“You just gotta figure out where you’re at, and be the best person you can.”

Moving about 800 miles away from home isn’t the easiest decision to make. Saddle that with the decision to start your own record label when you’re only 18 or 19 years old, and it’s quite a place to be in after leaving your past in the rearview mirror.

But that’s exactly what Andrew Oliver, founder of Forthright Records and member of Brother Oliver, did. Not to say he’s forsaken his past, but when he traded Greenville, MI for Greenville, SC, he went all in.

When we talked, Oliver said looking back on it was kind of funny. He was so young, but he wanted to approach it as professionally as possible. You know, at the end of the day the music business is, unfortunately, still a business. Luckily for him and Forthright Records, he’s had some solid support.

“Stephen (his brother who is also in Brother Oliver) has been a big help. We’ve also gotten great support, sometimes from volunteers, sometimes from people we’ve been able to pay, but we’ve been lucky to be surrounded by good people.” In a world of self-centeredness and self-consciousness, which we’ll come back to, it’s always nice to be able to flip DIY into do-it-together if you can. In these cynical times, it’s downright comforting to see acts like this in a creative community.

But why do it in the first place? “Honestly, it’s given us an incredible amount of freedom.”

He’s not about to neglect the other side of his brain in this endeavor though. With the administrative work to focus on as well, there’s a tradeoff between time to write and time to manage. Hell, he can’t even compare his experience to anything else since this is the world of music he’s known for six years now.

“We’ll figure that out down the road if it gets to that,” he says while laughing when we talk about the bountiful what-ifs. He’s a lot more focused on the here-and-now, the growing child that is Forthright Records. Andrew Oliver is all business… when needed.

He’s also excited and interested in the greater community that can be supported through music and the label. “There’s a lot going on at the label, creatively and businesswise, that makes people excited to be part of the atmosphere. Our artists possess a focus and purpose – there’s the stereotype of musicians just sitting around jamming, and we’re trying to break that (laughs).”

The commitment to a communal atmosphere stems from the connectivity of creating music in the Greenville, SC scene.

Andrew got connected to Jeremy Theall at Post-Echo (home of acts such as Dear Blanca, Gláss, We Roll Like Madmen, and Tyler Digital to name a few) after moving to Greenville, and it was Jeremy’s help that got Andrew on this path. This eagerness to support is how Andrew sees the art world of Greenville heading. He says people there will complain just to complain sometimes, but overall, he’s had nothing but positive experiences. Helpful is a word that comes up a good bit.

All good, right?

Let’s not forget it’s 2017 though, which leads to our discussion on Brother Oliver’s single “I Rely on Everything.”

When asked about where the influence for the track, one about the over-reliances we’re addicted to in our lives, came from, Oliver had no problem admitting the origins. “It’s so easy to observe in the general public, but I was observing this in myself as well.” He’s a self-admitted confessional songwriter, and he knew that he had to admit it before he could deal with it.

There’s a line in the song about grabbing a gun that we got into. The line is about a phone, but take a minute to visually picture yourself pulling the phone out of your pocket. It’s quite like drawing from your holster – who can be the fastest to search the simple answers no one can come up with during a meaningless conversation at brunch? That’s what the big picture is focused on here.

“It’s an interesting place and time to be in. Early adaptors are noticing it’s a problem, but people need quantifiable reasons and studies to show that it’s time to change. It’s a bit similar to cigarettes and those studies – it’ll take a while, but the change will come once people realize this is hurting them.”

It’s that statement that helps to explain so much to us. It helps to explain Andrew Oliver’s approach to handling Forthright Records. It helps to explain the decision to even start it in the first place. And it helps to explain his refusal to view the world with anything other than cautious optimism.

He came from a tiny town in Michigan with one Applebee’s and a Pizza Hut to South Carolina, which felt like a lot of people in one space. The demographics were different, but very similar in a lot of ways. Pull up a county voting map from the recent elections, and you’ll see how both swung. But to Andrew Oliver, people are people.

“You just gotta figure out where you’re at, and be the best person you can. Look for what’s good in others, and build the conversations from there.” That’s not to say he isn’t without his opinions, and he’s not afraid to share them when the time is best fitting, but he’s more interested in trying to construct. He’s a creator after all.

The events of late 2016 and early 2017 had transpired a bit after a large chunk of the new Brother Oliver album had been recorded, but he feels like the message of it all withstood these events. “You can say it’s a critical/darker record, but it’s more geared at myself with inward reflection.” He’s taken a huge gamble with Forthright Records, and he’s even written a song about giving one’s life away for a complete unknown.

There’s uncertainty in this experiment, and there’s always a lingering cloud of doubt about whether it’s all worth it or not. “You can’t do it for those reasons though. You do it for the right reasons – truth, appreciation of art, and creation.”

Brother Oliver’s self-titled new album holds a gritty narrative to the artistic mission as its theme. Sometimes you just have to wipe that grit away and carry on with the mission. That’s exactly what the band, especially Andrew Oliver, plans on doing.

“We decided to name the album Brother Oliver because it feels like where we want to be artistically. We have our finger on it. This is our third full-length, and it’s not necessarily a reintroduction, but we like where we’re at right now.”

Brother Oliver will be hitting the Midwest for a tour in late April. If you’re around, go out and support good music:

4/25 – The Mothlight – Asheville, NC

4/26 – Wilbert’s – Cleveland, OH

4/27 – The Rialto Theatre – Akron, OH

4/28 – Jam’n Bean – Grand Rapids, MI

4/29 – The Phoenix Cafe – Detroit, MI

Photo Credits: All live action shots were taken by Elizabeth Kabakjian. All stills are by Craig Vietti.