Jars of Clay starts label under Nettwerk

5:00 AM PST 06/16/2007 by Deborah Evans Price, Billboard, AP

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NASHVILLE -- After 12 years on Essential Records, Jars of Clay is exiting to launch a new imprint, Gray Matters, under the Nettwerk Music Group umbrella, Billboard has learned.

"Having our own imprint will give us the opportunity to be more spontaneous and more prolific in how much music we kick out," Jars of Clay's Stephen Mason said.

The first Gray Matters release will be a Christmas collection, due Oct. 17, which Jars will support via a Christmas tour with Third Day. Mason said the band also plans to record a soundtrack for a documentary a friend is making about the African village of Lwala.

Mason and bandmates Dan Haseltine, Matt Odmark and Charlie Lowell rose to prominence in the mid-'90s in the Christian market and gained mainstream success with the multiformat hit "Flood." They have continued to appeal to both markets. Last fall, they released "Good Monsters," which has scanned 134,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The band, which has been managed by Nettwerk Management since 2003, didn't entertain offers from other labels. "It was really between re-signing with Provident in a traditional sense or doing their own thing," Nettwerk Management's Michael Corcoran says. "It came down to [Jars'] ownership element of what they were doing and the ability to have more creative freedom."

"We're excited there's so much more we can involve ourselves in," Mason says of a desire to exert more control over the band's career. "Things that most people are happy to turn over to someone else, we love that minutiae."
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