Label limbo sounds like a fun game to play at a hipster party, but in reality, it is nothing of the sort. It’s a time an artist spends figuring out their next move while waiting for their label to give them the green light to continue producing music. More often than not, it’s a grueling process of uncertainty and uncontrollable circumstances that often leave artists with little hope of a future in their career. Jordan Witzigreuter of The Ready Set refused to allow his time in label limbo to control his outlook on life and the possibility of returning to normalcy in his musical career.
After 2010’s I’m Alive I’m Dreaming, Witzigreuter found himself stuck in a compromising situation. His label, Warner Bros., wanted another hit to follow the success of “Love Like Woe,” but as an artist, Witzigreuter was looking to create music naturally and hope it would be received just as well. Unfortunately, the label did not agree, resulting in Witzigreuter participating in writing session after writing session with different producers to replicate “Love Like Woe.”
“It became a grueling process where I was just trying to write these songs that I thought radio would like, and at a certain point, that comes across as really contrived and not what I wanted to do at all. It was just a really heavy pressure that if I didn’t deliver another single that would do [what “Love Like Woe” did] then it was just going to be like ‘Well we’re not going to care about The Ready Set then.’ You kind of always have to do what you want to do, and if you’re trying to write a song for a certain reason, then it’s never going to work. You really just have to go with your instinct on stuff,” Witzigreuter said.
Fast forward to present day and Witzigreuter is about to release his newest studio album, The Bad & The Better, on new label, Razor & Tie. It would be easy for Witzigreuter to feel animosity towards his former label for not standing behind the vision he set for his music, but he doesn’t want to be seen as another artist who got dealt a bad hand by a major label. How does he want to be seen then? As an artist who is about to release a long overdue album filled with songs he produced the way he wanted without any pressure.
“I feel like I’m kind of back on track again. It just felt really disconnected for a while. I feel like I really didn’t have the people kind of behind me, pulling for me that I thought I had in the beginning because everything changes so fast at major labels. I was there for like two different company changes. Everyone would get fired, and then new people would come in and then they’d get fired again and new people would come in so it’s just a lot of waiting. Now, I don’t have to wait to do stuff anymore and I can keep putting new stuff out to kind of make up for that lost time,” Witzigreuter said.
Originally, Witzigreuter planned to release The Bad & The Better in October 2013, but with Warner Bros. still having control over The Ready Set’s releases, he had to wait for their approval to release the album. Instead of getting upset and sulking about the postponement of the album, Witzigreuter stayed busy by touring. When things with Warner Bros. still weren’t progressing with the new album, he decided it was best to move on from the major label and soon after signed with Razor & Tie.
“If I had it my way, I would have had a new album out back in like 2011. It just kind of fell out of my hands, but now it’s back the way it should be,” Witzigreuter said.
After working with big name producers earlier in his career, Witzigreuter decided to keep things close to home on the new album and called on friend and producer Ian Kirkpatrick (Breathe Carolina, Neon Trees) to help make the new album. The decision proved to be the best move for Witzigreuter’s career as The Bad & The Better contains his most cohesive and stylistically coherent songs to date.
“I like to go with my first idea right off the bat and not overthink things too much just because you kind of lose some of the creativity if you start to analyze things too much. [Kirkpatrick] definitely helped make sure I wasn’t jumping into things too early. He was making sure I could do things one-step better, which is a really good thing. It’s almost like having an editor who says this is really good, but there is a cooler way to do this or a cooler way to go with the melody. It’s really awesome being able to do that and have that help,” Witzigreuter said.
The Bad & The Better gives listeners a glimpse into Witzigreuter’s mind over the last few years. The album contrasts themes of anxiety and confusion with hope and positivity. While there are many feel good party anthems, like crowd favorites “Give Me Your Hand (Best Song Ever)” and “Carry Me Home,” there are several songs on the album that give listeners a glimpse into Witzigreuter’s personal thoughts.
“Are We Happy Now is probably the most personal and important one to me just because it’s kind of about the realization that you can accomplish anything you want, and you can accomplish any goal you have, but at the end of the day, it might not make you feel any different than you actually felt before. It all really comes down to how you feel inside. Outside goals and things you want aren’t the things that are going to really truly make you happy,” Witzigreuter said.
The past is in the past and Witzigreuter is not looking back. With a new album and a summer on Warped Tour on the horizon, there is nothing to hold him back from enjoying his newfound artistic freedom. More than anything, Witzigreuter is happy to be able to offer new music to his fans who have supported him through the waiting process.
“I’m the luckiest person ever to have these fans with me [who] have been a part of my career through everything,” Witzigreuter said.
Although some may say that The Ready Set’s releases have been too sporadic to hold the attention of young music consumers, the opposite is true. If an artist, like Witzigreuter, is producing consistently magnetizing work, it doesn’t matter how many years separate the albums. If anything, The Bad & The Better will draw in new listeners while also appealing to the fans who have been patiently waiting for new music. Either way, Witzigreuter will have a successful year starting this summer on Warped Tour and hopefully ending with more exciting tour plans. Maybe he’ll even enjoy an actual game of limbo at a hipster party while his new record plays in the background.