The start of 2015 for Craig Wayne Boyd looked bright and promising. He kicked off the year with his debut major label single, “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face,” which went #1 on the Hot Country songs chart on Billboard. Boyd was signed to Dot Records/Big Machine Label Group and everything looked just right for him. As I said in my review of that single though, it just didn’t sound like Boyd and I found the single to be completely forgettable. Radio felt the same, as the song was sent for adds and no radio stations were interested in it. It just felt off. Then throughout the spring there was no word on Boyd releasing another single nor an album release date. Many speculated he was kicked off the label, but nobody knew for sure. Then last week on The Voice Boyd performed his new single, “I’m Still Here.” After show it was put on iTunes and under the single information it said it was released under independent label, Long Haul Records.
This confirmed that Boyd was no longer with Dot Records. But did he leave on his own or was he kicked off the label? Boyd clarified this on Twitter with a fan, saying he “ask[ed] off of the label.” So it was a mutual decision between both parties. Deb Bose, aka Windmills Country, has a great writeup on Boyd’s situation over at MJ’s Big Blog that I highly recommend reading if you haven’t read it yet. She found a great quote from Scott Borchetta, who heads up Big Machine Label Group and Dot Records, from a few months back where he seems to be referring to Boyd in a radio interview. You can listen to the interview here. Around the 3:45 mark Borchetta says some artists are “unteachable, that they’re not going to get it, and you have to terminate the relationship, which is very hard to do.” It sounds like Boyd and Borchetta didn’t see eye-to-eye, which doesn’t surprise me at all. Boyd seems like a pretty genuine guy who wants to make actual country music, while Borchetta only cares about the almighty dollar. Borchetta probably pitched him some songs about dirt roads and tailgates and Boyd said no because he has standards (see why I love that song so much from Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers?).
So now Craig Wayne Boyd is a free man who can make the music he wants to make. Is his new single “I’m Still Here” better than “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face”? 100% yes. This is a complete 180 from the first single he released back in January. The song is about basically what just happened to him, as his recent departure from Dot absolutely influenced this song. He sings about how he’ll never stop performing and won’t ever give up. The hook of the song, “I’m still here,” could be viewed as some shade thrown towards Music Row, especially in light of the comment earlier this from former Sony Nashville CEO Gary Overton, where he said if you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist. Boyd clearly exists and isn’t going anywhere. Performing this on The Voice in front of a national audience was a smart move on Boyd’s part, as it gains him more sympathy and you can tell he sang this song from his heart. The production is a little too polished and the theme is slightly broad, but it works well in this situation.
This new single from Boyd confirms that his previous single was a complete concoction from his label. Good on Boyd for getting out of Dot Records and making the music he wants to make. It’s further proof of what I’ve said before and that’s some country artists would be better off independent than on a major label. Sure by doing this you’re guaranteed not to be played on mainstream radio, but do you really want to be played on today’s mainstream country radio? In the long run fans will remember integrity over sales and radio play. “I’m Still Here” is a very good song that I recommend checking out and I’m definitely looking forward to hearing a new album from Boyd. Now that he’s free from being shackled creatively, Boyd is an artist to keep an eye on.