HE’S GOT A SHOT Spose signs a deal with potential.
A few weeks ago, we marveled at the reality of Portland's Top 40 radio station, WJBQ, playing a song by local rapper Spose called "I'm Awesome," an ironic, self-deprecating piece of pure hilarious ear candy. Sure, it fit the format, except for that fact that, well, it's pretty hard for a local to be considered "Top 40," which sort of implies you've got a top-40 record on your hands. Now, however, Spose may very well get that opportunity. Last week he signed a record deal with Universal Republic records, a label that knows how to break hits. Just ask Owl City or Cobie Caillat or Tori Amos.
For Ryan Peters, who's probably put in equal time at local hip-hop open mics developing his Spose persona and schlepping lobster rolls at Barnacle Billy's in Ogunquit, it's a dream come true that he's not letting get to his head. "I've had the whole Spose vision in my head since I was 16," says Peters, who'll be 25 in July, "and if I can just purvey that for a national audience and build a garage studio in my driveway and crank out albums, that's what I want to do. I want to be able to work full-time doing music. I want to wake up every morning and have my job be making music. I've got that job right now, and it's up to me to maintain that job for the rest of my life."
WCYY's Mark Curdo, who gave Spose's "I'm Awesome" its first commercial radio spins and who has helped Peters find legal representation and other advice as he evaluated the deal with Universal, says the news of Spose's signing is a shot in the arm for Portland as a whole. "But it always comes with that feeling of, 'Let's put on our seatbelts,'" Curdo cautions. "With the music industry, no matter how confident you are, you just don't know. He's going to get a shot. If it doesn't hit, it is what it is."
Matt Cosby, current bassist for the Pete Kilpatrick Band, knows the industry's capriciousness well. As part of Southern Maine rockers Jeremiah Freed, he was the last local to sign with Universal Republic (their "Again" was also played by WJBQ, right before the label called). While he has no regrets, Jeremiah Freed, fueled by Southern-flavored guitars, never quite gained the national notoriety many predicted for them. After their self-titled major-label record was released the band got some national airplay and did some touring, but then self-released another record here in Maine before moving to Los Angeles and eventually breaking up.
"I had an absolute blast with that label," Cosby says. "They treated us really, really well." But Cosby does wonder what might have been. "I didn't have my head screwed on all that tightly. Surrounding ourselves with good people to work with would have been key with us. We just believed everything they said. We didn't have anybody to go out there and sniff around. I hope [Spose] makes sure he's got a good lawyer, a good manager that doesn't mind barking up trees. Sometimes when they say they're doing one thing, they might not be doing that."