Voices Of Live: Vicky Hamilton’s Appetite For Discovery

Vicky Hamilton
Courtesy of Vicky Hamilton
– Vicky Hamilton
L.A. WOMAN: Vicky Hamilton has done it all, from nurturing Sunset Strip bar bands like Guns N

Vicky Hamilton’s story is the stuff of which movies are made. Small town girl meets Tom Petty at a festival, packs up her Oldsmobile and moves from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Hollywood and takes a job at a record store across Sunset Strip from the famed Whisky a Go Go, where she discovers bands that become international superstars, and becomes one of the first female A&R executives at the hottest record label in town. 

She experiences the highest of highs and hits rock bottom, only to be inspired again by Petty, with an assist from up-and-coming producer Rick Rubin, who urge her to meet country royalty June Carter Cash backstage at a concert. 

This harmonic convergence resulted in Hamilton signing Cash to her own record label at a time when no one else would and releasing Press On, which won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2000. 
Though Guns N’ Roses and June Carter Cash would seem to have little in common, Hamilton played a central role in creating successes for both, seeing and hearing potential that others did not and making the most of it. 

She’s written an entertaining not-quite-but-almost-tell-all autobiography, “Appetite For Dysfunction,” that offers a peek into her life, from housing the fledgling GNR in her tiny Hollywood apartment to working for industry moguls like David Geffen and Elliot Roberts, to spending time at Johnny and June Cash’s Tennessee cabin and recording a Grammy winning folk music album. 

She also details the harrowing side effects of the Hollywood life and her recovery into sobriety. Unlike the famous quip about American lives, Hamilton emerged from addiction to build a second – and third – act as a passionate discoverer of and advocate for new artists, music and projects, including her current work developing and consulting for emerging artists including for her new label signing Lovely World. And Hollywood has taken note – “Appetite For Dysfunction” is in development for a potential TV series based on her life story. 
Pollstar: You have a great story about how you landed in Hollywood from Fort Wayne, Ind.
Vicky Hamilton: I was working in a record store and promoting something called Summer in the City in Fort Wayne. I kind of stalked Tom Petty when he was on tour [laughs] and he told me I looked like a California girl. I always kind of thought that I would move to California some day and him saying that kicked it in for me. 
I came to L.A. and visited a friend who was a nurse in Marina del Rey. I went back to Indiana to save money for a year and packed up the Oldsmobile, ripped off the rearview mirror and never looked back.
Appetite For Dysfunction
– Appetite For Dysfunction

You got a job at a record store across Sunset Strip from the Whisky a Go Go. The people watching must have been amazing.
The window at the store faced the Whisky’s front door. I saw everybody coming and going. 
I kept noticing these guys in stiletto heels walking up Clark Street and thinking, “They’re better women than me, that they can wear heels up the hill!” And they turned out to be Mötley Crüe. 
It was an interesting time. When I moved to L.A., we were just coming out of the punk rock era to this glam metal thing and then also the English invasion of bands like Duran Duran and Modern English and Psychedelic Furs and those kind of bands. 
I was in love with Hollywood in that moment, and it was just brilliant.
It seems that somehow the scene went instantly from the sort of peace, love & dope Laurel Canyon days straight into the Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, Poison, hair-band heyday, but it wasn’t like that.

I remember seeing Henry Rollins in his Black Flag days and being like, “Wow, is his head going to just blow off his shoulders?” It was like he had this incredible brain that went through his neck and he had so much power. 
But that transition came a little after the Laurel Canyon period, but because I worked with [Lookout Management and Laurel Canyon legends] David Geffen and Elliot Roberts, I’m pretty well versed in it to know what happened there. 
Elliot and David kind of ran it. They were the stars of the Troubadour scene that bred all of those artists. 
Did you look for a co-manager to work with Guns N’ Roses when they started blowing up on the Strip? How did that go over?

People were afraid of the band because of their antics. I took them down to meet with Doc McGhee and Doug Thaler, who pulled me outside and said, “You know, Vicky, we love you, we love this, but we have Mötley Crüe here. We don’t want to do another one of these.” [laughs] 
So you brought them to Geffen Records after getting them gigs on the Strip, managing them, then parting ways to work for Geffen in A&R scouting baby bands. Any regrets about that, given the success of Appetite For Destruction and GNR’s resulting career?

