By Jamie Moffett
Earlier this month, Wrecked had a conversation with Jamie Moffett, co-founder (with Shane Claiborne) of the Simple Way faith community in Philadelphia, about the record label he started – Potter Street Records. As some of you may know, there was a devastating fire in Kensington last week (read more here). Nonetheless, we wanted to share this with you and hope that it gives you some perspective on what kind of work these guys are doing. Here are some of our questions and Jamie’s answers:
Tell us a bit about Potter Street Records. How did you get started? Where are you headed?
Born in a hallway at The Simple Way Community, Potter Street Records strives to share stories of love, loss, life, hope & community through the artists on its roster. As indicated by the label’s tagline, “Music for the Journey,” our goal is to provide a soundtrack for our listeners to inspire and encourage them as they move through life’s voyage. Their artists include: Jes Karper, John Mallinen, Psalters, Anne Weiss, The Cobalt Season, NevereveN and more.
What do you look for in an artist that Potter Street supports? Is it based purely on the music, or is there a personal aspect as well?
I read a great quote in Magnet Magazine from the late Elliot Smith, “Music is worth doing just because. It doesn’t have to be justified by some political point of view, and it’s kind of insulting to the music to make it a tool for something else.” It’s crucial, in my opinion, to hold music in such a high regard, same as any art form I suppose. What I’d add is that with any storytelling method, there’s often more behind the music that moves both the artist and the listener. Sometimes that is in fact politics, sometimes it’s love, death, or just a trolley rolling down the street in North Philly. It’s those “hot coals” that get me going and it’s often what hooks me on a tune or artist. I’ve been listening a lot to Katie Dill. I’ve never met her, but I swear I can see this entire world around each of her songs. I listen over and over, sort of traveling to that spot where I can check out now aspects of each of those worlds. The recordings are really just her and a 4 track, but the songs move right through those limitations & moves right into a hole I didn’t know I needed filling. That, I think, is what makes an artist. Jes Karper’s “Time Stands Still,” John Mallinen’s “The Cup” and Anne Weiss’ “Roof of Rain” do that for me. These folks are now all great friends of mine, but I was often a fan first. Anne Weiss and I met when she was touring with Dar Williams and played at a march from DC to NYC I was a part of. Her tunes knocked me right out & we’ve been close friends ever since.
Potter Street is linked to Another World is Possible, The Simple Way, and other great organizations around Philadelphia. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like such a tight family. In what ways are your organizations able to support one another?
We are a very close knit groups of folks here. Our faith perspectives sometimes differ, our politics sometimes differ but our love & commitment to each other has been the same for years and years. We share dinners often, watch movies together & just do as many things as we can together as sort of a family unit: disfunctional, loyal, beautiful & unusual all at once. As we grow more experienced in work and play, additional dreams add to our mix & things like the label, The “Yes! And…” arts & after school program, and the PAPA Festival become a reality. Honestly, its crazy to me to think I run a record label filled with musicians I’m a geeky fan of, but it’s all true now & audiences are really going for it.
What is your advice to musicians and artists who are looking to use their art to bring a positive impact upon their community?
Storytelling is a gift. Give it as often as freely as you can. Think long and hard about what stories move you and who you’d like to share them with….then do it. A lot. Find friends who’d like to tell stories too and share in the work so you can share in the benefits & see the effect you have on your audience.
Many of our readers are looking for ways to support businesses and organizations that respect human life and reflect the values of the Kingdom of God. Who are the top five responsible businesses you are personally supporting right now?
New Jerusalem Biodiesel
White Dog Cafe
Dotted Line Shirt Company
Pennsylvania Horticulture Society