Interview: Ashley Kate Adams And Mitchell Walker of NO REVERSE RECORDS

Mitchell and Ashley Kate have decided it's time for them to make their own kind of music.

By: Jan. 11, 2021

Interview: Ashley Kate Adams And Mitchell Walker of NO REVERSE RECORDS It's a wonderful day when two creative forces come together and join hands, and this week Mitchell Walker and Ashley Kate Adams are doing just that, with the launching of NO REVERSE RECORDS. Adams, a creative producer with a background in various genres, and Walker, an independent record producer, decided that their longtime association as friends and colleagues could be an ideal pairing for a new record label designed to assist artists in many different genres with all the aspects of their recording career. Named after a personal anecdote from a crazy youth spent together, the label seeks to create a safe haven where artists can focus on their work, while No Reverse focuses on the business.

Curious about the process, the decision, and the nuts & bolts of going from independent producers to owners of a record label, I asked Adams and Walker if they would share their journey with Broadway World and, as any good record producer would, they both said "Heck, yeah!"

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced with minimal edits.

Ashley Kate Adams and Mitchell Walker, Happy New Year and welcome! Thank you for chatting with Broadway World Cabaret today!

Mitchell, I know you will forgive me if I go with my Southern upbringing and do the 'ladies first' thing - Ashley Kate Adams, let's get this out of the way for everyone's benefit: do you prefer to go by your first name or both names at once?

Interview: Ashley Kate Adams And Mitchell Walker of NO REVERSE RECORDS AK: Well since I am Southern Lady myself, Ashley Kate works just fine! But Ashley works too! Seriously! It's how my family referred to me growing up in Kentucky, with both my first and middle name. Once I got to college it really stuck, and let's be honest if I didn't use it at all, I wouldn't get to lean so heavily on my initials, "AKA"! Which for all intensive purposes have served me greatly!

Ok, guys, so the big news, right off the top, is the creation of NO REVERSE RECORDS. Educate me: how does one decide to start their own record label? What is the predominant thought that leads a person (or two, in your case) to take on such a big venture?

AK: I think the answer is we realized that other than one piece of the distribution portion & process, we were already doing it. So, we pushed ourselves to grow even more. Mitchell and I produced our first album together in 2011, ten years ago, and since then we have gone on to create a large body of work, independently and then together when appropriate. When we work with our artists as producers in general we focus on everything. Their artistic management, their development, their accessible platforms, their workflow, the navigation of their creativity & projects in addition to leading them solidly through the creative process and finishing a property from point A to Z. After the success of FRANKIE! The Musical, which hit #9 on the Soundtrack Billboard charts last May during a tumultuous time for our country, we had been approached to collaborate with multiple artists in a very short period of time on their records. We felt it was the final push to make it official! So here we are, No Reverse Records, LLC!

Interview: Ashley Kate Adams And Mitchell Walker of NO REVERSE RECORDS M: First Off, Thank you Stephen and Broadway World for taking the time to sit down with us at the start of a very exciting new label! Ashley Kate and I have been two peas in a producing pod since 2010 and this big jump into a business together really felt like the next logical step. As Ashley Kate said, we have been working together and independently for the last 10 years and have the catalog of work to show for it. During this last year we had some successes and even though the world was shut down, our creative and producing minds were going at full capacity. Starting No Reverse Records is a culmination of the work we have accomplished and why not throw another log on the fire!

I'm taking a direct quote from your press release - Meet No Reverse Records: a full service record label specializing in production, publishing, artist management, PR, and placement. That is a lot to take in, and I have a double-barreled question for you. 1) What exactly does each of those services entail and 2) is it standard practice for a record label to be that involved with their artists' work?

Interview: Ashley Kate Adams And Mitchell Walker of NO REVERSE RECORDS AK & M: It is a lot isn't it?! But seriously, we are very proud of the work that we do! We will start the first part of the question. Each service follows the process of the creation of an album. We believe it's best to start with artistic management. Sometimes we get to work with artists from the beginning of their band or act, like we are doing with our first project, the Soul Country duo, Jame & Ray made of Audrey Belle Adams & Casey Shuler. Regardless, if the act is brand new or already well into their career like Billboard Top 5 Classical crossover Composer Blake Allen, you must first take inventory of where your artist is and what they are trying to achieve by putting out this record at this point in their career. And then also, we ask this for our careers! The strategy begins in that moment and that type of navigation continues throughout the entire process. We then go into production to have an album, that's where you are in the studio actually putting the music & vocals "in the can" as we call it. So everything it takes to make that happen; the pre-production planning, the hiring in, the scheduling, the bringing together of the creative team & artists and creating the actual product in session. Next in the process would be placement (or distribution) in correlation with our in house PR team, meaning how people can hear the music & hear about the music & we are also proud that we now have a safe connection for artists to introduce them to ASCAP if they are interested in moving forward into publishing their music as they grow and their music takes on new life & opportunities.

