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Frey Goes Indie With Mission Start-Up

By Chris Morris
Declaration of Independents
Billboard Magazine, 2/14/98
MAN ON A MISSION: Independent labels spring up in the unlikeliest of places. For example, take the new Los Angeles-based Mission Records.

It turns out that the proud papa of this imprint is none other than Glenn Frey, guitarist/vocalist of the Eagles. The company, which is exclusively distributed by Navarre Corp., dropped it's first album, "One Planet, One Groove" by Max Carl and Big Dance, January 20th. (Billboard Bulletin, Jan.13)

Oddly enough, Frey was fresh from the reunited California band's insanely successful "Hell Freezes Over" album and tour when he decided to start up Mission in partnership with longtime manager, Peter Lopez. You might think that Frey, a member of one of the biggest bands on the globe and a hit-crafting solo artist in his own right, would naturally gravitate to the majors and stick there.

But, as Frey says drolly, "You tend your own garden, and sometimes you can be happier on God's little acre than you can be on the Ponderosa." Mission grew out of a search for a new home for Frey's solo records (he recorded four solo albums for MCA from the mid-'80s through 1994). He says he became a free agent about 2 1/2 years ago, and he and Lopez began making the major-label rounds.

"After having a few meetings, we came way from each meeting somewhat dissatisfied and somewhat puzzled, "says Frey. "We thought it was all a little bit impersonal, and you could get lost in the shuffle."

"I said, 'You know what, Peter? I'd almost rather we put these records out ourselves and see what happens.'"

Frey was clearly focusing on Mission as an outlet for his own work, but he also had an eye cocked at producing others. And, he says, "Up popped Max Carl."

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Carl, a member of .38 Special's late '80s- early '90s lineup, was also a member of the L.A. soul-rock unit Jack Mack and the Heart Attack, for whom Frey produced an album on Full Moon Records. Frey hired Carl's funkified group for a party for his wife in Nashville, and the two musicians got to talking. This led to some sessions at Frey's studio in Aspen, Colorado. Frey says, "As we got into it, we started telling Max about what Peter and I wanted to do."
Big Dance wound up as Mission's first act. "One Planet, One Groove" boasts the participation of Frey as an instrumentalist and writer, and old L.A. hand Jack Tempchin ("Peaceful, Easy Feeling," "Smuggler's Blues") contributed to the writing.

Mission, which employs a staff of five at offices in L.A.'s Brentwood neighborhood, plans to move slowly- Frey says the label plans to no more than three releases this year-- and maximize efforts on each project. "We wanted to start small," Frey says. "We've got all year to work on Max's record."

Frey hopes to get his own record out on Mission by the fall ("It's time for me to get off the golf course," he says with a laugh). In the immediate future, he'll be appearing with Carl's band on a two-week run of West Coast dates that includes a stop Tuesday (10) at House of Blues, L.A.

Beyond that, Frey says, the label could grow into the international market, thanks to Lopez's many connections in the Latin music business. But ultimately, he adds, his Mission statement is "about the quality of life and the quality of art . . . You don't want to get too big too fast."