Cornman Music which he started in 2007. I came over to help him at that time and have been here about seven years. At Warner/Chappell, our co-venture, we started working with Steve Markland, who recently left to head Downtown Music. I hated to see him go, he is so respected, but we are fortunate to get to work with Ben Vaughn. Ben brings a lot to the table and has great ideas. Combustion Music also has a share of Brett’s publishing, but is not a Cornman owner.
NEKST: Besides money what are the benefits of a co-venture?
Nate Lowery: Warner/Chappell takes care of all our admin needs which allows us to focus on the creative side of things. I want to pitch songs, get them on the radio and make money for our writers, but that also means creating artist co-write situations. We’ve been fortunate to sign some wonderful writers that have gotten artist deals too. For example, we signed Steven Lee Olsen because we loved his writing, but he’s just signed a record deal with Sony. Caitlyn Smith is an amazing talent and we are trying to find her a deal, too.
NEKST: What is the scheduling like, especially for Brett?
Nate Lowery: In some ways publishers have become traffic managers more than anything. I have to do what is best for my writers, especially my boss. But if it’s a great idea I’ll make it work. I was telling a writer yesterday, Brett is one of the most talented writers, but no one works as hard as he does. And his career proves it. He writes every day, never cancels on people and many days writes doubles. He loves it. The other day someone cancelled on him, so he wrote two songs that day by himself. You don’t hear that often. Writers with tons of hits usually do it with a couple of artists that are very similar. Brett is all the way from Carrie Underwood to Jason Aldean. He is a chameleon.
NEKST: Has the evolution of the business changed your creative strategies?
Nate Lowery: Years ago you could get songs on a record and mechanical royalties would help a writer recoup. But today mechanicals are obsolete. You need to have a single or be writing with an artist that has potential. Singles are the way you stay alive. For example, Justin Weaver, is an amazing writer/producer. Brett was going on the road to write with Brantley Gilbert and I thought about getting Justin together with Brett to prepare some ideas in advance. “Bottoms Up” was one of those ideas. They pounded out a little track, Brett took it with him, then he and Brantley wrote to it.
NEKST: We’re starting to hear the term “track guy” a lot. What’s it mean?
Nate Lowery: Track guys pretty much do the demo right in the room and provide instant gratification. They’ll get the vocal that day, mix and send it out that night. I don’t really like the term, “track guy,” because they bring a lot to the table. A lot of the older publishers in town don’t get it, but you have to change. Justin Weaver is a track guy and the way he creates on pro tools is amazing. He pulls up a track so fast and then adds so much more. He’s going to write the song with you and put it together. Ross Copperman makes great sounding tracks, too. They’re like records to me. Track guys like Justin, Ross, Jimmy Robbins and Chris DeStefano all bring something extra to a writing session.
NEKST: How did you find your way to being a publisher?
Nate Lowery: Growing up I was always around the music business. My Dad (Donny Lowery “Old Flames” “Why Does It Have to Be Wrong or Right”) had a place on 16th Ave. and he wrote for Music Mill, Windswept and Almo Irving. It was like a vacation every time me and my brothers got to leave our home in Muscle Shoals and go to Nashville. I’d come up for his sessions because I was a guitar player and he wanted me to see first hand what these amazing musicians can do. I was constantly absorbing all I could in the Muscle Shoals studios and learning about the business. Then I started hanging around some of Dad’s publishers and got to see what they did. Somehow I knew I could do this. I don’t know why I get along great with writers, I just do. Maybe because I was raised by one. I’ve always just loved songwriters—what they do and how they do it. I’m amazed by it.