Interview With Pinecastle Records, Lonnie Lassiter

by | 24 Sep, 2010

News from Pinecastle Records this week is an interview with the new owner of the company, Lonnie Lassiter:

How did you come about purchasing Pinecastle Records?

I grew up listening to all kinds of music. Being from rural North Carolina, I was naturally a big fan of bluegrass and country music.  I always like the 60’s and 70’s country the best.  My passion for bluegrass increased in college, I really love the banjo and that traditional driving bluegrass. I started my practice in Columbus in 2000 and in 2003 I started the St. Luke’s wound care center. Tom Riggs came to me for some medical issues that he was having and we got to talking bluegrass one day. I was excited when I discovered that he owned Pinecastle. Our friendship continued and he invited me to join him in Nashville at the IBMA annual conference, as well as the MACC festival in Columbus, OH. I also attended several staff Christmas parties up on the mountain at Colonel Riggs’ cabin. So I was a pretty close friend of Pinecastle and became an advocate for them.
I didn’t even know about the cessation of operations in February until July. I immediately picked up the phone and called Matt Hood. I knew that Tom had had some substantial medical problems but I didn’t expect the label to close. It really was all Cort Riggs could do and looking back, as painful as it was, it was the best thing to do to help any portion of the label survive.  I contacted Cort who had power of attorney and we worked through a deal that was best for all parties. I cut a check and I owned it August 1st. We spent the month of August organizing and moving and began operations on September 1st.

Can you describe your musical background and how you came to appreciate bluegrass music?

Music was important to me early. I was in children’s choir at church.  I got good at piano and did some composing. I also played trumpet and eventually all brass (except the trombone) in band in high school. In college I continued with the piano and was in the marching band.  I’ve been playing some jazz trumpet lately and trying to practice the banjo. Bluegrass is such a well-constructed form of music.

How will your background as a fan of bluegrass music affect the way you do business?

I am not sure that being a fan of bluegrass will affect the way that I do business. I believe that in all business endeavors, we should keep the main thing the main thing. Allowing our emotions or sympathies affect our business acumen I believe is a dangerous thing. It will affect what I am willing to do with the label activities, who we will sign and partner with. I do know that as a fan, I will have more insight into the wants and needs of the fans than an uninterested analyst.

What are some of your business philosophies?

Be transparent, deal openly and honestly with everyone, treat others as you want to be treated, be an objective negotiator, be perfectly organized and keep the books perfectly. I am always looking for ways to improve things. I want an organization that is well-run, innovative, and a fun place to work.  I believe in treating employees well (financially and emotionally) I look for business opportunities that will make a profit AND help people. Making money is nice but it is so much better when you can make money and help people.

What are your plans for the label?

First, preserve and honor the genre. Second, be an advocate for the artists. We have put together a good benefits package for the artists on the Pinecastle label. I want to break away of the traditional model of artist-label relationships and approach our relationships with artists as partnerships. This means being advocates for each other and supporting each other. Third, Pinecastle will be an innovative label. We are exploring and will continue to explore new ways to improve our efficiencies in operations.  Fourth, grow the overall bluegrass market. Bluegrass is such an American expression of art and the culture around Bluegrass is very family friendly. There is no reason that we as the bluegrass community cannot grow our fan base. This will take focus and effort but it is essential in maintaining a robust Bluegrass industry. We are starting Pass The Grass not just as a slogan but as a vehicle to grow our market. Stay tuned for some really neat things that we are going to be doing with Pass The Grass. By the way, everybody Pass the Grass.

Where do you see the bluegrass genre in ten years?

I want it to take its rightful place at the head of the table of the country music end of the music spectrum. I have always been disappointed at the apparent wall between country music and bluegrass as genres.

What other businesses are you involved in?

Well, I am an MD so I practice medicine. I have a private practice in Columbus. My other clinical responsibilities include being medical director at St. Luke’s Hyperbaric and Wound Care Center also in Columbus. I see patients with wounds like people with diabetes and I run our limb-salvage program. So basically, I try to save people’s toes and feet or help them heal their burns or bedsores, things like that. I also started a management company several years back, Solor (it means support in Latin) This company basically tries to replace the business office for doctors’ offices.  We help doctors install their electronic health records, do billing and collections, payroll, accounting and taxes and anything else that a doctor’s office does on the business side of things. We have around 30 practices under management in over 6 states I believe. Another thing I do is help hospitals set up outpatient wound care clinics like the one that we have here in Columbus. I have several other things that I am involved with in investing and finance as well as distributorship. I am an entrepreneur and it is a busy time.