And to answer your second question, we do not know of many labels who go through the entire process with their artists, not unless they are a "Capitol Records". So with us you can get a full-service experience but with personal attention to detail every step of the creative process if that is needed to achieve the artists goal.

Ashley Kate, I understand that the name No Reverse comes from your own personal history - would you like to tell us about that?

AK: Because we have such a history we knew the name of the new record label had to come from a personal place! So we thought about the summer of 2006, that you will hear a lot about throughout these questions. Mitchell basically lived with me that summer and we drove my father's old red Chrysler around Cincinnati, Louisville & Southern Indiana doing summer stock. And what's craziest about this is the transmission was actually shot so we couldn't go in reverse, only forward. So when coming up with this title we felt the story was pretty indicative of our paths together as creatives so we thought, it must be NO REVERSE RECORDS!

Mitchell, the press release for No Reverse Records also says that the label will be working in all genres of music, as well as a sense of nostalgia. Is it wise for a record label to be a wide-casting net like that, rather than one with a solid focus?

M: I'm glad you brought this up! Over the years we have worked with people from all backgrounds and yes most have been from the Broadway Community but a lot of those artists are not identified by just their Broadway Credits. Performers are wanting to express themselves through all genres. Which brings up the question of why do we need a genre? It's just a way to classify music to be sold to the masses i.e. "This is Pop, R&B, Country, etc." I feel good music is good music and not limiting ourselves to one lane we can help a multitude of artists at different points in their careers without making them feel that the product will pigeonhole themselves to one kind of music or audience.

The nostalgia factor comes from the want to produce timeless music. Music that brings joy and leaves the listener with a sense of calm and confidence that they are on a well curated music journey. For me as a kid it was rushing to the mall to get the latest album, go home, put it in the CD player, and follow along to the liner notes memorizing the lyrics. Now that we live in a digital world and albums are thrown into playlists and not enjoyed from start to finish you need to provide a reason for the listener to let the world around them stop and take a true music escape. Vinyl is out selling CD's and the return to actually listening to albums and music in full is on the rise. Being a primarily digital label, we feel that No Reverse Records is coming at the right time. Giving the convenience of a digital album but providing the listeners with an experience. The music that we are releasing this coming year is definitely going to take our listeners on an adventure, harking back to yesteryear but with the fresh new sound of tomorrow.

Ashley Kate, what are your thoughts about nostalgia in the recording industry?

AK: Adding onto Mitchell's beautiful artistic response I'd love to speak about the structure of putting out a record. I feel the way we work with the artist from development in-house through desired distribution is more of a timeless or "nostalgic" structure if you will. Back in the day where there were studios or even labels that are the pillars today like Atlantic or Capitol, artists would almost be acquired and then they would move the artist from point to point around in house. I think we have a similar approach to creating a project or record but with us, the artist owns their creative copyright & IP and they are only benefitting from a larger team of support & our services.

You both started in the business as artists - Ashley as a performer and Mitchell as a director: what led each of you into production, and has it hindered, in any way, your continued work that started you out? Or did your artistic origins fall away as your interests evolved?

AK: My personal tipping point happened in conjunction with my Broadway debut in the Tony-Award winning Revival of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. When I joined the company, after rehearsing for two weeks, the day after I made my debut we were told that the show was closing. In that moment something shifted. And funny enough, this is the introduction in my book #BYOP: Be Your Own Producer (which debuted in pre-order December as the #1 New Release on Amazon in the Performing Arts Industry). That 24 hours was filled with such highs and lows that it couldn't help but affect how I thought about my creativity and the idea of permission and how as an actor or singer many times we feel we have to be invited or cast to do what we love. And once we fight to get that opportunity it can close or go away (Covid). So I began my production company, AKA Studio Productions, that summer, to create freely and to create more opportunities for my community. And to be honest, because I now know how to produce film, theatre & records now, it's assuring that when it's appropriate for me to participate in both areas, as in the two feature films we have at this very moment, I do both. And I'm very lucky to be active in that lane in addition to my own produced works. (I shot my first national commercial in early 2020 for Dairy Queen & did voice over on the film "Hillbilly Elegy" before the shutdown.) It takes a lot of navigation but we've really figured out the full freelance artist life. And what Mitchell and I embrace is, there are no rules, only good ways of doing business and us and our artists are allowed & encouraged to do it all. It creates more longevity and value to us all. It all feeds each other.

