Vinyl Is Dead, Long Live Vinyl!

Drew Holcomb has one last stop, the hours winding down before his flight to California for a spot on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

“We played a festival last year in Gothenburg — Jayhawks were headlining,” the longtime East Nashville resident tells Tim Hibbs, host of Acme Radio’s The Vinyl Lunch. “First time I’d seen them in 10 years, because I guess they took a long sabbatical. It was so good.”

“They’re a great band,” Hibbs says, off-mic. The two sing along with “Tailspin,” from Rainy Day Music. Through the picture window behind, Lower Broadway tourists look in to see who the apparently famous bearded person is.

“Ethan Johns [Rainy Day Music’s producer] went through an era. That early Ryan Adams, early Ray LaMontagne, that Emmylou Harris record,” Holcomb continues, “he made no bad records for four or five years.”

He and Hibbs are off, naming records, before drifting to a discussion of Johns’ father, producer and engineer Glyn Johns, and all his famous records.

The conversation goes this way for the next hour, Hibbs and Holcomb back and forth, whether or not the “On Air” sign is lit. This visit started as business — Holcomb played a few songs at the top of the two-hour show (including “Postcard Memories,” off 2017 Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors album Souvenir), and he plugged his just-announced Christmas show at the Schermerhorn. But the guitar was put in its case long ago, and Holcomb is here for his passion project and side gig: that of vinyl renaissance magnate.

Holcomb launched vinyl record subscription service Magnolia Record Club in November 2015, born from the idea of an artist-curated service. “‘A fun thing to do on the side,’” Holcomb remembers thinking.

And it was, at first, with MRC releasing special- and signed-edition pressings from Patty Griffin, The Lone Bellow, The Milk Carton Kids, and others. But that initial idea grew and grew and grew, and a second record was soon offered each month from lesser-known but equally worthy artists like Nashville’s Becca Mancari, whose Good Woman was a selection in June.

Subscribers can now sign up month-to-month, or three months to a year at a time, and get artist-curated boxes delivered with an exclusive vinyl release, original art print, and listening notes from the curator, plus the option to tack on a record from an emerging artist. They can pause delivery or swap unloved records, and dig into the Club’s online “Vinyl Community,” too, to talk records and get/share other recommendations.

With climate-controlled warehouse space needed to store back stock, “It’s so much work,” Holcomb says. But the reason he keeps on is the same reason that Willie Nelson, whom Holcomb opened for, continues to tour: “He loves doing it. You can just tell it,” Holcomb says. “It makes him tick.”

“It probably has extended his life by a good margin,” Hibbs says. Then, shaking himself from it, “We’ve got time to play another couple of records.”

“This is from Brandi Carlile’s new record, a song called ‘Sugartooth,’” Holcomb says. He takes out the ruby-red vinyl, a special MRC pressing of By the Way, I Forgive You. The needle drops, the two listen to the opening bars, and for a moment, California is a world away, everything seems easy, and there are still a few more minutes of music left as the record plays.

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