When thinking early Tooth and Nail, people often think of punk music; MxPx, Slick Shoes, Calibretto 13. Me, I entered the T&N universe in their emo glory days...and I'm not even ashamed to say it (Further Seems Forever will always be close to my heart).
Though it would be hard to guess looking at the label today, T&N has also made some pretty significant contributions to the folk rock world.
Lets start with a band called Danielson that signed with T&N back in '97. Daniel Smith was just a young gun at the time and had created a band with his siblings as a thesis project for college. What other label out there at the time would sign Danielson, Christian or otherwise? You just don't hear bands like Danielson on Sparrow records(...his voice is like nails on a chalk board, yet peculiarly endearing at the same time). T&N has opened the doors to several young artists who wouldn't have had a chance anywhere else. This was an incredibly wise move for T&N. When we look to the indie music cannon, Pitchfork, we see that Danielson (who is Daniel Smith) is one of the great kings of the indie realm. He has gone by many a title. Danielson, Brother Danielson, Danielson Famile, and TriDanielson. Though his name has changed, the music world's respect for him has not (Pitchfork gave his album, Ships, a 9.1 rating...this is almost unheard of). And this is why Danielson (and therefore Tooth and Nail) is so important:
Danielson befriended and mentored a young fellow named Sufjan Stevens (one of the biggest names--the indie darling--of the indie scene) , and released his record, Seven Swans on his label, Sounds Familyre. Yes, Daniel Smith has his own label with many names that have cult followings (Wovenhand and Half-handed cloud are a couple of my faves).
Sufjan has his own label (asthmatic kitty records) that has made quite the stir in the indie pot as well. You may have heard some of these names if indie music is a world you commonly frequent: My Brightest Diamond, Welcome Wagon, Shapes and Sizes ...
Yes, it's true, this indie tree is beginning to stray far from it's T&N roots. Fair enough, but I just like to ponder what the music world may have missed out on if Tooth and Nail didn't give a young Daniel Smith his big break, and he in turn didn't reach out to dear, young Suf.
There are a few other folk legends that had a stint on Tooth and Nail as well-- Pedro the Lion (David Bazan), Damien Jurado, Denison Witmer (he went by the name "The River Bends" at the time). All of these guys have played a huge roll in the indie-folk scene, and have albums that have received stunning reviews. Tooth and Nail brought Pedro the Lion to the world (something that they may not be so proud of anymore due to his controversial content; David Bazan also recently announced his becoming agnostic). Whether you are a David Bazan fan or not, there is no denying the incredible influence he has played in the indie music world (David Bazan rubs shoulders with Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie, for example).
Damien Jurado has had an album produced by David Bazan, and got his big break when Jeremy Enigk of Sunny Day Real Estate fame spotted him, and encouraged Sub Pop records to sign him. They released his first full length album back in '97; the same year T&N released an E.P. for Jurado. This is significant because it opened Jurado to two different audiences; widening his fan base.
Witmer hangs out with the likes of Rosie Thomas and Sufjan Stevens, as is apparent in Rosie's album, These Friends of Mine in which both Sufjan and Witmer make appearances. Witmer had released several albums before he released The River Bends on T&N, but to have that caliber of an artist on a label says something about the qaulity of the label.
So there you have it, Several influential artists who have all had a stint--or even began on T&N; each owing a debt of gratitude to this label for bringing their music to a wider public. Who would have thought that the label that brings us the hardcore gutteral screams of Underoath could be the same label that shared with us the gentle folk melodies of Denison Witmer?
More to come soon.