The name for new local label GNDWIRE Records formed from the idea that ground wires— which conduct energy from the Earth — generate the same form of electricity that the musical upstart aims to produce.
“The spelling ‘gnd wire’ is actually the spelling of the electric term,” label co-owner Mark Gehring said. “If you mess with any electrical stuff, you’ll see the ‘gnd wires’ of this label.”
GNDWIRE Records began as a project by Trampled By Turtles’ lead vocalist Dave Simonett and local music impresario, Gehring. The label began as an avenue for Simonett to release an upcoming solo project, but with both individuals’ connections in the music industry, they decided to expand their scope to other artists with a similar workmanlike ethos.
Gehring transitioned into the business side of the music industry after making connections as a music writer at MSU Mankato. Since then, he has helped create the Minnesota Beatle Project and run Periscope Artist Management.
For Gehring, music served as an escape for a monotonous, conservative southern Minnesota upbringing. He said his parents routinely confiscated or broke albums that fell out of line with their values, which added to the music’s mystique and allure.
“My father was a crop farmer — [he] farmed 800 acres,” Gehring said. “I spent a lot of my time growing up out in the middle of these giant fields, pulling weeds and picking rocks; it was very mind-numbing, tough work. I would listen to music out there. Music was my companion when I was all alone in this giant sea of dirt.”
The duo’s passion for music and broad connection drives GNDWIRE’s growth.
Though the label’s roster only includes one artist, the musician, John Mark Nelson seems to be a future star. The 21-year-old’s fourth album (unnamed as of yet) will be GNDWIRE’s first release and is set to drop in September.
Gehring gave an exclusive preview of Nelson’s tune “Control,” which is defined by electric folk-rock polish that departs from his past acoustic sound. The song is radio-ready with a catchy hook and riff that grabs the listener’s attention; it would fit right in with the Current’s rotation.
Nelson said working with connected industry veterans like Gehring and Simonett lessens the challenge of promoting oneself, allowing more time to focus on his passion: songwriting.
“You have to think about booking your own shows, emailing a ton of venues that are never going to email you back, sending your stuff to radio stations that will never answer you back,” Nelson said. “When you partner with people as well connected as Mark and Dave — they’ve already built bridges that musicians are
trying to build from scratch.”
Nelson said he jumped at the opportunity to be GNDWIRE’s first signee because of the label’s commitment to fostering fledgling talent. He said the label’s lack of management greed and Gehring and Simonett’s commitment to good music makes it a good fit, and he was also excited about the opportunity to participate in launching something new.
“They’re artists in and of themselves,” Nelson said of Gehring and Simonett. “This isn’t some random business for them; this is what they’re passionate about.
They’re passionate about setting up a label that prepares, promotes and treats artists well.”
The passion GNDWIRE’s staff possesses is evident in the plans for its launch party at Icehouse next Tuesday. The event begins with a social hour and discussion sponsored by the Recording Academy Chicago Chapter (the group responsible for the GRAMMY awards). After the presentation, three local bands — whose identities will remain concealed until their sets — hit the Icehouse stage for a show rocking until Wednesday’s early morning.
Other label events that are germinating in Gehring’s mind include a pool party-concert at his house.
He said the push for fun and building relationships with musicians in an industry characterized by shady dealings and deceptions is what makes his job worth doing.
“We wanted to celebrate the launch of the label with something fun,” Gehring said. “The moment something becomes a drag and it’s not fun, it’s over for me.”
GNDWIRE Records Launch Party
Where: Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Cost: Free in advance; $10 at the door