Mike Dungan, Capitol Nashville’s new president, says Garth Brooks never exerted the control over record company affairs that has been commonly attributed to him. “I shared the same perception,” Dungan admits, “but I am quickly discovering that that was not the case at all — that it was simply a matter of a non-music guy being put at the head of this label and not being readily equipped to make music decisions. He was relying on his biggest act as an advisor.”
The “non-music guy” Dungan alludes to is Pat Quigley, whom he has just replaced. Quigley was offered another post in Capitol’s corporate structure but declined to take it.
“Garth was a big fan of Steve Wariner,” Dungan continues, “and recommended Pat take a look at him. Obviously, it was a huge success for Capitol Records and for Steve Wariner. I’m finding just the opposite [from perception]. Garth has his opinions, but he really controls Garth’s career. He has no interest in running Capitol Records. He’s just proud of the team he’s on.” Brooks is not currently recording any new material for the label, Dungan reports. “He’s spending some time with his family.”
Dungan says he met with Brooks before deciding to take the new post, but he adds quickly that he also met with several other Capitol artists. In addition to Brooks and Wariner (who once recorded for Arista, where Dungan was senior vice president and general manager before moving to Capitol), the current roster also includes Trace Adkins, Deana Carter, Chris LeDoux, Keith Urban, Susan Ashton (engaged to Brooks’ brother, Kelly Brooks), Tyler England (Brooks’ former bandmate), comedians Rodney Carrington and Tim Wilson, former BNA recording artist Mindy McCready and newcomers Allison Paige and Cyndi Thomson.
In a marked departure from the slash-and-burn practices that usually accompany changes in label leadership, Dungan vows that he will keep both the current staff and artist roster intact for the foreseeable future.
“I have no intention of changing anything at this point,” he says. “I’m really trying to get to know everybody and find out what they do. I made a statement in our first staff meeting Monday morning that I wanted to — within the next month and a half — have breakfast, lunch or dinner with every member of the staff, no matter what they did. I’m gaining weight by the minute.”
Dungan says he has, however, put a hold on the release or continuance of projects until he can assess them.
In his overall view of the artist roster and how it might be changed, Dungan notes that Capitol Nashville has a lot of female acts and no groups. “But I don’t really think too much about balancing,” he says, “although it is easier not having your acts butting heads against each other. I’m always just looking for good quality acts, and I don’t care if you’ve got 10 great male artists on the roster and find another one that you love, you’re crazy if you don’t try to get them.”
Still to be decided, Dungan says, is whether he will pick a general manager for the label. He notes that Capitol has operated without one for several years. And he won’t confirm or deny that Fletcher Foster will be joining him at the label. Foster was senior vice president of marketing at Arista before the label was folded into the RCA Label Group. “I love Fletcher Foster, and I value what he does. I think he’s a great record executive who can pretty much be a winner in any position you stick him in. I would love to work with him in the future.”
Despite the fact that he is still finding his way, Dungan says he’s quite ready to sign artists. “We’re looking for them right now. We’re not going to be slow about that at all.”
For the past several years, the Capitol Nashville offices have been located at the top of a high-rise office building a mile or so from Music Row. Dungan says he’s thought about moving the headquarters back. “I have feelings both ways,” he explains. “I think the best place for Capitol Records to be is back on the Row, quite honestly. But, boy, these are wonderful offices. Our location is the least of our concerns at this point. We’ll deal with that when we figure out the rest of the stuff.”
Overall, Dungan says, “My basic goal here is to build the kind of label and company that every artist wants to be a part of and everyone who works in this industry wants to come to. That’s it in the long and the short end. If you do that, you’re going to be a winner, no matter what.”