Fat Elvis Records is a one man operation (and a handful of helpers) in Knoxville, TN. The idea to start a small record label was hatched nearly a decade ago, and finally materialized in the early part of 2012.
Label owner, Sean Russell, lives in Knoxville, TN where he plays a little ukulele, grows epic beards, and listens to lots and lots of music. He runs Fat Elvis Records out of his home, and hopes to release more and more records. He has no sort of promotion budget, and absolutely no distribution, but he still thinks he can make it happen.
In the late part of 2013, I sent some questions to many of my favorite small records labels. I have been asked by a few people to fill out on myself. Here are my answers
1. When did you start your label and why did you do it?
I started Fat Elvis Records in July 2012. That’s when it became official. The idea first crossed my mind back in the 1990s. I had plans of releasing cassette tapes of Knoxville bands. I had picked up Dave Grohl’s Pocket Watch Cassette from Simple Machines and a handful of releases from Shrimper records who did really homegrown tapes. The idea sat in the back of mind all those years.
Jump forward to February 2012. I seen the Blackfoot Gypsies perform on the WDVX Blue Plate Special, and thought “If I ever decide to do a label, this the band I would love to work with!” I contacted them a few months later, and was surprised they said they would do it! I had two ideas in my head for a label name, Knuckleball or Fat Elvis (I got the name from Shovels and Rope. It was/is the name of their touring vehicle). Matthew Paige of the Blackfoot Gypsies convinced me to go with Fat Elvis by saying “Please, for the love of god, go with Fat Elvis.”
2. What format do you release music on?
So far only 7″ vinyl ,but that could be changing very soon. Although I have recently learned that many of my customers can’t stand lathe cut records, The thought of them still intrigues me. I think if done right they could be really cool. I also have ideas that involve a couple of other formats in the near future.
3. What has been your most successful release to date, or which release are you most proud of?
After two releases, I am happy to say that I am equally excited about both records.
I’m very thankful that the Blackfoot Gypsies took a chance on me and it was a huge hit. The band has the last remaining copies I couldn’t have done it without Tom Needham at Broke Or Made Better though. My idea for the variant covers really sucked, but Tom came in on short notice and created a masterpiece!
I’m also extremely thankful that Reed Turchi took a chance on me. When I asked him, I wasn’t sure if he would turn me down or not. He has his own label, Devil Down Records, so why would he want to work with me? We had a few hiccups getting it pressed, but it sounds and looks amazing!
4. Do you have specific tastes in the music you choose to release or are you open to anything?
So far I have been sticking to touring bands with a bit of a following and bands from the south. That could also be changing soon. I’m pretty much open to anything, but I have to believe in what I am releasing.
5. How do you go about finding new artists you are interested in releasing?
I have a wish list of sorts of bands I would love to work with. I’m going through that list to see who will work with me. I have to go through them one at a time because I simply don’t have enough cash to release as many records as I would like to.
6. Anything in the works right now that you would like to share?
I can’t give away any specifics just yet, but I have 3 or 4 projects in the works that should keep me busy for the rest of the year.
I would also love to have a Fat Elvis Records showcase or mini-tour sometime soon! I thought I had one almost worked out a few weeks ago, but things didn’t quite work out.
7. Where do you see your record label going in the next five years?
As much as I don’t want to, I will probably have to do a name change in the next five years or so. I’m taking suggestions! When I started the label, everyone was under the impression it was a joke or not real. I think I am proving myself with each release. I may create a secondary label sometime in the future.
8. What are some of your favorite small record labels?
There are lots! I have found most of these small labels are more than willing to help you with questions you might have. Velocity of Sound and Limited Fanfare have been a huge help! Not sure I could ever repay them. Devil Down Records has given me more than I could ever give back to them as well. Jett Plastic Recordings is always there to give me ideas. Shed House Records is there to help me spread the word!
There’s a lot of small record labels out there putting out lots of great music!
9. Anything else you would like to add?
Yes! I couldn’t do any of his with out the help I have received from my brother Aaron at Fistful of Tigers, my girlfriend Monica, and each of you that have purchased something from me and shared a Facebook or Twitter message to help me get the word out. I love doing this, and I don’t anticipate quitting anytime soon. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!!