By Keysha Drexel
In February, Travis Morgan will celebrate 10 years in the music business.
The 32-year-old co-founded Skybucket Records in Homewood in 2003 and since has given several bands new fans in the Over the Mountain and Birmingham areas.
Travis said as the owner of an independent record label, he often has to clear up misconceptions about what, exactly, that means.
“A lot of old school labels back in the day would record music and then press it right there and get the albums out on the airwaves as soon as possible,” he said. “I don’t record bands. What I do is more like publishing books, but instead of publishing books, we put out records.”
Travis, a Mountain Brook native, and a friend, Justin Lee, launched Skybucket Records a decade ago after a deal for a compilation album featuring Birmingham area bands fell through at the last minute.
“We were really into the music scene, discovering a lot of new bands, and a literary magazine that was trying to get off the ground talked to us about putting together a compilation album,” Travis said. “So we selected bands from Birmingham, Huntsville, Auburn, bands from all over the state, and we were ready to go, but the magazine people didn’t have their (stuff) together.”
But that didn’t stop Travis and Justin’s desire to get the music they’d put together out to the public. They decided to form their own record label, taking its name from a ride at Six Flags Over Georgia.
“We were just sitting around throwing out ideas for the label’s name, and Skybucket clicked. I just like the way that word sounds, too,” he said.
The label’s first album included 15 songs and came in handmade packages the two crafted themselves.
Travis said he was a student at Samford University studying broadcast journalism at that time.
“I remember going to the Samford computer lab and having 12 computers going at once burning the CDs,” he said. “We handmade about 800 sleeves and packages for the CDs, 100 at a time.”
From there, Travis and Justin took the CDs to coffee shops like Lucy’s in downtown Birmingham near the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“We also made display boxes for the places that agreed to let us put them in their stores. We charged $2 or $3 for the CDs and sold all of them,” Travis said. “But it isn’t and never has been about the number, it’s about the art.”
With a focus on cultivating the wealth of homegrown talent, Travis said Skybucket Records went on to release albums for bands like 13ghosts, Delicate Cutters, Vulture Whale and the Dexateens.
“We’ve built a family of bands that I work with, and most of them have been from the Birmingham area,” he said. “The biggest release we’ve probably ever had was the Dextateens’ third album.”
Travis and Justin went their separate ways a couple of years after launching the record label, so Travis took the helm of the fledgling business by himself and set out to make it grow.
Travis said he has taken a do-it-yourself approach to learning the business and said he thinks it has been successful because of his love of music.
“I taught myself the business. When I started out, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I probably still don’t,” he said. “But it’s a labor of love.”
Travis said some argue that there’s no need for a record label to help music listeners discover new music in the age of the iPod.
“I disagree with that, not as an owner of a record label but as a music listener,” he said. “I still believe people need a filter, someone they can trust on how to discover great music.”
Skybucket Records’ 10th anniversary will be celebrated over two nights, Feb.8-9, at the Bottletree Cafe in Birmingham.
On Feb. 8, there will be performances by Belle Adair, Barton Carroll, Terry Ohms & Them and Through the Sparks.
The lineup for Feb. 9 includes The Magic Math, Delicate Cutters, 13ghosts and Vulture Whale.
For show times and ticket information, go to www.thebottletree.com.
For more information on Skybucket Records, www.skybucket.com.