Interview with Tiffanie DeBartolo, co-founder of Bright Antenna Records

Bright Antenna Records, a record company located in Mill Valley and owned and operated by Mill Valley residents Tiffanie DeBartolo and Scott Schumaker, is showcasing two of their artists at a special show at Sweetwater Music Hall  Monday, December 11th (Doors 7 p.m./ Show 8 p.m. – $18). We checked in with Tiffanie to find out more about the label and the event!  

Can you give us the backstory of Bright Antenna Records? The why, when, how? 

My husband Scott and I started the label sometime around 2007. We were just a couple of passionate music fans who wanted to help artists and bands put great music into the world. I’d been a professional writer all of my adult life and Scott had been a writer and a professional triathlete. We had no experience in the music business, and the first year or so was a lot of fumbling around, making mistakes. The smartest thing we did back then was to bring on Braden Merrick as a partner. He’d worked at a bunch of labels, and developed and managed The Killers. He taught us a lot. Eventually we started signing high caliber artists that we were really excited about, artists that began to have success under our tutelage. It’s been a slow and steady climb from there. 

ER: What’s it like running a creative business with your husband?

It’s actually a gift. The thing that makes us such a great team is that we’re very different in our approaches to the business, and we have very different roles in the company. Scott is a natural businessman. He’s organized, competent, looks at things rationally and, dare I say, frugally. I’m the creative visionary of the company. I know great music when I hear it, and I am a great communicator and connector. I also see the big picture and from where I’m standing, and for me the sky is always the limit; Scott is super grounded. So, we balance each other out. 

You recently moved your headquarters from one building on East Blithedale in Mill Valley to another down the street – how’s the new office working out? 

We LOVE it. It’s a big, open floor plan right above the old Phyllis’s burgers in downtown Mill Valley. Big windows, lots of sunlight. And the location can’t be beat. Gotta love being able to walk to work.

Is there a particular reason you chose Mill Valley for both your residence and your business?  

Scott and I both went to UC Berkeley, so we’d spent a lot of time in the East Bay in the 90’s. When we moved back to the Bay Area in 2007 to start the label we didn’t want to live in the city, and we didn’t want to go back to where we’d lived as college students. That pretty much left Marin. We’re huge nature lovers too, and it was important to us to live within walking distance of trails. We spend a lot of our time hiking on Mt Tam. 

How do you choose artists for your label? 

Usually an artist’s manager, lawyer, or booking agent will send us music, and we’ll listen to it and feel it out. And I use the verb feel very specifically. The music has to move us. We have to fall in love with it. And then we need to meet the artist and get a feel for them – besides talent, we’re big on kindness. We work hard for our artists and that means they have to be decent human beings worthy of all the time, effort, and financial resources we’re going to commit to their careers. 

There’s going to be a show December 11th at Sweetwater Music Hall, also in Mill Valley, featuring two acts on the Bright Antenna label, Akira Galaxy and Windser. Can you tell us more about both artists? 

Yes! Akira is a brand new artist – she’s got a few singles out at the moment, and her first EP will be released early next year. She’s from Seattle but living in Los Angeles. Fun fact about Akira: her mom and I go back 30 years, so I’ve known Akira since she was in utero. Windser will be headlining the show. He’s also super cool. Originally from Santa Cruz but married a Mill Valley woman so even though they live in LA now I consider him a local. He’s an incredible songwriter and his music offers a little bit of everything – it’s dreamy, complex, moody, but also fun and groovy. Come to the show and see for yourself!  

Emilie Rohrbach

Emilie Rohrbach has taught music and theater to grades pre-school through 8th in San Francisco and Marin counties for the last 20 years. She has been a freelance writer for Divine Caroline for five years, and her writing has appeared in Narratively, Hippocampus, Common Ground, Travelers’ Tales, and Marin Magazine, among others. She is passionate about Room to Read, Shanti Bhavan, and Destiny Arts and serves on the board of Knighthorse Theatre Company.