Katie Armiger, Cold River Records Settle Breach of Contract Lawsuit – Rolling Stone
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Katie Armiger, Cold River Records Settle Breach of Contract Lawsuit

Country artist, who has spoken out about sexual harassment in the industry, was once signed to the now-shuttered Nashville record label

Katie Armiger

Country singer Katie Armiger and Cold River Records have settled a long-running legal dispute via an undisclosed agreement.

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Country singer Katie Armiger, who detailed her experiences with sexual harassment in the country music industry, has reached a settlement with Pete O’Heeron, the president and founder of her former label Cold River Records.

Armiger and O’Heeron had been engaged in numerous lawsuits since 2016, when O’Heeron sued the singer-songwriter for breach of contract, and then again in 2017 when Armiger shared her story with Fox News, prompting a suit against the singer that alleged the breach of a disparagement agreement.

While O’Heeron initially claimed that Armiger had “decided to take a breather and decide her next career aspirations” as the reason for her departure from Cold River, the statement released on Friday says, “Pete O’Heeron and Katie Armiger have reached a mutually agreeable settlement of the litigation arising out of the termination of Armiger’s management by Cold River Records. Neither party has admitted any wrongdoing or liability, nor has any court ruled on the merits of either party’s claims or counterclaims.” (Read the full statement below.)

The statement goes on to say that Armiger “regrets any potentially damaging comments made by friends or fans about Mr. O’Heeron and Cold River Records and recognizes that Mr. O’Heeron was not individually responsible for the entirety of the negative experiences she faced in the country music industry.” A lawyer for Armiger and a rep for Cold River Records declined to comment.

Armiger, whose legal case has received support from Times Up Legal Defense Fund, has previously spoken to Rolling Stone Country about those “negative” experiences, which have included being told to dress provocatively, flirt with program directors and DJs, and withstand unwanted advances from them in the name of increasing spins for her then-singles at country radio. In court documents, she details an instance when a DJ attempted to touch her legs underneath the table during a station visit.

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“It was typical to do a show, go out to dinner, go out somewhere afterwards, and be like, ‘Hey, this person drinks a lot, watch out.’ If they do touch you or do proposition you, you’re just supposed to laugh it off,” Armiger told Rolling Stone Country.

In the statement, O’Heeron says he is “disappointed that Ms. Armiger encountered any negative experiences by other industry professionals with whom she worked while promoting her music. Mr. O’Heeron recognizes the many challenges faced by women in country music and sincerely hopes that the industry changes for the better.” When speaking to Rolling Stone Country in 2018, O’Heeron denied that these “negative experiences” existed.

“I have never been in a situation where it crossed the line or anybody complained to me that it crossed the line,” he said, and that he’d “never heard of” any situations where program directors were offered favors or visits to strip clubs.

But O’Heeron did suggest that artists should flirt with radio personnel to advance their career in a May 2015 email obtained by former Cold River Records employee Staci Kirpach. A screenshot posted to Twitter reads in part:

“Taylor Swift hugged and kissed these guys…so did Kellie Pickler and Kelsea Ballerini…if you choose not to, then that’s up to you and your career will be impacted. Advising you to dress edgy is not out of line either … The audience and the PDs need to find you alluring. I can’t…and won’t force you to do any of these things…but I spend a lot of time assessing the competition and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t advise you of this.”

In September, O’Heeron announced that he was closing Cold River Records to focus on his other career in the medical field. Armiger has since enrolled in college and is working at a law firm.

Pete O’Heeron and Katie Armiger’s full joint statement:

Pete O’Heeron and Katie Armiger have reached a mutually agreeable settlement of the litigation arising out of the termination of Armiger’s management by Cold River Records.  Neither party has admitted any wrongdoing or liability, nor has any court ruled on the merits of either party’s claims or counterclaims.  In order to avoid the expense, burden, and uncertainty associated with litigation, however, and in order to resolve the litigation completely, the parties have entered into a confidential settlement agreement.

For her part, Ms. Armiger regrets any potentially damaging comments made by friends or fans about Mr. O’Heeron and Cold River Records and recognizes that Mr. O’Heeron was not individually responsible for the entirety of the negative experiences she faced in the country music industry. Ms. Armiger recognizes that, although she and Mr. O’Heeron had creative differences, his intentions and interactions with her were wholeheartedly aimed at promoting the best interests of her career. She is grateful to Mr. O’Heeron for his guidance and contributions to her career and thanks her friends and fans for their continued support.

For his part, Mr. O’Heeron is disappointed that Ms.Armiger encountered any negative experiences by other industry professionals with whom she worked while promoting her music. Mr. O’Heeron recognizes the many challenges faced by women in country music and sincerely hopes that the industry changes for the better. Mr. O’Heeron and Cold River Records wish Ms. Armiger the best of luck with her career.

The parties are pleased to resolve this matter. To allow both parties to move forward, they will not publicly discuss their settlement or the lawsuits that led to it.  Mr. O’Heeron is represented by Robert A. Peal of Sims|Funk PLC and Mariam Stockton of Neal & Harwell, PLC.  Ms. Armiger is represented by Alex Little and Emily Mack of Burr Forman LLP.

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