Saddle Creek's Robb Nansel
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Knee deep in emails and office clutter, Robb Nansel took a moment from running Saddle Creek Records to answer some questions for Tweed.
TWEED: The birth of Saddle Creek and its business practices are both unique. What exactly is your role at Saddle Creek? What do you do in regards to the day-to-day operations?
ROBB: The birth of Saddle Creek doesn't seem all that unique to me. It seems like as in many other cities, Omaha has a pretty specific group of people that sort of bonded together through mutual interests in music and started playing together in bands. I think the thing that possibly makes Omaha's bands—or at least the bands that we deal with—unique is the persistence and dedication that the musicians have shown. Everyone continued to produce music for years and years and eventually people outside of our circle started to take notice. It seems that in a lot of scenes, the bands break up before they really get started, no matter how great they are.
My role at Saddle Creek is pretty varied. I am basically responsible for all aspects of the company that are not specifically delegated out to someone else. I am probably not the best person to delegate duties, because it basically means one less thing that I will be doing. And while that is potentially a plus, I tend to like to have my hands in everything. My day to day activities revolve heavily around the computer and email. It seems like I handle the gamut of activities through the computer, whether that be approving artwork from across the office to discussing tour budgets across the atlantic. Email has taken over my life.
TWEED: How did you make the switch from graphic design to running Saddle Creek?
ROBB: Well, I basically learned how to do graphic design from working on Saddle Creek stuff. When we started the label we didn't have any money to hire out for layout/design, so we just got bootleg Photoshop and Quark XPress software from buddies and taught ourselves how to work them well enough to get some 7" and CD/LP artwork out to printers. Once I graduated from college I felt like I had a decent amount of skill with those applications so I applied for a full-time graphic arts position at a local design house. I got hired and I learned a lot of the next couple years there. When I left I was in a much better position, knowledge wise, to do design stuff. As the label started to get busier, I started to have less and less time to devote to graphics and that is when we hired Jadon to come in and do website/design work full-time in house.
TWEED: Tell us the story of your childhood friends-turned Saddle Creek partners. How has your collective friendship matured since childhood? How big a role does friendship play in the business?
ROBB: Yeah, I basically grew up going to school with most of the guys in the bands. Tim Kasher (Cursive, The Good Life), Matt Maginn (Cursive, Saddle Creek), Ted Stevens (Mayday, Cursive, Lullaby For The Working Class), Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos), Matt Oberst (Sorry About Dresden) and others... We all went to the same grade school and high school. So, many of us grew up together since early on. We met The Faint and Now It's Overhead guys in high school and fortunately continued to develop and foster relationships with them and others along the way. Having everyone on the same page, in terms of goals/desires/upbringing, has allowed us to remain extremely focus
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