Grand Junction entrepreneur plans to make singer a star
If Barack Obama can be the first black president of the United States, Leslie Christian reasons, then it’s about time a black woman hits the top of the country music charts.
And she’s the singer to do it.
Just ask her.
Christian is, after all, the songwriter and vocalist who performs “My Life is a Country Song,” which can be played at http://www.facebook.com/lesliechristianmusic.
It won’t be long, said Page Tucker, a Grand Junction entrepreneur, before country music fans will be able to download Leslie Christian’s first album at http://www.gettingwired.com.
If Christian has chosen a difficult hurdle, so has Tucker, who says he wants to do nothing less than reform the music business.
By “leveraging technology,” as he likes to describe the way he sees music getting from the artist’s microphone to the listener’s ear, Tucker said he can run an end-around on the traditional music business, all to the benefit of artists and music consumers.
The vehicle for that experiment is Christian, who wakes up “every morning with Big and Rich,” as she sings in “My Life is a Country Song.”
That’s just the beginning.
Christian comes by her country roots honestly.
“I could milk a cow before I could recite my ABCs,” she said, laughing, during a break in a photo shoot for her album cover last week.
She and her manager, Jason Freeman — a trumpeter who has performed on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and on four Outkast albums —jumped at the chance to catch a flight to Grand Junction and give Christian’s dream a chance to take wing.
Christian said she has had offers from R&B and other record labels but turned them down.
“She doesn’t want to sell herself short,” Freeman said.
And “short” is anything but country.
Christian learned to sing, the official story goes, sitting on the back porch with her grandmother.
There’s actually a bit more to the story.
Her grandfather owned a convenience store to which her grandmother was denied admission because she had a habit of reducing the beer inventory.
So, it became Leslie’s job to go inside, smile sweetly, grab two cans of beer (one for each) and make for the back porch, “and Grandma would be there, playing Charlie Pride.”
But Grandma needed only one beer.
That, said Christian, is why she can hold her own on that score.
Beer, a wayward grandma and Charlie Pride. If those aren’t country chops, there are none.
One other thing: She idolizes Dolly Parton.
“It’s in me,” Christian said. “It’s who I am.”
To sing country, it helps to look country.
Hope Carlton, the creative director of the venture, fitted Christian with a prairie dress and buckskin and turquoise for Grand Junction photographer Chad Mahlum, who shot first in his studio, then at the Shelton family farm west of Fruita.
The backdrop for Christian’s photo is now the weathered wall of the Shelton shed.
“The collectors want some money that I ain’t got, and that’s why I don’t answer the phone” — “My Life is a Country Song.”
Too often, said Tucker, who also runs Guardian ProStar in Grand Junction and most recently hails from North Carolina, the music industry takes advantage of performers, paying them grudgingly and late.
And too often the artists are distant from their fans, with layers and layers of people in between.
His artists will have MySpace and Facebook pages and tweet on Twitter, responding to fans themselves.
And where better to launch a country career than his hometown of Grand Junction, where he hopes fans will embrace Christian and her music.
And if this venture plays out as he hopes, other artists will flock to Gettingwired.com, Tucker said.
That stands to be true especially “if you treat people with a high level of respect and do what you say you will,” he said.
A bit of confidence helps, and Tucker said he’s a believer in the system he and his team at Wired Media have put together.
Fans won’t have to go to record stores and take a chance on whom the label chooses to be a star, Tucker said.
They can go instead to the Web and download music to their computers, iPods, MP3s and cell phones, or they can choose a snippet for a ringtone.
And Wired Media and Gettingwired.com are geared to make that happen, he said, adding, “I think we have the wherewithal to make a person a star.”
In Christian’s case, the stars seem aligned, Tucker said.
Not only is Obama the president, but Halle Berry is an Academy Award winner, and Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish fame has made a successful transition to country just as doe-eyed, sweet-voiced Leslie Christian is trying to break in.
For Leslie Christian, said Freeman, “The time is right.”