“I started Cherrytree to connect musicians and the music business with as little pain as possible.”


Cherrytree Records Chairman, Interscope Senior A&R Exec and Multi-Hyphenate Entrepreneur Martin Kierszenbaum Makes Us Feel Like We Never Get Anything Done
By Simon Glickman

Think you’re busy? A few weeks ago, Martin Kierszenbaum re-upped as Senior Executive of A&R at Interscope. Meanwhile, he remains Chairman of his own Interscope-distributed label, Cherrytree Records (which takes its moniker from an Anglicized version of his Germanic last name), home to chart-toppers Far East Movement, LMFAO, Robyn and Ellie Goulding, along with La Roux, Jessie Ware, Colette Carr, critical darling Feist and other genre-stretching acts. The label also released Lady Gaga’s first two albums and Sting’s last three, among many others.

The Grammy nominee (as co-writer/producer on Gaga’s 2010 Cherrytree release The Fame) is also running a pubco, a management firm, a cola brand, a satellite radio show and a collaborative live-music space as well as occasionally making records of his own; we couldn’t even begin to cover it all here. Not bad for a guy who started in the PolyGram mailroom in 1988. We just hope Kierszenbaum was multitasking up a storm to make use of the time he spent chatting with us.

There’s a three-dimensional aspect to what you do, because you’re a songwriter and a producer as well as a label exec.
Everything stems from a quest to inform, protect and amplify the creation of music, which was my passion and calling from a very early age. Everything else sort of accumulated to help defend and enhance that. Not just for me, but for other musicians and writers and producers. That’s why I started Cherrytree—to connect musicians and the music business with as little pain as possible.

What is the relationship of Cherrytree Records to Interscope?
It’s a semi-independent label that has a partnership with Interscope. I wanted to create a hybrid indie major, with all the benefits of an indie, in that we could have the time and energy to incubate an artist as they needed, especially these progressive artists that we were signing. But I wanted to have all the access of a major—radio promotion, television promotion, everything.

I asked Feist to sign in 2004, even though nobody had heard of the label. She said, “I get it. You’re trying to be a mom-and-pop shop inside a department store.” She nailed it, and that’s been the image in my head ever since. I’ll always be grateful to her for that, and for taking a chance on Cherrytree.

We’re very boutique. We don’t take on a lot of artists. I think our strike rate is probably higher than most for two reasons. One, we really commit when we sign a group. I mean, we commit to the point where they’ll stay at my house, or they’ll use my studio, or we’ll go on the road with them, or whatever. We’ll drive the van, whatever it takes. And the other side of it is we are in an environment at Interscope that is very stable. Jimmy Iovine is a power. He’s been behind us and he’s sailing a very stable ship. John Janick is super-talented and extremely supportive. That means we can take chances every day. And those chances can really pay off: Cherrytree just achieved the first-ever diamond certification on a digital single in Canada for LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem,” with over 800k singles sold. I’m really proud of this accomplishment.

What other projects are you focused on right now?
We’ve got new EP releases by Marianas Trench, who are headlining the Journeys Noise Tour, Ivy Levan, who’s opening for Fitz & the Tantrums in June, and RAC, whose Phoenix remix is currently #1 on hype machine. Plus we’ll be releasing EPs by two new signings, Sir Sly and Disclosure.

We’re also staying relentless on our campaign to break Jessie Ware, who just did Coachella and got VH1 “You Oughta Know” honors and MTV “Artist of the Month,” and we’re working to maximize exposure and sales of Ellie Goulding’s second album—there was a Girls sync and she’s featured on “I Need Your Love” by Calvin Harris. Her album is up over 30% in sales this week.

On the writing and producing front, I just finished collaborating with a Cherrytree artist, Colette Carr, on her debut album, Skitszo, which we’ve been releasing in EP installments every two months.

You came up in the Universal system. Can you say a bit about some of the other players?
The extended family around the world is always there for me, so supportive, very helpful, whether it’s Lucian Grainge or Max Hole or all the people around the world that I grew up with. I’ve been at one version of Universal or another—PolyGram/Universal—for 22 years. We have really deep roots and we’ve had a lot of success together, so we get and give a lot of the benefit of the doubt, and we pass that on to the new bands we sign. It’s really powerful.

At Cherrytree, you bring in artists you’ve signed who are writers and producers when you have a new act.
We like to have a really open dialogue and a tight-knit community inside of Cherrytree. And it’s available for the artist, but if they don’t want to partake in it—if they want to go live in a cave and make their own album—that’s cool too. But if they do want to collaborate and exchange ideas, we have a lot of that happening. Far East Movement, for instance, really takes advantage of that.

Speaking of Far East Movement, we’re leaving no stone unturned with those guys. “Turn Up the Love” is featured in an HTC commercial and has gone from 1,700 units to over 6,000 in three weeks. We have early Top 40 airplay, and they’re doing a Macy’s-sponsored tour to celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage month in May.

And then there’s artist/producer CherryCherryBoomBoom, a.k.a. you, namechecked in multiple Gaga songs.
I put out a single last summer, a cover of Magnetic Fields’ “Come Back From San Francisco,” which was Top 30 on the Dance Club chart, and that encouraged me to put out an original song, “One and Only,” which went Top 15. So I’m having a blast. To me, writing, producing and recording is an extension of living, breathing and speaking music.

You’ve also got Martin Kierszenbaum Management.
I manage a select client roster, which is also very boutique. I’ve been managing for five years now. My first client was mixer Robert Orton, who’s mixed Emeli Sandé, Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey and Enrique Iglesias. Robert’s won three Grammys over the last four years, and I’m really proud of him. I have four producers—Jeff Bhasker, Fernando Garibay, Mike Einziger and B3tablocker—that I either manage or co-manage. And then I have two artists, Natalia Kills, whose sophomore album was produced by Bhasker and is about to launch, and The Good Natured, as well as the video directors Talkboy TV.

Since you obviously have tons of time on your hands, you’re doing CherryTree Radio on SiriusXM.
It’s not that crazy. Everything I do is within the realm of music. When you work on something you really love, it doesn’t feel like work and you almost do it without noticing. I want to thank Larry Flick at SiriusXM, who is an encyclopedia of musical knowledge as well as a champion of new music, for all of his support.