"Al Lopez: Lansing's Other Renegade"

by Devene Darovich

What do you do when you're a country singer from Michigan looking for success in Nashville, and no one will listen? Well, when you're Al Lopez, you start your own record company.

"If I couldn't get the boys in Nashville to listen to me there, I would make them notice me here," said the Lansing singer and songwriter.

That was two years ago when Lopez started Renegade Records and his publishing company, Write One.

Lopez started playing the trombone and bass guitar when he was eight. Through high school, he played in rock bands, jazz bands, and the school marching band. Although country music always had an influence in his life, it wasn't until artists like Garth Brooks and Travis Tritt gave birth to new country that it started becoming the main focus of his music.

Lopez has found tremendous success as a performer since the launch of Renegade Records. His first single went to number one on the Independent Record Charts, and he was recently nominated for a Best New Artist Award by the Academy of Independent Recording Artists.

And he's recently signed another artist to his label. He discovered T.J. Braton in Nashville and has been working hard on his new act. "I want the record company to get off to a good start," he said.

Currently, the label's records are being played on 32 radio stations. He admits it's harder for an independent label to get national attention, but he knows it is not impossible. "Good music is good music," he said. "No radio station will refuse to play good music."

He hopes to expand his label to include rock and alternative, eventually.

He's proud of the work he has done with Braton, and currently there are several national labels looking to pick him up. If this happens, Renegade will co-op with the national label, and the deal would get Renegade national recognition.

But Lopez is quick to say performing will always be his greatest love. Lopez opened up for the Texas Tornados at the Michigan Festival and said he got a great rush playing for approximately 22,000 people.

Currently, Lopez has one full length CD and two specialty CDs, including a three-song CD for the Lansing Lugnuts.

On September 26, Lopez will be playing at the Grand Opening of Nashville's Planet Hollywood. He will be opening for Braton's set. The next night, he will be playing at the infamous Wildhorse Saloon.

Lopez's life has become a whirlwind since he started Renegade Records. Would he do it all over again to get noticed by those boys in Nashville? "Oh yeah," he said. "It's a headache sometimes, but it's a challenging headache."

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