Curtis Wallach wants to see country music find its audience in Denver.
That's why he's setting up Queen City County & Western, a new musician-run promotions collective that will launch March 1 at Lost Lake Lounge. The group will start off representing six acts, all included on an eighteen-track sampler available for purchase at the kick-off party: Casey James Prestwood & the Burning Angels, Extra Gold, Grayson County Burn Ban, High Plains Honky, Jennifer Jane Niceley, and Wallach’s own Hang Rounders.
The idea for the collective began roughly six months ago, after Wallach, co-owner and talent buyer at the hi-dive, found himself wondering how record labels could better promote Denver artists.
“I wouldn’t say that they guided me, but I’d say the main motivation for it was looking at how record labels work and what the shortcomings of those record labels are in the modern landscape,” says Wallach. “Instead of working against one another, I was like, let’s combine our efforts on this one thing and help each other bring an awareness to the scene as a whole.”
As Wallach began to explore the possibility of artist representation, he realized Denver was perfectly ripe for such a project.
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“After I started to look into launching this, I thought, well, there is stuff that actually sort of exists in Denver already — like Grouphug records, and Mountain to Sound is a good example of it — where they’re kind of communities of artists working together to build awareness for their own little scenes. I think that’s awesome.”
“When I first heard about it, I thought Queen City was a great idea,” says Evan Holm of Extra Gold. “Curt’s always going a little extra mile to do something for his music community, and I was all for it. I think everybody who was asked about it was all for it.”
“The goal is to build awareness, and hopefully that promotes all of these bands, their individual audiences, and that will sell the records,” says Wallach. “It’s how I see the record label shifting: You have to have more of a focus on building your Internet and social-media audience and presence online, and that’s a tough thing for bands of this nature to wrap their heads around.
“When you’re playing throwback country-and-Western music, you’re probably inherently kind of a retro-thinking person,” he adds with a laugh.
“I think most importantly, it’s there to help people who maybe don’t know where to find a style of country music,” says Holm. “It’s a good starting point for somebody who’s looking to maybe take a date out dancing once or twice a month. Anybody could always do better with promotion."
People often ask Wallach where they can two-step in Denver, and he says Queen City will be a cheat sheet. "You just follow the website, and the show dates are on there.
“You should be able to find a good country show most every weekend, just by following these bands," he adds. "And not just these six bands; these bands play with so many cool and varied acts as well. You’ll get turned on to other bands that way.”
Wallach says Queen City is far from a traditional record label.
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"It’s more of a cooperative artist representation," says Wallach. "The specific thing that I want to avoid is throwing a bunch of funding at records without having the promotional aspect behind it, which I think is a shortcoming of a lot of labels.”
Wallach is hopeful that better representation and promotion of the artists in the scene will also result in a resurgence in the popularity of country-Western music.
“I’m from Denver, and I think country-Western is something that Denver’s lost a little bit,” says Wallach. “Denver used to have honky-tonks. It was a bigger scene than it is now, and we’re trying to bring it back.”