Centricity's attention to artist development has even been applied to an established artist like Peterson, who had a new CD ready to release just before his first meeting with the label. "Right before the disc was sent off to press, we had that meeting. Steve Ford said, 'Even if we don't end up working with you on this, if I were you I wouldn't release this in a hurry. This album is too good for that. You should wait and promote it properly and really have your ducks in a row before you set this loose in the world.' It surprised me, and made perfect sense. From that very first meeting, it wasn't just that it felt like a good idea, but it felt like something the Lord had a hand in—that I had this record, and there was this label that knew my music and wanted to help me with it. It felt like the perfect fit."

The artists are unabashed in their praise for a label that seems to genuinely care for them. They tour together, hang out at an annual artist retreat in a little town in Washington, and sometimes record together. New artist Lanae' Hale calls Mays "one of the coolest people I've ever met," and says of Ford, "When I first met them he was a huge advocate. I needed that first push of encouragement."

Centricity's philosophies are perhaps best exemplified in the career of Lanae' Hale, who has had attention from larger labels but ultimately decided to sign with Centricity. "This experience was entirely different," she recalls. "I was invited to their annual indie artist retreat, and then signed a development deal. I just fell in love with Centricity." Ford adds, "When we first started talking to Lanae' she was in such an embryotic stage as an artist. She was an amazing singer who had never been outside her little world in Florida."

How does a label like Centricity, one so committed to artist development, bring along an artist like Hale? In a word, slowly. A six-song EP has been released, with another due fall 2008, which means that her first full-length release might not arrive until 2009 or 2010. Ford explains: "In today's music environment, you have got to have a fan base. So we committed to walking beside her and helping her build her fan base, and build some awareness outside of the world that she had been in. That takes time." Step one was the EP. Step two was the road, touring with labelmates Downhere and Jason Gray, with plans for a tour of colleges later in the year.

"It's sorta winning fans one by one," says Ford. "John is working [with Lanae'] on another EP that will hopefully have something radio-ready soon, because it's time. We're at a time where she's performed in front of a lot of people. You see her sing live, and it's awe-inspiring. I've seen her do 'Quiet Place' live so many times, and every time, it gives me goosebumps. So we've had her play in front of major decision makers, in front of a lot of radio people, retail people. There's an awareness and buzz out there. The next layer on top of that will be to produce a radio single."

p>That awareness got a major boost in January 2008 when the people at iTunes chose one of Hale's songs as the free download of the week, putting her music in the ears of 100,000 people. Part of a master-plan by Centricity? Not really, recalls Ford. "I'd love to take credit for it, but I'll just say it's a God thing, because they got a copy of the record, and flipped over it, and we got a call from them."

For her part, Hale approves of the slow rollout. "I like the idea. People are wanting more, so it's been fun to build up to it. I've felt confined before, but [Centricity] encourages the opposite. It's a complete blessing."