Unearthed treasures

Cheryl Pawelski, CJPA ’89; photo by Nina Johnson

Two-time Grammy winner Cheryl Pawelski lauded for sharing untold histories of some of music’s most beloved artists.

Cheryl Pawelski, CJPA ’89, co-founded her independent label Omnivore Recordings in 2010 after 20 years as a senior leader in A&R (artists and repertoire) and catalog development at music industry mainstays such as EMI-Capitol Records, Concord Music Group and Rhino Records. 

Twelve years of musical adventures and hundreds of releases later, Pawelski and her Omnivore Entertainment Group collaborators have been twice recognized by the Recording Academy for Best Historical Album: first in 2014 for restoring four previously unknown radio concerts by Hank Williams, The Garden Spot Programs, 1950; and again in 2020 for It’s Such A Good Feeling: The Best of Mr. Rogers, a compilation album initiated through the making of the 2018 hit documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? 

Both those albums unearthed recordings from the Williams and Rogers estates that were never released after being broadcast on radio and television, respectively.  

“For the most part, we’re not in the business of reissuing records that never came out on CD or digital; we’re more interested in adding a page or chapter to an artist’s history,” Pawelski says. “Does this record have a story to tell? Does it add something to the story of the artist? If it’s not great music or not that great a story, why waste your time?”

Omnivore Recordings’ catalog has an all-inclusive approach to genre and an impressive historical breadth. The label engages diverse audiences by offering treasured access to cult icons and rare gems from music legends. Pawelski says she wants Omnivore to be the label where people come to discover the interconnectivity of modern musical history. 

“If you read enough liner notes and credits, you start to see how interconnected music is,” Pawelski says, suggesting her label has found success with audiences by being smarter and more interesting than streaming services’ recommendation algorithms. 

Some of Omnivore’s most warmly received releases have been anticipated by fan communities for years. Steely Dan fans, for example, blogging and gossiping about Linda Hoover’s unreleased album produced by future bandmates Donald Fagen and Walter Becker in 1971, finally had an opportunity to snag a copy this summer on Record Store Day as Omnivore offered Hoover’s album I Mean to Shine as a special limited-edition release. 

“People presuppose that everything is available [online], but that couldn’t be further from the truth, especially in music,” Pawelski says. “The other assumption is that digital is free. So much music doesn’t exist on the internet. It costs money to put it there.” 

Pawelski encourages music fans to explore Omnivore’s website and see what piques their interests, her hunch being that one album usually leads to another.