Barsoe’s Orange County Recording Label Focuses on Songwriting and Production OC Hit Factory
Written By: Tyler Holland Thomas Barsoe of OC Hit Factory Develops Young Talent into Professional Musicians
Photographed By: Bradley Blackburn
The Expert: Thomas Barsoe, Founder/Executive Producer
Wonderwall: Barsoe has an in-studio wall with 100 artists to whom he looks for inspiration.
Every year, people come to California with the hope of fulfilling their dreams of making it as an artist. Whether simply looking to develop their talent and become a part of the local scene or rise to superstardom, everyone has their goal and a reason to continue pursuing their passion. However, the road is long and tough and getting an opportunity to display your talent for a record company exec is virtually impossible. That’s where OC Hit Factory comes in.
This isn’t like other record labels. OC Hit Factory aims to find developing talent and work with them to create something truly special. In fact, Thomas Barsoe, the label’s owner with his own impressive pop star credentials, prefers working with the diamond-in-the-rough type. These are the people he has the most fun working with and the results never cease to amaze.
Q: How did OC Hit Factory get started?
Thomas Barsoe: I started out of my house back in 2010. After I was done touring, I moved out to Orange County and began meeting and talking to some really cool singers and songwriters. Much of the young talent out here had music in schools, but only the traditional band programs. There really wasn’t anything to encourage and develop songwriting. I brought a few groups over to my home studio and worked on creating original content. They loved it and said they had never done anything like this before. The original group only had three or four people and I realized if I could do this well with three or four, I could do even better with larger groups. I began a small business out of it and over time, discovered the wealth of amazing talent out here. This is when things got really fun and business has been growing ever since.
Q: When did you first realize your passion for music?
TB: When I was 13, I really realized my passion for music and began taking it more seriously. I got a guitar and a Beatles album and just fell in love with the music. It was something I connected to, which made me want to play more. I eventually started writing my own stuff and after that, there was no turning back.
Q: Where are your favorite places to go to find inspiration?
TB: It may sound cheesy, but I get the most inspiration from my work. Every day I meet 10 or more artists, all with passion and drive that reminds me of myself at that age. It’s exciting, I never know what will happen day to day.
Q: What are some of the main services you provide for talent?
TB: Songwriting is what we became known for. We have a songwriting camp that takes experience and turns it into great songs. For a whole weekend we’ll have 30 or so young artists all working together in groups. Some have written songs before and some haven’t, but all realize they are better at this than they had previously thought. From there it progresses and gets to the point where an artist becomes so good they start writing EPs and recording. At this state we work on production. We work with and develop this talent, which is the most exciting part of the process for me. We can also do music videos, album covers—everything really. With our new location, we’ll have a radio station that can get artists airplay and as much exposure as possible. It’s an online station called OC Hit Factory on Air.
Q: What do you look for in an upcoming musician or songwriter?
TB: Originality. We are looking for someone with that special something. It’s hard to describe, but I know it when I see it. You need to find your own voice and come in with your own thing, your own style, cool personality and essentially, a package we can’t wait to work with and develop.
Q: What makes OC Hit Factory stand out among the other record labels?
TB: We really nurture young, untested talent. Major labels want already tested, proven and established talent and don’t have time to nurture and develop new artists like in the past. I’m still that guy who finds young, developing talent and forges a relationship with them over time. We can get someone off the street and in six months have the whole package put together. We are also linked with Sony, which gives us a large distribution network and gives us the ability to handle all steps of artist development.
Q: What up and coming talent should we be looking out for?
TB: One girl we just signed last month named Damoni is someone to look out for. She is only 13 and has an amazing story and voice. She’s probably one of the best I’ve seen so far. There is also a country trio called Temecula Road, they’re opening for Joe Nichols and in 2016 will be going on tour with Jessie James Decker. John Lindahl also recently signed to LA Reid’s label Epic and is someone I’m also really excited about.
Q: What makes an exceptional artist, someone who would wow you in an audition?
TB: Voice obviously, but first impressions are also very important. You know when someone walks in that is really special. You can sense it through their confidence, look, style and self-belief.
Q: Why is it so important to make record labels more accessible?
TB: Music should give everybody a shot. It’s extremely hard to get an appointment with Capitol Records and other large labels. Here, there is always someone who will listen. Everybody who believes they have what it takes can come and prove it. It’s a tough business, so the least we can do is try to make it a little easier.
Q: Do you have a favorite style or genre to work with?
TB: There are genres I do best in, such as pop and R&B, along with the singer-songwriter type. I probably wouldn’t be the best guy for techno and hard rock, but if a great punk rock band comes through, I’ll be more than happy to work with them. Anybody with amazing talent, no matter what genre, is more than welcome. Songwriting is becoming more important again, especially with artists like Adele being so popular. With our songwriting camp, people realize we’re all about the music.
Q: Do you offer internships?
TB: We do. From a production workshop I choose one or two interns and for every division, there are spaces available. We are always interested in meeting new people.
Q: Are there any record stores you think people should know about?
TB: There’s Amoeba in Hollywood right on the famed Sunset Boulevard. Downtown Fullerton also has a few such as Burger Records, Black Hole Records and Bionic Records to name a few. Fingerprints Music in Long Beach is also really good and offers live performances as well that showcase up-and-coming talent. It’s sad that there aren’t as many record stores around as there used to be. Hopefully they will still be around in 10 or so years, especially with the way technology and digital recording is developing.
Q: Where are the best venues to hear emerging local talent?
TB: OC Hit Factory, of course. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many local venues to hear talent. There are some grungy places, but not many boutique areas to hear singer-songwriters in intimate crowds. That’s what we’re trying to create here. An intimate and friendly space to listen to and develop up-and-coming talent. To answer the question though, Costa Mesa has a venue called The Wayfarer that is pretty good and Casa is also a great place to hear jazz, blues and singer-songwriters that don’t always fit into the traditional rock and music venue circuit.
OC Hit Factory
2493 Park Ave
Tustin, CA 92782
D I R E C T /// Hit: Thomas Barsoe’s OC Hit Factory Develops Young Musicians into Recording Artists.
Tyler Holland is a Southern California native, born in Los Angeles and spent his younger years between Los Angeles and Orange County. He has lived in several states and spent his High School years in British Columbia, Canada. He attended San Francisco State University to get his degree in International Relations before returning to Orange County. Tyler loves to explore the world around him and is always eager to seek out new experiences. Besides writing, his favorite activities include snowboarding, Muay Thai, playing bass guitar, dance and photography.