The year is 2022 and a world of potential and possibilities hang in the horizon for Careless Music. As they set their sights on breaking more ground, we catch up with the whole crew and figure out why they are the disruptive and dynamic force that they have built themselves to be.
In storytelling, they say that when faced with imminent threat or on the brink of death, life flashes before your eyes. While there were no such threats, as James Reid and Careless Music is alive and well, it was appropriately a moment of reckoning, because big things hung on the horizon of possibilities. Played out for everyone to see in an expansive panorama was the year 2018 with the younger self of the actor introducing the independent music label to the Philippines and by significant extension, the world.
“Watching that video, I’m so glad I cut my hair,” says James Reid, breaking the ice in a room full to the brim with anticipation. “We’ve come a long way as you can see from where we started, you know, just friends running around disrupting the music industry. That’s still who we are, but one important thing we learned is how the term passion can be profession…That’s what Careless is about, finding passionate, driven artists and sharing with them the opportunities to be creative and the support to realize their own dreams on their own terms.” There laced in his distinct chill bro cadence and mild Aussie accent was earnestness, one that told the story of energy and excitement of what was to come. Of course, it was a bold assumption to think there was stern plan set to precise rigor over the next few years, but as we learned, there wasn’t exactly a vision to begin with, at least in the strictest sense.
“I don’t think there was a vision when I started,” says James Reid, sending a shot of shock to our conversation. “It really came from the desire to be able to take creative risks in mainstream music. I didn’t see a vision until people started coming onboard and believing in Careless saying we had a positive impact on OPM,” the founder and chairman of the company explains. When one thinks about it, this doesn’t steer clear from the irreverence of their very name, but unlike the nonchalance attached to its etymology, the good folks over at Careless Music really do handle things with a lot of care.
Yes, They Really Care
To their credit, Careless Music always had a goal, which is to break ground and shift the playing field to fit their game, deepen and shape the culture through their creative expressions, and to commit to creating progressive content with full respect and regard for its artist’s creativity and growth. But ask James Reid and he’ll be the first to say that he didn’t expect it would become what it is today. “Hell no,” he asserts with a laugh. “If it wasn’t for the people that have joined Careless, I wouldn’t have made it this far. I think they brought out the best in me one way or another.”
This list of people that helped shape Careless Music from a bunch of kids figuring things out to a force to be reckoned with in the local entertainment industry are nothing to scoff in any way. From filling the gap and making a difference in the scene with the likes of Bret Jackson, Curtismith, Narez La Fuego, Sofia Romualdez, Nix Damn P, Luka, and its current roster that features a diverse and dazzling mix of voices and movements such as Nadine Lustre, Massiah, Jolianne, A-Team, Lesha, and most recently, ISSA and Liza Soberano, the crew is seriously not to be messed with. “They’re culture shapers in their respective industries and they also share the Careless mindset, which means they can do some serious damage in terms of the entertainment industry and pushing it forward,” he encapsulates.
“Making sure our artists feel secure, supported, and inspired, we developed systems and structures that streamline the music production and distribution process,” explains James Reid. “With the environment and facilities we provide, we seek to nurture and refine talent outside the usual scope of the entertainment scene, guiding them to reach their full potential.” There certainly is a lot of confidence to the work that Careless Music does, especially with its focus zeroed in on the passion and purpose of its artists, but there also exists a pressure that together with CEO Jeffrey Oh and the rest of the team, they are now responsible for the way lives play out, at least professionally. “I don’t want to let them down,” he says of the persisting presence of pressure. “But we let our people know that although we aren’t the best, there’s no one that’ll work harder than us.”
Taking The Dream Further
Obviously, a lot more is at stake when running the show, which is why James Reid is hands on with what goes in and out of the terracotta-hued and sepia-toned Cali-haven that is the Careless Music HQ. From recording sessions, sound checks, to performances, James Reid, together with the rest of the team are on one corner cheering Nadine Lustre, Massiah, Jolianne, A-Team, Lesha, ISSA, and Liza Soberano on. Criticisms and hate aside, the collective has learned to take it all in stride. “I think I’ve mastered the art of not giving a f***,” he says, letting out a laugh before turning boss serious.“People will always think you’re crazy when they don’t understand what you’re doing. Until they do. When it comes to the music or content, there’s no right or wrong. But we are critical on pushing people to be their best.”
This brand of best has spanned everything from critically-acclaimed mixed tapes, visceral visual releases, and a world of creative exploration in its collaborative ecosystem. But roughing and refining all that to the glory that it has become are challenges that really pushed James Reid and Careless Music to the edge. “As some relationships grew and new ones were made, the most challenging part for me is when some left. It’s times like those that made me want to shut it all down. But people grow apart. That’s life. We just had to work harder,” he shares, this time, his usual cheer draped in melancholy.“It’s funny, I realized that no one really knows what they’re doing and that’s okay. Sometimes you just gotta stick to your guns, be open to learning, compromise on strategies, but not your values and one day, you’ll turn around and see something your proud of.”
For the tireless and determined creator, there is a lot more music and life to build with Careless Music from here on out. For starters, they are set to embark on national and international tours (they recently partnered with Transparent Arts, the artist management and record label company of Far East Movement based in Los Angeles for their global direction), with single and EP drops peppered all through their packed calendars. There is no rest for James Reid, Nadine Lustre, Massiah, Jolianne, A-Team, Lesha, ISSA, and Liza Soberano, and they like it like that, work-wise at least, because at the end of the day, they too can throw care to the wind and have a damn good time, because when the next day comes, they’re on the hustle, making people stop to look and most importantly, listen to what they have to say.
And as for the rest of life that is bound to flash before our very eyes? Well, we all just have to wait and see, because where James Reid is concerned, Careless Music is taking it as they can dream.