As a cellist, vocalist, composer and music teacher, Janel Leppin always seems to be working on a new creative endeavor. Now the Virginia artist is branching out into the business of running a record label.
Leppin announced today that she’s starting an imprint called Wedderburn Records. The label’s first release will be a single from Janel and Anthony, the experimental folk duo she shares with her husband, guitarist Anthony Pirog.
The cellist says she derived the label’s name from a piece of land that has been in her family for more than a century, a wooded oasis in Vienna, Virginia, once called “Midgetville.”
“Basically, it’s a really magical place,” Leppin says. She grew up on the Wedderburn land, gathering with friends and playing music there. Once upon a time, she says, “it was all just virgin forest and hand-built cottages that my ancestors built.” (The “Midgetville” moniker comes from an old legend that little people lived on the land.) The property has been whittled down over time — an emotional process the Washington Post documented in 2004 — but it holds a place in Leppin’s heart. “Wedderburn” is also her middle name, she adds.
Wedderburn Records isn’t just a tribute to the family land, however. Leppin says both she and Pirog have a “huge backlog” of unreleased music, and she’d grown exhausted working with other labels on it. Facing red tape, creative compromises and disagreements over credits — “I still have to fight to make people think that I write my own music,” she says — Leppin decided she’d just release the material herself.
Inspiration also came from the late David Bowie. “He died with a huge amount of albums behind him,” Leppin says, “and I can’t even get anyone to agree on the terms of a contract for one album.”
After Leppin releases the Janel and Anthony single in the coming weeks, she expects to debut her first solo album on March 21, followed by recordings from a “legendary” artist. (She declines to identify the performer until details are finalized.)
Leppin isn’t sure what kinds of sounds her label will focus on, but her own work reveals a fascination with the mystical — similar to the special power she traces back to the Wedderburn land.
“I’m really just interested in the kind of people who can capture the magic. Whatever that means,” Leppin says. “Music you can’t quite put your finger on.”
Watch: Janel Leppin performs live for WAMU 88.5’s Bandwidth.fm