Third Man Records Holds Vinyl and Music Close to Its Heart
Learn more about the label and their gear, followed by some of our favorite Third Man Records artists!
Music is sacred. It heals us, navigates our emotions, and makes us truly feel. It brings people together, drives musicians across the world, and gives us purpose. It’s the reason why She Shreds exists, and why you’re reading this today.
We’re living in a time when everything sacred is being commodified, when big companies try to make you believe that they care at all. It’s so easy to feel blue about the state of music, especially when streaming services are decreasing record sales and labels are taking advantage of indie artists. But there are people out there who truly care, who want to uphold the integrity of vinyl and the music industry at large, and Third Man Records is one of them.
From their incredible facilities, their cutting-edge artists, and their innovative music gear, Third Man Records is engaging the music community in meaningful and useful ways while keeping the sacredness of music at the forefront of all that they do.
Third Man Records – The Company
In 2001, Jack White (The White Stripes, Dead Weather) bought a building in his hometown of Detroit, MI to store his gear, reissue the early White Stripes 45s, and start Third Man Records. Over the last 20 years, the label has grown exponentially to encompass almost all aspects of the music industry.
In 2009, Third Man opened its Nashville, TN location, which includes a record store, recording studio, the Record Booth (with a refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph machine that records and dispenses a one-of-a-kind 6″ phonograph disc to the user), label offices and distribution center, photo studio, and the world’s only live venue with direct-to-acetate recording capabilities—aka produces a vinyl master in real time.
In November 2015, the label returned to Detroit with its second location, the Third Man Records Cass Corridor, which contains a record and novelties lounge, mastering studio, in-store performance stage, and record pressing plant where you can get your own band’s records pressed. Third Man Pressing opened in 2017, with the intention to keep vinyl alive but to also improve upon it. “I think a lot of people think, oh, you’re a Luddite, or you live in the past, or this is nostalgia or golden-age thinking, all that,” White told Popular Mechanics. “I disagree. I like to take what’s beautiful about what’s already been proven—what works—and ask, how can we marriage that with what’s happening right now? And what can we do with that tomorrow?”
The preservation of vinyl records is crucial today—especially to those of us who collect, record, and appreciate the importance of tangible recordings—and Third Man is at the forefront, taking old technology and improving upon its quality.
Third Man is home to tons of musicians and bands pushing musical boundaries. From Olivia Jean’s latest bubblegum garage release, Night Owl, to Third Man Live recordings, the company is releasing some incredible music. Below are highlights, as well as a playlist of some of our favorite songs released on Third Man Records.
Before her solo career, Nashville-based multi-instrumentalist Olivia Jean started out as the singer/guitarist of the goth garage band The Black Belles. In 2014, she released her first solo album on Third Man Records, which showed off a poppier side of Jean’s songwriting. This year, she released her latest solo full-length, Night Owl, putting Jean in full control as producer for the first time. Night Owl is filled with rolling guitar licks, layered vocal harmonies reminiscent of ‘60s girl bands, and a mixture of surf rock and bubblegum garage to keep you moving all night long—here’s one for the night owls, for sure!
If you’ve been reading She Shreds for a few years now, then you know we’re huge fans of Wata, guitarist/keyboardist in Boris. The heavy experimental, genre-defying band from Tokyo has released over 20 full-length records since it’s start in 1992, and thanks to Third Man, we’re able to experience some of those releases on vinyl for the first time. In October, the label showed Boris lots of love: they issued Feedbacker (2003) for its first ever North American release, reissued Akuma No Uta (2003), and released the band’s most recent full-length, LOVE & EVOL.
Americana and country musician Lillie Mae has been shredding the Americana circuit with her incredible songwriting and impeccable style. She released her last two full-length albums on Third Man Records—2017’s Forever and Then Some and this year’s Other Girls. The Nashville-based musician started playing guitar at just four years old, and toured with her family band for many years. Before her solo career, she did session work with Third Man and on Jack White’s solo records, and she’s since released three solo albums, some of which feature her siblings.
Third Man Live and The Blue Series
One of the coolest things about Third Man Records is their recording facilities. At both of their venues, live sets are recorded and released on 7” and 12” vinyl.
“Playing Third Man was a highlight of my tour,” says Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee, who played Third Man in the summer of 2017. One of Cruchfield’s most beloved covers to play live, Lucinda Williams’s “Greenville,” had never been recorded prior to her set at Third Man. “To have my cover of such a great song be on this single is very exciting for me.”
Third Man’s Blue Series invites musicians on tour to record a song or two in the Third Man Studio at their Nashville location. The songs are produced by Jack White, released on both 7” vinyl and digitally, and include cover photos taken in Third Man’s blue room. Our Issue #15 cover artist, Courtney Barnett, recorded two songs for the Blue Series: “Boxing Day Blues (Revisited)” and “Shivers.”
Perhaps one of our favorite of the many parts of Third Man Records is (surprise, surprise) their extensive line of music and guitar gear. From instrument cables and tuners to sound gadgets and synthesizers, Third Man offers a variety of gear (and honestly, is a really great place to do some holiday shopping), but it’s their Third Man Exclusive Black Flex Pedal by Mantic Pedals that really stands out.
Third Man teamed up with Mantic Pedals to create a monophonic phase-locked loop synth-fuzz effect. Jack White has been using the Mantic Flex pedal since 2014—most notably heard on his guitar solo in the song “Why Walk a Dog?”—and it’s clear why it’s such a hit. With its wide tonal possibilities, the Mantic Flex can go from a sweeping phase to a fluttery thereminesque effect in the turn of a knob. The Mantic Flex has been used by multi-instrumentalist and musician Carla Azar (who played drums on three of White’s albums) and bassist Julie Slick to create synth and fuzz driven effects that will make you’re off-the-wall guitar dreams come true.
So, let me break this down for you: Third Man Records releases records, reissues records, presses records, hosts live music, has a line of music gear and merch, publishes books, and develops film—that’s a lot for one company to do, but that’s just how much they love this industry. If music is sacred, then Third Man Records is one of its keeper—ensuring that vinyl is kept alive, music stays collective, and we all get a piece.