Earlier this year, American Idol 2018 3rd place finisher, Gabby Barrett, signed a record deal with Warner Music Nashville. And you won’t believe the story behind her signing. As it turns out, chairman/CEO of Warner Brothers Nashville, John Esposito, like Gabby herself, is a Pittsburgh native.
As The Athletic tells it, Esposito is not only a native of Western Pennsylvania (Punxsutawney and Indiana) but “the biggest Steelers fan in Nashville,” In order to convince the Munhall native to sign with the label, he called in “the best closer he could imagine,” his good friend and another Pittsburgh native Bill Cowher.
For those who are unfamiliar with Steelers legacy, Bill Cowher coached the team for 15 seasons–from 1992-2006. The Steelers won Super Bowl XL in 2006, defeating the Seattle Seahawks 21–10. Currently Cowher is a studio analyst for NFL Today on CBS.
Espo, as he is known throughout the business and to his friends, had made a connection with Barrett when she visited his office at Warner studios. There she saw the shrine, a wall devoted to the Steelers that has everything from autographed photos of Cowher, Jerome Bettis, Joe Greene and an original Bettis jersey to list a few. But Barrett still had not signed.
“Someone said, ‘Why don’t you get your buddy Bill to call her dad?’” Esposito said. “I called Bill and said, ‘I won’t ask you for favors very often in life, but he’s a diehard Steelers fan.’ He said, ‘No problem, give me his number.’”
Cowher called Gabby’s father, Blaise Barrett:
“I said, ‘Let me just tell you something,’” Cowher recalled advising Blaise Barrett. “’John Esposito is a man of integrity, a man of honor and he surrounds himself with people who are just like him.’ I said, ‘John will tell you the way it is and do everything he can for her, and he’s an honest man, and in your profession that would be at the forefront of what I’d be looking for. He will provide her with every platform to be as good as she can be and he has everyone around him to help her along the way if she needs it. If Gabby was my daughter, I’d want her career to be in his hands.’”
And then Gabby signed with the label.
“I’ve been in this business long enough to know Gabby is one of the special ones I have ever dealt with,” said Esposito. “Her star is rising at 19 years old as a songwriter and powerful singer. She’s going to make Pittsburgh proud.”