M: Coming from a performer background and being a musician my whole life has made it easy to translate my experience to this "side of the table" or in many cases the other side of the glass. AKA and I both graduated from the University of Cincinnati College- Conservatory of Music with a BFA in Musical Theatre. I worked as an actor for the first few years off and on after I graduated and then started directing. That first show, A Brass Act starring Michelle Dowdy (Hairspray, Les Miserables) was part of the first season at 54 Below. After that show debut, people wanted it as an album, so we made an album. It really did just happen like that. Being in NYC you are surrounded by creatives and opportunity. If you look for it and say yes to your goals, you can make it happen. We were very lucky to be set up with an amazing team of music engineers and musicians that have been the backbone of our work. They help take our ideas and make them a reality. As a Singer Actor Dancer who has transitioned into a Director and Record Producer, I feel like I have worn many hats, but this is truly my calling. Being in the studio or rehearsal room using my BFA skill set and knowledge of recording qualities to guide an artist to the final product that not only they are proud of but something that I personally feel has my touch and impact. I don't regret or miss being an actor, it is part of me and I bring that history to every new project. Patti LuPone says in her book, "When the show closes and the curtain comes down, actors only have their memories" but when you record, those actor choices or vocal releases get captured forever. You can relive the greatness and your memories are there, for not only you to enjoy, but for the world to experience. Recorded music lives forever and well past the theatre, night club, music venue, or person for which it was created.

No Reverse Records is a label designed to nurture independent artists, to provide them with a safe artistic home to spread their wings. Do each of you have an origin story that informs your desire to help these artists to grow and to flourish?

M: I'm sure Ashley Kate would agree that going to CCM was a very formative time in our careers but also in how we look at ourselves as artists, performers, and now producers. At school we are taught to become the product through a very fast process. Surrounded by some of the most talented and promising young talent in the country you don't have time to ask questions because there is always someone else ready to answer or take the spotlight. It's just the nature of taking 16 talents and putting them in a room where the art that has made them, now becomes the art that is up for critique or dismissal. You learn how to navigate that atmosphere and you become very self aware. I feel like that self awareness and confidence has helped us come into our own as producers. We know how to take direction and run with it. So when you are the one giving direction you understand how to communicate with an artist or musician because you've been them. The problem sometimes with this industry is asking questions sometimes makes you seem weak or that you aren't at the top. But everyone had to learn sometime! You should always be learning and expanding that knowledge to better yourself and craft. We recognize the struggle presenting a product and also developing that product. Giving our artists the freedom to ask questions and to discover themselves through a New Medium is why we do this. There is pleasure in knowing that you helped someone become the better version of themselves and captured that moment of discovery while in the studio. That now lives forever and fuels their future.

Mitchell, how will working from your own label differ from the work you did as an independent producer on the albums you have already put out?

M: Working through my own label while still open for collaboration or distribution through other labels is how No Reverse is going to change the game. It's not about just releasing the music, it's about developing the artist so the music speaks for them. The albums that I have released as an independent producer have been my way of creating my voice as a producer and have established my sound. They also have set me up with some amazing engineers who are now part of our team moving forward. Having a label to release this music on is just the next step in my record producing career and I could not be more excited about sharing this with AKA!

Ashley Kate with aka Productions you have done extensive work on respected film projects. What are some similarities and differences to be found in film production and record production?

AK: Other than production weeks and actual content, the structure of conversations, the timing of offers, business structure and systems from a day to day operations standpoint feel quite similar! I also think because we have functioned as producers on albums for ten years by way of the production company, we are already comfortable with just separating as a piece of that original business structure. The difference is the medium & content. But very similar engagement with artists, language of deals, hiring in etc. Some things that are identical are things like press, social media strategy & audience engagement.

No Reverse Records is coming out of the gate with three albums this month. You guys aren't fooling around here - tell us all about those three albums... get our readers so excited that they just have to get those records.

AK & M: That's right! We are proud to announce our first three records coming out by way of No Reverse! The first is the Jame & Ray debut EP, featuring the Soul Country duo, Jame & Ray (which is Audrey Belle Adams & Casey Shuler). The record is exciting, an original sound with roots in soul, country and even funk. Their lead off single "Sweet Like Tea and Strong Like Whiskey" is sure to be a hit & my personal favorite is a tune called "Elton John". I also manage the duo & Brandon Eugene Owens who has musical ties to Lauryn Hill & Kendrick Lamar produced the record.

