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Rusty Gaston

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Posted Sep 17, 2006 by Paul
Filed under: Exclusive Interview

Rusty Gaston literally exploded on the music scene several years ago – but he’s not a household name. However, if you work or worked in the trenches along with other ‘behind the music machine’ workers in Nashville, you know the name.

Rusty began his career in Texas working with his good friend Keith Andersen at an Opryland style theme park. Years later, Rusty would be one of the top players in music publishing, and Keith Andersen would be one of the top artist in the country.

There are several record producers in town that have had staying power and get to work on numerous records. When we were writing songs for a company in town, James Stroud, Barry Beckett, Tony Brown and Jimmy Bowen seemed to produce everyone. Then came Scott Hendricks for a while. Now it’s Dann Huff and Byron Gallimore. Rusty ran Byron’s publishing company Song Garden successfully for a number of years.

He’s since struck out on his own. Teaming with Tim Nichols and Connie Harrington to form This Music.

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PKYou’ve had quite a rise to the position you occupy today. Can you tell us a little about your early days in Dallas – you were in a partnership with Country Star Keith Andersen called ‘Romeo Cowboys’?

Rusty – I knew from about 4th grade that I wanted to be in the music business. But growing up in a town of 1000 people the only thing you know about music is playing and singing. So I used that to get my foot in the door. Keith and I met while playing the opry curcuit it North East Texas. I was a performer at Six Flags over Texas and I helped get Keith a job out there singing. Keith and I were broke and looking for a way to make some money so we came up with the idea of “Romeo Cowboys”. We would wear wrangler jeans, boots, a tuxedo top and cowboy hat and deliver a girl a rose and a song. We got booked on KPLX radio station in Dallas the day before Valentine’s and the thing exploded and we each made about 3,000 dollars in a day. So needless to say we kept this up for a few years. I soon gave up playing and singing completely to pursue my business desires but Keith continued Romeo Cowboys for several more years. We had a lot of fun.PK

You finally made the move to Nashville and started working at Smith Haven Music in Artist development. We’re you successful in finding and developing talent there?

Rusty – Jerry Smith was the owner of the company and was a fantastic boss. He discovered and developed Terri Clark and Rhett Akins and Lonestar before I went to work with him. Together he and I worked with a band that got a deal on Monument Records called Yankee Grey. A Pop artist that got a deal on Universal NY named Pheonix Stone. A rock act that got a deal on Atlantic named Will Hoge and I found and developed country artist Jeff Bates who I got a deal for with RCA Nashville.PK

After leaving Smith Haven Music you became the General Manager to Byron Gallimore’s Song Garden. Byron is one of the top producers in Nashville, what was it like working with him?

Rusty – To be honest Byron and I didn’t work together very much. When I went to work for him the first thing he told me was this was my company to run and as long as it made money he would stay out of my hair. The company had been averaging 17 cuts per year before I got there. So set a lofty goal of wanting 25 cuts in my first year. We had 25 cuts in the first 5 months I was there and ended up with 50 for the year. The company ended up averaging 45 cuts per year for the 5 years I was there.But Byron and Missi are great people and I enjoyed working with them very much. He is hands down the best producer in this town and she is one of the best song people to ever come along.PK

Who are some of the songwriters over there?

Rusty – James T. Slater, Holly Lamar, Billy Lawson, Jeremy Stover, Casey Koesel, Cory Mayo, Kris Bergsnes, and Billy Yates.PK – Is it easier to secure cuts for your writers if you’re pitching songs to your boss?

Rusty – NOPK

Aside from all of this you spent a great deal of time traveling with Barbara Cloyd to writer’s workshops. Have you ever found a writer or a song as a result of these trips?

Rusty – Not yet. But I’m hoping. I do believe about 5 writers have gotten publishing deals by being heard from her workshops.PK – Are you still working with Barbara?

Rusty – From time to time.PK

You’re now the General Manager of This Music, Tim Nichols (“Live Like You Were Dying”) and Connie Harrington (“Girls Lie Too”) ‘s publishing company, how is the new venture going? Are you securing cuts?

Rusty – To be correct, Tim and Connie and MYSELF all own this venture together. We have been very lucky to have already secured half a dozen cuts this year.PK – How many writers do you have in the stable?

Rusty – About to be 4. Tim Nichols, Connie Harrington, Ben Hayslip and another Female writer I believe a deal is going to work out with. I am so excited to tell everyone as soon as we get it done.PK

Just so the readers are clear, are you looking for new writers?

Rusty – I’m always looking.PK – What’s the best and worst thing about Nashville?

Rusty – Best thing is great tallented people and music. Worst thing? Riff-raff.PK

Who was your champion? The person who believed in you enough in the early days to give you a shot at what you’re doing?

Rusty – Jerry SmithPK – Are you still having fun?

Rusty – Every single day. I live for each day and Love every second of what I do.

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