I’d worked with Mötley Crüe, I’d managed Poison and I had worked with Stryper and the idea of having a solid paycheck and an expense account seemed like a good idea to me. 
I don’t really have regrets about that other than I should have tried to get points on the album, or whatever, but I didn’t even know what that meant at that point in time. 
And working at the record company was a whole new learning experience. That was a real learning curve for me, and I’m thankful for that experience. 
David Geffen gave me an opportunity that I will never forget. I got to work at Geffen Records under the best; it’s not the same today. When I worked at Geffen, there were nearly 200 employees and it was rockin’. 
The industry will never be like that again. There were big expense accounts and we actually developed the bands. I did development deals all the time, which I wish people would do now. 
Would Bruce Springsteen have made it in this kind of climate? It’s kind of more like the ‘60s now – put up the single and see if it sticks anywhere. And then if it doesn’t, it’s over. 
You say your passion is finding new bands and artists  and building them into future rock stars. You’ve started a couple of labels over the years, the latest being Dark Spark Music with its distribution deal with The Orchard. Are you able to do on your own that which the labels aren’t doing now?

I decided to start Dark Spark Music because I can develop my own acts and help bands build a following. 
That’s been pretty rewarding. Streaming pays nothing; that isn’t rewarding. 
At least the bands can build followings and get their signature sounds together and get to the point where they have a chance at getting an agent and getting out there. 
Lovely World
Courtesy of Vicky Hamilton
– Lovely World
LOVELY WORLD: The Spartanburg, S.C.-based band is “on the brink of greatness,” according to manager Vicky Hamilton.

One band you’re working with is Lovely World. Tell us a little about them. 

Lovely World is a band I’ve been working with for two years that I feel is right at the brink of greatness. 
Trip Brown of New Frontier Touring is their agent. We got him in Nashville this past summer. 
He’s been working hard on booking dates for Lovely World but, as with everyone, let’s not forget there’s been a year and a half of pandemic! 
Just before everything got shut down, we got ready to do a big showcase in New York. 
We had all these record labels coming, and I had to cancel because of it. 
The singer said to me, “Can’t we just go in and do that one day in New York?” I’m like, “Who’s going to come? Nobody wants to be where they might get a disease, right?” It was discouraging. 
But right now, I’m getting ready to go back to the South, where Lovely World is based, for a New Year’s Eve show. 
I don’t know if this is Midwest Girl persistence but wouldn’t it be less frustrating to hitch your wagon to an established artist and go along for the ride? 

I’m the girl that falls in love with potential and I just want to develop it and put it out there in the world. I’ve been with Lovely World from the garage to the point of where they’re about to break.
The first thing I would say about Lovely World is to look at  Landon and Cade Rojas, who are brothers. 
Landon is such a soul singer. He has this incredible voice, he’s a really good writer. 
They’re developing still and  he’s 24 years old so he’s just about to hit his stride. 
I think they write better songs than most of the rock bands out there. 
We’re going to start releasing stuff again in January. They’ve been recording and did some work with Dirty Honey that went really well and I’d love to do more dates with them and others.
Who could you see them playing with? Do you have a wish list?

Can I run a whole list? [laughs] Dirty Honey, Kings of Leon, Starcrawler, Rival Sons, bands like that. 
I’d add Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age, because I think that would be amazing. 
One of the best ways to develop that fanbase is relentless touring, and no one’s been able to do much of that in nearly two years. How do you keep them going?  

They’ve been playing in Greenville, S.C., with a band called Seven Year Witch, who is also from that area. 
The New Years show is going to be off the hook. Trip is looking for other opportunities for them and we’re looking at dates.
If you’re looking at an artist’s career, it’s like a three-legged table. With COVID, the touring leg got kind of kicked out from under us. 
Touring is a very pivotal piece and Lovely World is building their fanbase in the Carolinas. The Orange Peel in Asheville, N.C., has given them a couple of shows.   
Trip wants to book shows on the East Coast, but we want to do that with a band that’s drawing because I don’t want them playing to empty rooms in new territories. 
But Lovely World makes fans wherever they go. Hopefully, we make it through this winter without getting kicked in the face again by COVID. 
But it’s my passion, developing new talent and watching as it’s released into the world.