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"It's a done deal," Brian Franklin proclaims with more than a trace of relief in his voice, putting an end to two months of nail-biting suspense over negotiations with Mercury Records for what's known in the music biz as a co-publishing/developmental contract. The drama began in early August when, having just released the full-length CD Suburban Hallucinations, Franklin and his musical collaborator Jim Jones traveled to Los Angeles for a meeting with Mercury executives. The itinerary included a four-song performance in the record label's conference room for, among others, Ed Eckstine, Mercury's president, and Dale Kawashima, the head of Mercurial Music Publishing and an A&R rep with the label. The following evening, Franklin and Jones performed an acoustic showcase at an L.A. club. "I was very impressed," says Kawashima, who, before joining Mercury last year, served as president of Giant Records's publishing division. "Brian has a strong voice. His songs were of a special quality. They are a little more insightful and articulate than [those of] most lyricists. He had the right looks, too, and he was, you know, a young artist, he's only 22, which all spelled potential to me."
At this point, the emphasis is on the potential. This is not a record contract. Rather, Mercury has essentially taken an option on Franklin's work for the next year by providing him with the money to put together a full band and to record a followup to Suburban Hallucinations. If the label people like what they hear, "that would hopefully show a lot more evidence as to why Brian should be eventually deserving of a full-fledged record deal," explains Kawashima.
The now officially dubbed Brian Franklin Band consists of Franklin on lead vocals and guitar, Jones on guitar and harmony vocals, and a pair of Franklin's band mates from Sabatella: Jordan Steele Lash on drums and Matt Sabatella on bass. The group has already played a few dates around town, and, judging by the band's first handful of shows, Mercury may have found the proverbial diamond in the rough. Franklin is a compelling performer both vocally and visually, and the fleshed-out instrumental lineup allows him to explore a rockier musical terrain than he did on the mostly acoustic Suburban Hallucinations. Aurally, the sound is firmly rooted in the conventions of classic rock, and yet it transcends that genre.
This is where it gets complicated for Franklin. In addition to his contractual obligations with Mercury, he remains a vital part of Sabatella, which is still very much a going concern (the band is now in the studio working on its first CD). Something had to give, so Franklin, a history major at Florida Atlantic University, has decided to curtail his studies after the current semester. "I'm truly a full-time musician," he notes. "This year I've got an opportunity, and I've got to find ways to take advantage of it.