Tag: music

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We have a long history with country hitmakers Big & Rich, and were thrilled to get the chance to work on another project with them. On their new album, Hillbilly Jedi, they step things up a notch or three with a diverse array of songs, including the first track, “Born Again” which features Bon Jovi in a key role, both in co-writing and performing on the song. Word on the street is that Jon Bon Jovi himself suggested calling the album “Hillbilly Jedi,” and when everyone at the label (and us!) suggested that would be a legal problem, Jon personally called George Lucas to get clearance on using the word “Jedi.”

The creative process revolved around the attitude and contradiction in the title, and the result is cowboys-in-space with shades of steampunk. With some heavy-handed photo manipulation, film-credits-inspired type treatments, and a healthy dose of caffeine, we assembled the key images from the shoot combined with images from several other sources (including NASA) and developed the brand for the album, along with the physical packaging and digital album elements, to create what we think is the only country album of its type for some time to come :)

The album is available via Warner Music, iTunes, or Amazon, among other retailers.

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Most any fan of Contemporary Christian Music is familiar with the music of Big Daddy Weave – one of the most popular bands in the genre today. Mike Weaver and the band have been making positive and compelling music since 2001, and their latest album, Love Come To Life, is no exception, and we were thrilled to get the opportunity to design its branding and packaging. With a variation on the band’s existing logo, some heavy photo compositing, and a reliance on texture and a limited color scheme, we arrived at a look and feel that accurately conveys the directness, depth, and inspiration found in their music, and the atypical black & white photography on the cover speaks to the immediacy and timelessness of their message.

Contribution: Design, Photo Compositing, Retouching
Art Director: Katherine Petillo

Today marks the release of Big & Rich’s Greatest Hits on CD & DVD, so this seemed like a perfect time to take a little walk down memory lane on the past 6 years of working with the genre-redefining band (and brand) known as Big & Rich.

It’s a rare occasion (at least for me) to have worked on every release by an artist from their debut album through their Greatest Hits album, and I’m honored to have that distinction. Big Kenny & John Rich are two of the most talented guys in the business, and it has certainly been an interesting journey.

All 6 Big & Rich releases, designed by Kevin Tucker / Collide Creative

All 6 Big & Rich releases, designed by Kevin Tucker / Collide Creative

A Horse Of A Different Color

I had been working with Warner Bros. Records Nashville for a little while, having worked on a few projects including a sadly-never-released Neal McCoy album, under the art direction of the late Maude Gilman-Clapham (whom I had had the pleasure of working with previously at Word), and the CD packaging for the first Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Warner Bros. put on a big red-carpet premiere for BCCT at the Belcourt Theatre, and Becky and I attended. At the show, we couldn’t help but notice a couple of odd-looking gents a couple of rows behind us who caused a few distractions during the show (can you imagine sitting behind Big Kenny’s top hat in a movie theater?). Something about them stuck out in my mind, and the next day, I spoke to then-WBR-creative-director Janice Azrak (now a citizen of the great state of Hawaii) about some current projects, and couldn’t help asking who those guys were, and she told me they were a new act who had just been signed at Warner. Now, I’m not sure if it was this conversation, or the fact that Janice had an affinity for what she had seen in my work up to this point, but a few weeks later, I got a call from her to come and meet about their first album.

Honestly, I would have never thought they would have been as successful as they soon became. I liked what I heard of them – it was different and refreshing, and they were even-handed with elements of humor and heartfelt seriousness, all of which appealed to me very much, but I kind of saw it as a niche, and thought it would be a great project to work on. I have never been so happy to be so wrong!

From the beginning of the project, we had the issue of the logo that has adorned all of their album covers. Many people probably assume that this is something I created originally, but, in fact, the original version was created by friend-of-the-band Bob Morris, and and it’s something that I have continually modified along the way, based on the original.

Big & Rich logo evolution, starting with the original logo (designed by friend of the band Bob Morris) and continuing through its Tucker/Collide-modified iterations.

Big & Rich logo evolution, starting with the original logo (designed by friend of the band Bob Morris) and continuing through its Tucker/Collide-modified iterations.

It must be said that I was never happy with having to use this logo, and that I frequently proposed that we create an entirely new one, both on the first project, and on subsequent projects, but they were dead set on using this one, and on being consistent by using it repeatedly on future albums. But, of course, being asked to use artwork from an outside source is not uncommon at all, and plenty of successful acts ave consistently used the same logo treatment on their albums, so I certainly can’t fault them for that decision, and I think a key influence is that their management company also managed the career of Alabama, who is a prime example of this.

The process that led us to the cover for the first album, Horse Of A Different Color, was a long and winding one. Despite many alternative options, we kept coming back to the aforementioned logo, and a “swirl” element that I had created an early promotional sticker which the label, band, and management were all very fond of for some reason.

Early, rough cover mockups for Horse Of A Different Color, and, bottom right, the final cover.

Early, rough cover mockups for Horse Of A Different Color, and, bottom right, the final cover.

The album was a huge success, thanks in part to the hit “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy).” In the initial run, we ran the album in 3 different colors: red, blue, and purple; and the following Christmas, we did a green & red version with snow on the logo (which I think was a bit confusing, myself, because it made it seem like a Christmas album), and the band had a loyal fanbase.

Packaging for the first "Big & Rich's Super Galactic Fanpak" - design by Kevin Tucker

Packaging for the first "Big & Rich's Super Galactic Fanpak" - design by Kevin Tucker

Backwards & Upside-down

Before long, there seemed to be demand for another product, and so the label conceived of the unconventional “Fan Pak” idea – a 2-disc release that comprised a CD of a few tracks of unreleased material (live, remix, etc) and a DVD containing photos and videos. The resulting project, Big & Rich’s Super Galactic Fan Pak was packaged unconventionally, using an idea I borrowed from Beth Lee (who conceived the idea a few years earlier for Squint Records’ Sixpence None The Richer and Burlap To Cashmere albums), where we use a standard jewel case package, but put the inserts in “backwards and upside-down” so that the back/traycard is used as the cover (thus confounding manufacturers and rackjobbers to no end). This made something a little unusual without adding to manufacturing costs. The packaging was inspired by vintage comics and pulp fiction, and the credits were built into something slightly resembling a “game” – an idea which I think we executed much better in the subsequent Super Galactic Fan Pak 2 (more on that later).

In Part 2 of this retrospective: Comin’ To Your City, Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace, Super Galactic Fanpak 2, Greatest Hits, Pepsi, and more.