When a guy like Alex Torrez talks, you listen. This is a guy who's been around the block and is a true professional inside and out. Alex had a hell of a touring career as a drummer and quickly - through hard work and dedication - paved his path in the music industry. After years of putting his own company on the back burner, over the last few years he's quickly put an independent label full of talented up and comers on the map in Nashville and around the entire Country Music community. Such a humble and confident guy, you can just tell he has a plan to reach new successes with Torrez Music Group. I sat down with Alex and talked about his interesting 30 years of experience, how he finally put other projects aside to make his dream a reality and some of his most memorable moments thus far with Torrez Music Group.
Pictured TMG Christmas Party (L-R): Gabe Lee, Lucciana Costa & Rachel Coats (King Margo), Alex Torrez, Triston Marez, Zoe Cummins and Rylie Bourne. Not Pictured: Logan Samford, Braxton Keith, Mario Flores and Damon Atkin (LoneHollow)
Get To Know Alex
"I grew up in a little town in West Texas called Floydada, a little dot between Lubbock and Amarillo. Out of the blue I just was a drummer. I didn't take lessons but my parents bought me a set of drums and I just played and played and played all through elementary, middle and high school. When I finally got out of high school I started playing all around West Texas in cover bands. I tried to go to college, but it didn't fit my touring schedule. That's how I got started. In 1986 I grabbed what I had - a set of drums, some clothes and a record player - and moved to Nashville. I basically started my company in 1986, so I've been at this thing for a long time. But I've done a lot of other things besides Torrez Music Group though.
For the first 10 years in Nashville I was a touring drummer and toured with acts such as Lionel Cartwright and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell. I finished my touring career with Tracy Lawrence,
playing with him in '93, '94 and '95, right at the peak of his career.
Then I got off the road. But from '89 to '95 I created a publishing company with Brett Beavers that eventually became a co-venture with Sony ATV. Brett and I walked into Sony in 1997 with a catalog of songs and a partnership with them. But also from '95 and '97 I did A&R for Columbia Records under Blake Chancey and Paul Worley. My life was going in all these crazy different directions. But once Beav and I created that company, we became pretty successful and got the attention of Sony, so we co-ventured with them. I continued to build my publishing company under the Sony ATV umbrella plus working for Don Cook and DKC Records. I introduced Beav to Dierks Bentley and then he started producing Dierks records. Beav became this incredible producer and hit songwriter while I was trying to learn the record and publishing business. Even though we were a partnership in the beginning, once we got into Sony we kind of found our own way. After I left Sony I was hired by Gibson Guitars to do some marketing for them and worked there for a few years. I learned the business of marketing. It was around the time people were starting to use social media for branding purposes. But after a few years at Gibson, I missed being in the music industry and was pulled back into the music publishing business. Once again I kept my company to the side and kept pitching catalogs for other companies. I helped Tracy Lawrence form Lawrence Music Group, I helped create his radio show, establish his label and distribution. But once again I was leaving my company behind. It was actually at Tracy's, when I created my label and established my distribution with The Orchard in 2014. In 2015 I released my first artist on TMG. A band called Shotgun Rider from Texas that my daughter actually discovered while she was in school at West Texas A&M I had already established a relationship with John Marks at Spotify because John was a radio guy before Spotify and I knew him when I was touring with Tracy Lawrence. Well, all of a sudden he's working for this company that does streaming. I'm hanging out with John and he tells me Spotify was the future. He put my guys on a few playlists while they were developing and we got a lot of streams and revenue started coming in. We recorded a couple of more EP's and singles and that's how I was able to keep re-funding the company. I finally grew to the point where I could sign more artists. But I knew I needed a little more funding. But once again I put my company to the side again and was hired by Play It Again to spearhead the Trea Landon project. I was very instrumental in getting Trea his deal on Warner Brothers. But I really missed building my label so I left there in 2018 and that's when I really focused on TMG full time. I went back to The Orchard, they helped me with some funding and I was able to sign Gabe Lee and Triston Marez. We released music on those guys and started to really get the right attention then. From there I decided to grow the label so I signed Zoe Cummins and LoneHollow. In 2020 when touring stopped due to the pandemic we doubled down and decided to go in the studio and record a bunch of stuff including Gabe's "Honky Tonk Hell" record and Triston's full album which we released this year. This past year 2021 we got a lot of attention on the Zoe and Lonehollow EPs plus a couple of singles on Logan Samford from Texas. That's basically where I'm at now with the roster. But we have more new artists coming this year. But at the end of all that, I started TMG because I wanted to be a record label. I'd always worked in and around labels and have been able to find hit songs and artists. But I wanted my vision to take the lead.
In the past I was usually a co-venture with someone or a partnership. I usually took the back seat while helping to run the show. I have no regrets about any of that because I learned so much in the process. But now it's all about Torrez Music Group."
Q & A With Alex Torrez
Q: How did you come up with the idea for TMG and how did this journey start for you?
