John Ozier on Lee Brice, the Ryman Auditorium, and Building Reservoir's Operation in Nashville
As EVP of Creative at music publisher Reservoir, John Ozier oversees the company's Nashville operations, including signing and developing new talent.
Since joining Reservoir in April 2019, John has closed over eight figures in catalog acquisition deals that include over 130 No. 1 titles, including Murrah Music, major label artists Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts, Bexar, and Southerland's Chris Rogers and Matt Chase.
John was also just named national chair of the Association of Independent Music Publishers. He is also a successful songwriter in his own right who has co-written No. 1 songs for Lee Brice and Tyler Farr.
We caught up with John for our Liner Notes series to learn more about his musical tastes and journey through the years, as well as recent work he's proud of and admired.
John, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in Nashville and still live here, too. To be a third-generation Nashvillian in the music business is a pretty rare thing. We tend to get a lot of imports from around the country and the world, which has done wonders to expand the Nashville scene. I'm happy to remember the old traditions and lucky enough to work on modernizing them.
Your earliest musical memory.
I can remember my dad playing bluegrass songs on a 1967 Martin D-35, which he later gave to me. I also remember my mom and sisters playing the piano when I was really young. I come from a musical family, although I'm the first one to pursue a career in it. While I'm more of an executive now, I have written No. 1 songs for Lee Brice and Tyler Farr. Believe it or not, I also co-wrote Kid Rock's last single at country radio.
Your first concert.
I can remember my parents taking me to a Peter, Paul and Mary concert at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in 1985. I was only 5 or 6 years old, but still vividly remember it. Being in the audience and watching them perform was incredible, and the audience reaction stuck with me. I remember thinking that I wanted to be a part of that experience in some way.
Your favorite bands/musicians.
I have so many favorite bands and artists that it's hard to single one out. I love anyone who knows how to craft and deliver great songs. I'm a big fan of Ruston Kelly, Lee Brice, Keith Whitley, Wrabel, HARDY, the Grateful Dead and many more. As you can tell, I'm all across the board, but each one of those artists knows how to write and deliver incredibly moving songs.
How you get your music these days.
I listen to music on just about every platform—Spotify, Amazon, Apple, SiriusXM, terrestrial radio. Each platform has a unique way to discover new music, and as EVP of Creative at Reservoir, I'm always on the lookout for talented new artists and writers.
Your favorite place to see a concert.
Of course I'm biased being a native Nashvillian, but the Ryman Auditorium is one of the best venues in the world. It's been a dream come true hosting our annual AIMP Nashville Awards there, and I'm honored to be a small part of its legacy.
Your favorite music video.
"I Drive Your Truck" by Lee Brice is a memorable music video for me. I was the VP of A&R when Lee and I first heard that song. It ended up being an ACM and CMA Song of the Year. Lee's brother Lewis is in the video, which makes it that much more special.
Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.
I'm a big fan of And the Writer Is … with Ross Golan as well as the AIMP Nashville Podcast, which we've done three seasons of in Nashville. Any time songwriters are highlighted and praised for their "behind the scenes" work, I am appreciative.
A recent project you're proud of.
I'm really proud of the roster we have built at Reservoir Nashville in the last 18 months. When I first joined, they had zero presence in Nashville, and now we've opened an over 5,000-square-foot Nashville office, complete with six writers' rooms. We have signed some amazing songwriters and artists while also acquiring some really important catalogs, including Murrah Music, major label artists Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts, Bexar, Southerland's Chris Rogers and Matt Chase, Runaway June's Natalie Stovall, and Brooke Eden. We've also acquired the catalog of songwriter and producer Sam Sumser (including Lizzo's massive hit "Juice," which Sam co-wrote) and singer/songwriter Josh Mirenda (including three country chart-toppers—Dierks Bentley's "Somewhere on a Beach" and Jason Aldean's "Girl Like You" and "They Don't Know"). We have built an incredible foundation on which we can continue building, and I look forward to sharing in many successes with our talented team across the globe.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
Seeing the Match.com ad that leaked with Taylor Swift's re-record of "Love Story" was fantastic. I feel like the world could use some humor and lightheartedness at the moment. Music has the ability to make people smile and forget about the harsh realities that the world can sometimes bring. This ad is a great example of music having the power to heal.
How musicians should approach working with brands.
At Reservoir, we get many briefs from our synch team each week. For our writers to have that insight into what brands, films, TV shows, etc., are looking for is invaluable. The more information writers have about the brand, the more accurate they are able to be when creating music for that specific brand. As a songwriter, knowing what common themes are happening in the synch world is incredibly important and can always give you a bit of an advantage.
How brands should approach working with musicians.
Brands have long recognized the need to connect with their consumers on a passionate level. Nothing evokes more passion than music and artists. Brands and musicians have a unique relationship where each can benefit the other, but the key is being authentic—for both the brand and the artist. People are not stupid—they can sense authenticity a mile away, which makes it all the more important for brands and artists to be aligned on all fronts.
What music can do that nothing else can.
Music has a way of connecting and healing people more so than anything else in the world. I have witnessed songs change people's lives. Nothing else has the power to move people like music, and the more you take care of it, the more it takes care of you.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.
I never had a plan B, so if I wasn't a music publisher, songwriter, or working for a label, I'm not quite sure what I'd be doing. I dabble in real estate, so perhaps I could make a living there, but it wouldn't be near as much fun!
Liner Notes is our weekly interview series where we chat with folks in the music industry about their creative inspirations, their favorite bands and musicians, and generally what music means to them. For more about Liner Notes, and our Clio Music program, please get in touch.