The Cadillac Three are known for hard-hitting Southern rock and country-funk — “country fuzz,” the trio calls it — but members Jaren Johnston and Neil Mason are looking outside of that box for their new record label. On Thursday, Johnston and Mason announced War Buddha Records, a partnership with Warner Records, and their first signed artist: Rett Madison, a West Virginia singer-songwriter now living and working out of Los Angeles.
Madison, who released the album Pin-Up Daddy in 2021 and recently finished a tour with St. Paul and the Broken Bones, is no stranger to Rolling Stone. Her poetic “Shame Is a River” was cited as a Song You Need to Know and drew comparisons to Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker (two-thirds of recent RS cover stars boygenius). Currently in the studio working on the follow-up to Pin-Up Daddy, Madison will play a string of concerts at SXSW in Austin next week, including a showcase at Cooper’s BBQ on March 15.
“Rett is the perfect first signing for the label: an artist with the incredible ability to capture life experiences in songs that make the listener feel they are in those moments with her,” Mason tells Rolling Stone. “The artists we’re targeting will be broader than what TC3 does because our musical taste is broader than what we do best. We aren’t looking for the next us, but we are looking for artists and bands that are unapologetically themselves. We want War Buddha Records to offer a platform for artists with unique perspectives who fit out, not in.”
“As artists ourselves, we created War Buddha first and foremost as a home for artists,” Johnston adds. “We saw the opportunity to mix our dirt with Warner’s power to create a venture fostering both creative expression and commercial success.”
“I’ve felt such genuine enthusiasm from Neil and Jaren in regards to my music and their total support of me sharing my most authentic, artistic voice feels refreshing,” Madison said in a statement. “I can’t wait to see what we all build together.”
War Buddha Records is the latest venture for Johnston and Mason, both Grammy-nominated songwriters. Along with the Cadillac Three’s lap-steel player Kelby Ray, the band launched the Country Fuzz clothing line, the streaming radio series Country Fuzz Radio, and have leaned hard into social causes. During the pandemic, they staged a livestream series with Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to help feed children without access to school lunches and, during the social unrest and protests of June 2020, donated net proceeds of their online merch sales to the NAACP.
Along with overseeing War Buddha Records, Johnston and Mason will continue to tour with the Cadillac Three. The band recently announced a string of dates opening for Kip Moore; they’ll also join Dierks Bentley on select shows of his Gravel & Gold Tour. In February, the Cadillac Three released the song “Hillbilly” with Elvie Shane and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor.