If you had asked Mark Nordman 30 years ago if he thought he would have his current job, he would’ve laughed.
“Absolutely not,” said Nordman, president and CEO of Woodward Avenue Records. “I would’ve thought I was a pretty good piano player and trumpet player once upon a time. I was never really good enough to be great.”
He might not have had the musical talent to be the next Louis Armstrong or Chet Baker, but he knew business and music well enough to create Woodward Avenue Records in 2010.
After having worked in the hospitality business for almost 30 years, the Cranbrook Schools and Interlochen alumnus decided to take a giant leap after his dad died – who had worked in music for decades – and go back to something he’d known his whole life, music.
“The music business is two things, music and it’s business,” he said. “I thought, music has been a part of my life forever and business is all I’ve done for the last 25 years, so, let’s put the two of those things together.”
Then, Woodward Avenue Records was formed. Yes, it’s named after the Woodward Avenue in Michigan, a street Nordman traveled daily as a kid growing up in Bloomfield Hills.
Nordman’s first project with the company was a maxi single – when there are multiple versions of the same song – of King Floyd’s “Groove Me” with jazz guitarist Nate Najar and Melba Moore, an R&B legend.
“When we did ‘Groove Me' people were like, what the heck? You’ve got Melba singing, and who is this guitar player?” he said. “We kind of made a splash. From that point on, things just started lining up for us.”
They’ve gone on to have multiple Billboard number one hits, and lots of radio time, including “Groove Me,” which Nordman still catches from time-to-time on SiriusXM.
Currently, the company has multiple signed artists getting ready to put out albums, like DW3, a trio from California who play Urban Soul; Jack Magnet (real name, Jakob Magnusson) an Icelandic jazz keyboard player; and Jacqui Brown, wife of Grammy Award-winner Paul Brown, who is also a Woodward Avenue Records artist.
The boutique label predominantly known for producing smooth jazz is getting ready to expand into new genres.
“Great music is great music. So we don’t want to be defined by just a particular box or genre,” said Nordman, who now lives in Florida.
They are looking at signing country artists, and have a pop record coming, as well as an American-folk project that will be out at the first of the year.
Leaving the world with excellent music is part of why Nordman decided to go about this career endeavor in the first place. He wanted to leave something that would not only keep his family and dad’s legacy alive, but last for, well, ever.
Being able to listen to music before others hear it is an added bonus for Nordman, especially when he’s sent a track or demo with someone asking what he thinks.
Pursuing his passion doesn’t hurt either.
“It’s cliché, but when people do what they love, and especially if it’s something that you feel like you’ve got knowledge of...that’s what life’s about, right?” he said.
It might have taken Nordman some time to break into the music industry but he has no plans to leave now that he’s arrived.
“I’m going to do this the rest of my life,” he said. “There’s no end point.”