Brownswood Recordings is the independent label belonging to the DJ and broadcaster Gilles Peterson. Founded in 2006 the aim of the label was to provide a platform for the many unsigned artists that were sending their music to Gilles to play on his late night BBC Radio 1 show.
Joined by music industry veteran Simon Goffe and label manager Emily Moxon, the label was founded with a wide open music policy – to release music we loved completely unrestrained by genre or style, and free from the sort of commercial pressures that Gilles had experienced in teaming with a major in the latter part of the Talkin’ Loud years. In 2009 the label was joined by Alex Stevenson (Patchwork Pirates / Earnest Endeavours) in a supporting A&R role.
As if in a statement of intent one of the label’s first moves was to put a 60 piece orchestra [The Heritage Orchestra] into Abbey Road to record an art house jazz record on the basis of one concert that Gilles had witnessed. In the same year Brownswood released the debut single from Ben Westbeech ‘So Good Today’ (including a killer Osunlade remix – the first of many absolutely on-point reworkings on the label); licensed in Japanese “death jazz” band SOIL&“PIMP” SESSIONS, and released the first of what would become the label’s flagship compilation series: Brownswood Bubblers.
Finding a footing for the label in a fast evolving music industry was tricky, but when a young jazz singer called José James pressed his demo – a cover / reworking of Coltrane’s classic ‘Equinox’ into Gilles’ hand – Gilles had an instinct that he could be a star. It was a breakthrough release for the label, as José broke into the mainstream consciousness across mainland Europe. In trying to clear the Coltrane re-workings for his album, Brownswood hooked up José with Alice Coltrane’s nephew, whose debut track ‘Tea Leaf Dancers’ we had just licensed for the second volume of Bubblers. His name was Flying Lotus and the pair went on to record the foundations of José’s sophomore album ‘BLACKMAGIC’.
This tumultuous era in the music industry has lead the parent group Brownswood Music to diversify its operation to include publishing, management and live arms. The label has also had a long relationship with Havana Cultura, a global initiative from Havana Club that has born several recordings for the label.
In 2011 Brownswood Recordings received its first Mercury Prize nomination for Ghostpoet’s debut album ‘Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam’ – a breakthrough record for us in the UK.
As a label Brownswood has strived to create beautiful physical releases to be treasured for years to come. A string of limited edition vinyl runs; a couple of very rare white labels; and most recently Mala’s 4-piece vinyl box set for the ‘Mala in Cuba’ release. Proud to have completely phased out the use of plastic in CD packaging in 2008, they were the first label to use Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) certified paper in a record sleeve and strive to improve the business’ green credentials.
Committed to an eclectic roster of diverse artists with the aim of giving each of them a platform to reach their full potential, the team has expanded to include a group of hard working, skilled and passionate individuals who are above all music lovers. It has been a joyous journey… and it’s just beginning.
Shouts and love to some of the people that have joined in on the way and made their own impact on the Brownswood family:
Kate Theophilus, Orsi, Thristian, Fawaz Al Jabban, Peggy Jean Louis, Mita De, Sarah Jones, Tom Morgan, Ollie Rant, Joachim Swede:art, Amy Frenchum…