Our second project is introducing Singer-Songwriter E.K. Marra, also known as Elise Marra the composer & book writer of FRANKIE! The Musical (Broadway Records) which shot to the top of the Soundtrack itunes charts and landed in the Top 10 on Billboard. Her debut EP Volume 1, will be her singer-songwriter originals and introducing her authentic sound. Mitchell led production on this and it is mixed by 4 Time Grammy Winner Alex Venguer. We wanted to show a different side to the very exciting new voice in theatre and music. This album is fresh and ranges from light acoustic ballads to 90's bitch rock. This first installment EP will open your hearts to a singer-songwriter that has yet to even graduate high school. But don't take her youth as a negative, E.K Marra is the real deal and we can't wait to share her music with the world

Our third is Blake Allen's next masterpiece, classical crossover album, "The Shards of an Honor Code Junkie". Blake hit the Top 5 Billboard charts for his classical album SONATAS this past year and it has been an honor to be trusted with this body of work. The record is produced by Mitchell & I and features an ALL-STAR Broadway cast. Which we will be announcing very soon! The album is mixed by Grammy nominated engineer, Daniel Alba (Jack White, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato

Because of streaming services like Spotify, a lot of people no longer buy physical discs. Help our readers to understand the different ways that buying the actual CD or streaming the music benefits the artists.

M: Music is more available now than ever. Digital music is the future and is the current medium. As I said earlier, Vinyl is out selling physical CD's and with more computers and cars coming out without CD players, music is going to stay digital unless you provide content to warrant a physical copy. I am an avid record collector and love my vinyl, but I am on Spotify daily making playlists and discovering music. The best way an artist can compete and make some money off of their music is by promoting this statement: "Buy it, Share it, Stream it!" Buy the album, then share it with friends, family, and fans. Then ask them to stream it, put it in their favorite playlists, put in their workplace, anywhere music is heard or played. Every stream adds up and every download pays a check. Spotify because it is a streaming service works just like the movie or TV show streaming services; it's all about exposure! When you are on Hulu or Netflix and you find a new show or movie you watch it because it is available. You then fall in love, binge it, and tell your friends to watch as well. This is what we are hoping to translate to music consumption. We want to give you binge-able music that can be enjoyed for years to come. Another plus to streaming services, they work very well in getting artist recognition and creating a following. Being on Spotify and Apple music helps you reach a global market, as opposed to printing CD's and selling them through your online store. Your reach is much larger which equals more sales. With albums released by a more established artist, we will definitely look at hard copy Vinyl releases for fans to have a more personal, and physical copy of their favorite albums.

Ashley Kate, pretend Mitchell isn't listening and tell me what makes him a great record producer.

AK: As a producer there are certain traits to look for in collaboration because no one can truly do it all, alone. Mitchell is the best record producer I have ever experienced, and I do not say this because he is my lifelong friend, I say this because of his efficiency, his ear, his presentation and active direction in the room with his artists. There is a major art to producing and when it comes to making an album, Mitchell has mastered this art. It's a joy to watch him work live and in session and he is the perfect teammate who moves at the same pace and most importantly, who I trust. I am deeply proud of Mitchell and honored to officially become business partners with him.

Interview: Ashley Kate Adams And Mitchell Walker of NO REVERSE RECORDS

Mitchell, make believe Ashley Kate isn't going to read this interview and tell me what made her the person with whom you felt this venture would be a success.

M: Ashley Kate aka Tanya! and I have been working and playing together for 15 years. I met her when she was 18 and a freshman at CCM. We then spent a summer together doing shows on boats and barges, becoming local celebrities, and never looking back. I knew back then and am even more sure of this statement now: Ashley Kate Adams is a BOSS. She is a go getter, a strong woman number, and a confidant. Merging our creative energy has always been something we have done and using each other as a solid soundboard for producing has always been our secret weapon. Joining her was a no brainer when it comes to business. No matter what, we always come out happy and proud of the work we have done and that kind of energy is something that you must gravitate towards if you want to succeed!

So, if there is an independent artist out there looking for a record label, how do they get the attention of No Reverse Records?

AK & M: Please give us a follow on instagram @noreverserecords and visit our website to hear more about what services we offer We would love to see if our goals might align!

What are the salient thoughts each of you has about No Reverse Records and what the label will bring to the entertainment industry, as you get ready to launch on January 11th?

M: No Reverse Records mission statement is Only Moving Forward! And we take that mission to heart. We are here to help artists come into their own and produce a product that they can live and grow with for the rest of their careers and lives. Music is so personal and this journey from idea to album is challenging. But we have done it, had a blast working with people over the past 10 years, and can't wait to continue to provide the services we have already established in the industry. Just now it's our label and our future in the business!

Thank you so much, Mitchell and Ashley Kate, for taking time out to chat with us today, and for opening your hearts and arms to the artists of the industry who need a home. Send me some albums to review!

AK & M: Thank you so much for your time & support Stephen! How incredible to have these beautiful questions and this article to timestamp this moment! We indeed will be sending you exciting music to review in the very near future!

Interview: Ashley Kate Adams And Mitchell Walker of NO REVERSE RECORDS


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