Grammy-winning producer Dan Nigro never wanted to launch his own imprint — then he met Chappell Roan. After he and the fast-rising pop artist had been working on music together for years, Roan’s former label dropped her. “I was so in love with everything that we were doing,” says Nigro. “I just believe in [Chappell] so much that I was like, ‘Do I want this added stress in my life? Is it worth it? Yes.’ ”
So Nigro formed Amusement Records, an independently funded imprint that has the freedom to partner with any label on any project. He unofficially announced its launch on Instagram in May with a selfie of himself and Olivia Rodrigo — with whom he won a Grammy for her blockbuster 2021 debut album, Sour. And though Rodrigo isn’t signed to the imprint, she wore matching merchandise in the photo to support his new endeavor.
Prior to launching Amusement, Nigro says that he solely consulted his longtime manager, State of the Art’s Ian McEvily. “He has been through a lot of this kind of stuff,” says Nigro. “He has owned a publishing company; managed artists, bands, producers, songwriters; had some forays into record-label stuff … I think he might’ve been the most encouraging, like, ‘Let’s do this. This would be a good thing. You’d enjoy this process.’ ”
So far, he has — and it’s the entire ethos of the imprint. The name, says Nigro, is plucked from the Goodfellas quote “Do I amuse you?,” saying he often channels that energy when trying to lighten up an intense studio session. “I always feel like I’m trying to be the jokester or something,” he says. “When I was younger, I took everything way too seriously. I started to learn only later in my life, when I hit past 30, that music could actually be really fun to make.”
That realization is essential to how he and Roan work. Her latest single, “Red Wine Supernova,” for example, started back in 2020 as what Nigro calls a “slow burner.” As he recalls, “She brought it to me and I was like, ‘I don’t know… I think it should be more fun.’ ” And after tinkering a bit more, they filed it away for years — until last December. “I remember opening up the session and we listened to the chorus and it was just so boring,” he says. “I was like, ‘What if we lean into the yeehaw of it?’ It was kind of awesome, and then you’re like, ‘I think we have a song.’ ”
While he’s focused on finishing Roan’s debut (while also working on other upcoming projects, including Rodrigo’s rumored second album), Nigro says he does see himself signing other acts to Amusement in the future. “But it’s about finding the person I want to invest 300 days of my time with,” he says. “It’s not simply finding an artist that I like and thinking that they’re great. It’s about, ‘Do we feel a connection that we can spend so much time making something and then promote it and find the right creative teams and annoy you about content?’ It’s everything.”
He says that mentality is a direct result of his come-up in a band, the indie rock act As Tall As Lions. “I know I’m definitely a pop producer 1686331376, but I think I struggled a long time with that whole, ‘You’re part of a record’ … I never felt satisfied doing just a song or two with an artist. I always felt detached. I come from a world where when something happens I want to call you up and celebrate the wins and vent about the losses and be a part of it [all].”