Grammy-winning Christian artist Jason Crabb is signing with Reunion Records, part of Provident Label Group, a division of Sony Music. Exiting Spring Hill Music Group after three albums and a live DVD, the new deal signals a move to expand Crabb’s career further into Christian AC territory.
“They’ve come to me with some really wonderful ideas and I just couldn’t turn it down,” Crabb tells Billboard exclusively. “We’re going to go all different routes. They said, ‘Just be you and lay it all out there. We want to help you make the best Jason Crabb record you can make.’”
Crabb says he fielded offers from four different companies and also seriously considered going independent and launching his own venture, but opted to go with Provident. “We signed Jason Crabb because he’s an amazing singer – then meeting him and spending time with him, it became bigger than that for me, and for a lot of us here,” Provident Music Group president/CEO Terry Hemmings tells Billboard. “He’s a really wonderful, genuine guy driven to the ministry that he’s been called to. . . He’s written a series of children’s books. He’s a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional guy. As an entertainer, minister, husband and father, he’s got a lot to say. We want to give him a place to express that.”
Crabb’s career has been anchored in Southern gospel music since he began performing with his siblings as The Crabb Family. The Beaver Dam, Kentucky-native went solo with his eponymous Spring Hill debut in 2009, winning a Grammy for Best Southern/Country/Bluegrass Gospel Album. “I love Spring Hill. They helped launch my solo career and I’m very thankful to them for that,” says Crabb, who has won 17 Gospel Music Assn. Dove Awards, including artist of the year in 2012. “I’ve enjoyed my time at Spring Hill. I love everyone over there but I just think this is the right move.”
During his tenure on Spring Hill, Crabb flirted with other formats beyond his Southern gospel base. “Somebody Like Me” from his debut album made inroads at mainstream country radio and Spring Hill worked two singles – “Let Mercy Hold You” and “Near” – from his 2013 release Love is Stronger to Christian AC radio. Crabb also worked the title track to mainstream country stations. At the same time, he continued to crank out hits for the Southern gospel format.
Provident is one of the big three contemporary Christian companies (along with Warner-owned Word Entertainment and Universal’s Capitol Christian Music Group). Their roster includes Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, Brandon Heath, Building 429 and Tenth Avenue North. Hemmings says Crabb’s debut album is slated for either first or second quarter of 2015 and they plan to work him to the Christian AC format. “We plan to put our core competencies around what he does well and to the extent that we’re not going to be dictating the kind of records he makes or the songs that he sings, but certainly advising him as to what we know works and what we know doesn’t and his open-mindedness is going to contribute a great deal to our success,” Hemmings says. “The guy I’ve spent the last year getting to know and working through this process has not been unwilling to talk about any possibility we put on the table.”
Yet both parties are mindful not to alienate his Southern gospel fan base. “He knows his audience quite well and [so does] his management and agents. There’s a team around him that’s not going to let them vanish,” Hemmings says, “but there’s also a team here that we believe can find more people to enjoy and appreciate what he has to say.”
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