The Power of Twos: An interview with Keith & Susie Ulrey

Best Album & Best Label Repping Tampa Bay to the World, 2012

click to enlarge “We are able to separate the work from our marriage" —Susie Ulrey, w. Keith. - Photo by Todd Bates
Photo by Todd Bates
“We are able to separate the work from our marriage" —Susie Ulrey, w. Keith.

Susie and Keith Ulrey have been married 12 years, but she met him when she was 16, so they’ve known each other almost 20. A petite beauty on a motor scooter, she's living with Multiple Sclerosis and coming out on top. She and Keith do their share of funds and awareness-raising whenever possible, and Susie’s even due to speak at a few panels about experimental treatments soon. She's also a recruiter for an HR outsourcing firm and works from home; he runs small Seminole Heights indie record shop (and “Best Vinyl Survivor” award winner) Microgroove, and as of September, is the sole proprietor after an amicable parting, which found Keith purchasing former co-owner Carl Webb’s share. Together, the couple runs the New Granada record label and play in the band Rec Center; a percentage of select CD sales go to MS research, including Rec Center's 2012 LP, Tin Year.

Their work together on New Granada Records was a natural progression.

“I think it was just a default of being married, and being in the same bands,” says Keith. “Of course we’re going to work on it together. Most of the earlier releases, we were already kind of working on together, anyway.”

The label was originally a co-op, a way to put out recordings of their own bands, eventually morphing and becoming an Ulrey-run endeavor. “It wasn’t until Candy Bars in 2006 that there was actually a scenario where we wanted to put out something that none of us were involved in. At that point, it was really just Keith and I,” Susie explains.

“That was the first time we approached a band as a label and said, ‘We want to invest, we want to put money into your band,” Keith elaborates. The Candy Bars record came out in 2006, number 11 on the New Granada roster; come November with The Winter Sounds, they’ll be at 31. “And this year’s been our busiest year. By the end of the year [2012], we will have released six titles, which is a lot.”

The proceeds from all New Granada Presents shows still go directly back into the label and backing bands. "We’ve been able to put these releases out, either with putting very little money into them personally, or investing in them and getting paid back," Susie says. “As far as the collaboration on the label, he handles the business side of it, I am more of the advisor. And I’m with him when we meet with all the bands and I have a lot of input as far as that’s concerned, and I can also offer advice to the bands, because not only am I in a band, but I’ve walked with him through this whole process.”

“Susie’s kind of like final say – like, veto power. If I get excited about a band, I want her to get excited also,” Keith says. “Not that we carry any titles at all, but I guess if an outsider were looking in, she could almost be like A&R. Once the band is signed, then she’s done, I handle everything after that. I do all the business and the numbers and the money. She’s more my conscience in helping me decide.”

A few not-so-great decisions were made without her input, so everything goes through her first. She’s the calm, grounded core of the partnership; when he starts obsessing over a band, he brings it to her and she gives him some cool-headed perspective. In Rec Center (this year’s winner of “Best Album” with Tin Year), they switch roles a bit. She writes the songs with Michael Waksman and while Keith admittedly has no songwriting ability, he does have a great ear for arrangement and makes his two cents heard when he likes something — or not. “When we’re in the band space, she’s a band member. She’s prone to being told something’s not good.” He also stands as only one of two drummers whom Susie has ever worked with.

“I don’t take it personally anymore,” Susie said. “There can be uncomfortable moments for the rest of the band if there’s bickering going on, so we try our best to keep that in check. He says what’s on his mind. I try to take it as constructive criticism.”

“We are able to separate the work from our marriage.”


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