“At Roc Nation, we don’t see genres,” says executive vp Tamara Coniff, who leads the publishing division of the Jay-Z owned entertainment company. “We just want to sign great writers.”
That mission statement has made Roc Nation’s Nashville operation, a joint venture with songwriter-producer Jesse Frasure under the banner Rhythm House, one of the most successful publishing startups to launch in Music City in recent years. Among the hits written by the two-year-old Rhythm House’s stable of writers are Thomas Rhett’s current country airplay smash “Life Changes” as well as Lady Antebellum’s “Heartbreak,” along with Jon Pardi’s “Dirt On By Boots,” Old Dominion’s “No Such Thing As A Broken Heart”and Lauren Alaina’s “Road Less Traveled.” (Warner/Chappell administers all Roc Nation publishing assets.)
It’s a strategy of melding talents that aligns well with the streaming era and is also rooted in the leadership of Rhythm Nation. Fraser, a Grammy-nominated hitmaker with a background in EDM, says that, while “55% of our time is spent working in country music, we want to have a multi-genre focus so most of our writers come from different worlds.”
The roster includes new signings Mustard (formerly DJ Mustard), who arrived from SONGS Music Publishing and has just teamed up with Nick Jonas on a new song called “Anywhere”; Cary Barlowe, whose background is in rock, pop and gospel, in addition to country; Steven Lee Olsen (Keith Urban’s “Blue Aint’ Your Color”); and Brandon Day, who comes from hip-hop and pop and is already collaborating with Lady Antebellum and Billy Currington.
“The genre thing is blending so fast, especially in the last few years,” says Frasure who notes that, in the past, pop stars in the later stages of their careers would collaborate with country stars, “Now we’re seeing relevant artists on a regular basis whether its Camila [Cabello] or Bebe [Rexha] or The Chainsmokers or whoever.”
Indeed, Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s “Meant To Be” is inching towards a record-breaking reign on the country airplay chart, while on pop radio, Zedd and Maren Morris’ “The Middle” peaked at No. 1.
“We have all our Nashville writers working on our pop records and our pop writers are working on country records,” says Conniff.
Adds Frasure: “A lot of times, with songwriting camps or retreats, they force relationships that don’t make sense. So far, we’ve seen the complete opposite. Everyone we’ve brought to town has an understanding of what we do in Nashville as a craft, and that’s added a lot to our creative process.”
The Rhythm House staff includes VP of A&R BJ Hill, who also holds a position at Warner/Chappell, and newest addition Stevie Frasure, Jesse Frasure’s wife, herself a 15-year veteran of publishing.