An IndiePulse Exclusive
Started “on a houseboat in Sausalito,” Floating Records has quickly become one of the rising new independent record labels around. Founded by Don Zimmer, their growing artist roster includes respected Americana-Roots musician, Jeffrey Halford and the Healers, whose latest album Lo-Fi Dreams rose to #23 on the Americana Music charts, and who is currently on his second consecutive year of a European Tour; Houston, Texas-based group Moses Guest, whose Floating Records’ release Light has been favorably reviewed by No Depression and many other publications. Another project gaining steam: County Well, a Northern California-based musical collective fronted by Zimmer “with the goal of connecting the talents of both local and traveling musicians.” Also in the works: A special Floating Records Music and Fashion event at Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley on November 4; and a project with Mark Karan, lead guitarist with ex-Grateful Dead member Bob Weir’s band, Ratdog.
IndiePulse Music recently had the pleasure of interviewing this interesting man. Here’s how it went.
IPM: Why did you form Floating Records:
DZ: It partly began with the desire to have a real record store and help artists with traditional distribution issues, and then morphed into a platform to support the local (Northern California) music scene in any other ways we could think of, including recording. We established digital distribution with our artists receiving 100% of the sales, and we became a Northern California-based Whole Foods vendor and were selling CDs in fifty of their stores with plans to add other territories until that market collapsed. Mill Valley had two Whole Foods stores and they sold CDs at their check-out line. I walked in one day and said, ‘you are all about selling local products, why not sell local music?’ They said, ‘you are right’ and our working relationship was born. Once you are a vendor in one store, you are a vendor in the region. Fifty-Two Northern California stores. Local Santa Cruz artists at the Santa Cruz store. Petaluma artists at the Petaluma store. etc. etc. They also purchased the discs from me in advance, not on consignment. Everyone wanted into Whole Foods and Floating Records was the way in. We were going to move into other territories and then CD sales died and they stopped carry them altogether. There was even a Whole Foods in Oakland that sold vinyl. Now we are making vinyl and figuring out how to make that work.
IPM: What is your background prior to forming the label?
DZ: I was a Nasdaq Stock Trader for a solid twenty years but my passion was always music: playing guitar and learning how to record and produce original content. What to do with that content and help others with theirs became Floating Records.
IPM: Indie record labels that you admire?
DZ: Right now, (musician) Jack White’s is what inspires us. A store front, the ability to press vinyl, recording studio, and a community feel.
IPM: Let’s discuss your ‘County Well’ project?
DZ: While working on various recording projects with members of Moses Guest and Hot Buttered Rum, we began adding these talented musicians to other projects. This, in turn, became an ongoing series of compositions with artists who probably would never have played together, joining musically in the studio to create some unique sounds. We will be releasing the first of these in March of 2018. We are going to expand the “County Well” concept by producing another version with a variety of artists contributing individual songs. The “County” is going to expand to a global community, “borderless locality” – redefining local music bridges that connect local musical counties. A big county well, counties combined. Broadening the area of local.
IPM: Does Floating Records have national distribution at the present time?
DZ: In the digital world, we have access to The Orchard.com which gives us global distribution through a top distribution site. In the real world, we are developing relationships with record stores and radio stations to support our vinyl and CD supply.
IPM: Do you believe in music as an avenue for expression of your own personal political and societal views?
DZ: Music is a universal, healing language and any topic is fair game. No matter how far it goes, whatever the reach, whoever is involved is getting something positive out of it. With the never-ending bombardment, music is the answer.
IPM: Why did you recently relocate from Marin County, CA to Blaine, Idaho?
DZ: You could call it relocate, we prefer expanding (laughs), adding other counties and other musicians to the Floating family. Boise and Ketchum have thriving music scenes and we are thrilled to get to know the talent from new areas. There is a hard-working band called Bread and Circus out of Boise who has caught our ear and we are looking forward to following and supporting (them).
IPM: What are some of Floating Records’ upcoming projects that excite you?
DZ: One of the highlights of 2017 was producing the the vinyl for Lo-Fi Dreams by Jeffrey Halford and the Healers. With the decline of the CD and the realities of digital, producing vinyl records has brought something back that is not experienced in the cyber world and it is good. We are working on the 2018 calendar and plan on compilations from twenty years of Moses Guest, a Best of Jeffrey Halford, two County Well releases and some long-awaited original music from guitar master, Mark Karan. There’s some other stuff in the hopper but we will wait on that.
IPM: What do you foresee five years into the future for Floating Records?
DZ: We’ll produce the music for the “Life on the Water’ film series. We hope to add new artists to these soundtracks and find other sources to place music. We are looking to publish our first book(s) in the coming years as well as working on some podcasts. We are working with promoters and radio and hoping to develop some touring routes that are supported by radio and retail venues. Continuing to produce quality vinyl records, maybe a festival or two and working with talented artists we believe in are all part of the plan.
IPM: How can people keep abreast of all the going-on with your label?
DZ: We are working on a newsletter of some sort to keep up with all the action but for now ,(visit) www.floatingrecords.com and all our media sites (on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/floatingrecords/). We are strong believers in local community support including the venues that allow us to put on events. On Saturday, November 4 in Mill Valley, we are joining forces with the Throckmorton Theatre and the fabulous woman’s boutique, 7 on Locust, to present a night of music and fashion. Marble party, Jeffrey Halford and the Healers, and Graham Guest of Moses Guest will provide the music and 7 on Locust will add some fashion pizzazz. Promises to be a unique evening.