A: "I think the journey started when I first got here and got into music publishing. A lot of times when people move here, like when I did in the late '80s, I had no idea what publishing was and how expansive a business it was. You start discovering all the industries within the umbrella of the music industry. There is marketing, management, publishing, distribution, administration, all of these different avenues. I felt, even before I got here, that I was good at listening to full albums and could pick the next single or couple of singles. I was always pulled to the commercial songs on full albums. I felt I could decipher the songs that were meant to be sent to radio from the ones that were just fillers. So I learned about the publishing business, started picking songs and pitching them to producers and labels and was able to get major cuts. After I started that, I was figuring out the artist side of things and why people gravitate toward people being artists and others who stay songwriters. I felt as though if I got to do A&R at a record label that believed in me, I could do a really good job. I finally landed the Columbia Records job. My job was to find hit songs for the artists we were working with. Eventually I just wanted to take that chance on my own. Even though I did A&R for 12 years, I never got the reins to sign artists I wanted to sign. So I created a label and went out to find artists because I believed in what I could do."
Q: Most memorable moment so far with TMG?
A: "This year has been really great. The work we started doing a couple of years ago came to fruition this year. Gabe Lee finally went out on the road touring for the first time, Triston got back on the road and we started getting national attention from artists. Both Gabe and Triston toured with Kip Moore. Triston toured with Randall King this year. We just finished Gabe Lee’s touring schedule with Jason Isbell in Atlanta. That's mind blowing considering in the fall of 2018 I found Gabe at Tennessee Brew Works at an open mic night and offered him a deal after 3 songs. After a few years, minus the covid year, he's supporting Jason Isbell at the Tabernacle in Atlanta. That's crazy!!
Triston touring with Kip Moore was incredible. Gabe touring with Kip Moore and Lainey Wilson and Molly Tuttle and American Aquarium was incredible. Those are highlights from the last six months, but I can go back a few years to the first million streams with Triston's song "Darlin'" and now he streamed over 19 million this year
Our Whiskey Jam takeover this year was amazing with Zoe, LoneHollow, Gabe and Triston. We put a lineup together and had one band backing everyone so there was no down time. I wanted to create a moment where everyone was on stage together at some point. Zoe was singing background vocals for Gabe, Gabe played piano for Triston, Rylie of LoneHollow was playing and singing backgrounds for Triston and Damon Atkins - who's an incredible guitar player in LoneHollow - also played for Zoe. It was a crazy mixture of all of our people who are different in so many ways and we put it all together. Triston being an Apple Riser of the Week was awesome, Gabe all over Apple Radio with various shows and we even got a duet with Ronnie Dunn was great. All of our artists getting great playlist placements was amazing! I believe in these artists so much. I really fight for them. We cut and release real music and not get caught up in anything outside of who they are. The first thing we talk about is their vision. With artists, we have a lot of trust in each other and there's a lot of give and take that goes on between us. I'm just so happy to see that everyone's hard work is starting to pay off. So many great highlights!"
Q:What is your vision for TMG?
A: "This coming year, we are definitely going to put out another full album on Triston. We’ve also got a full album tracked for Gabe which we are starting to mix, and will continue to put out EP's and singles with Zoe Cummins, LoneHollow and Logan Samford. I just signed a new Texas guy, Braxton Keith. He's a really great up and comer in Texas and we will have some music out with him in the first quarter of this year. We have a new duo called King Margo, consisting of Lucciana Costa who has always been a part of our family and plays dobro on Gabe Lee's records and her partner Rachel Coats, who is an incredible upright bass player and guitar player. They’ve had this duo and we were finally able to go in the studio and experiment on their new project. And as if I didn't have enough to do, I started a sub label called TMG-Tejas and signed my first Latino artist. His name is Mario Flores and he's from San Antonio. TMG-Tejas is basically my answer to my Mexican/Latino brothers who have been left behind. If you listen to the conversations in the last 16 months about inclusivity, you rarely hear anything about the Latinos. I'm not a guy who's going to start screaming about it, that's not who I am. Instead I'm going to start a label, sign some artists and just do it myself. I'll see where that goes. It may end up being just Mario or I could end up signing a few more artists. That's my plan for the next 12 months. In the future I want to keep building on what we have. I truly believe Triston and Gabe are going to eventually sign major record label deals. And we hope that as well for all the other artists as we keep developing. Of course I couldn't do all of this without the incredible publicists we outsource, our distributor, The Orchard, our digital marketing teams or our staff photographer Brooke Stevens. Those people are super important parts of what I'm doing and what I believe in and what I hope to accomplish."
Q: What advice do you have for anyone who's trying to become an entrepreneur and start their own podcast, business, service etc.?
A: "As cliche as it is, you just have to go do it. Believe in yourself with no doubts! Be bold and confident. I think you have to be really serious. I'm not doing any of this to gain attention for me. I'm doing this because I love people, music, artists and the process. I want to be successful launching artists from the ground floor. You have to have experience to do a lot of these things. In terms of launching a label or publishing company there has to be funding somewhere. If you want to work with talented folks you have to show your value and what you can accomplish for them.
My 30 years of experience have helped me so much. At the end of the day you have to believe in yourself and what you can accomplish and just go do it!"