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Katie Armiger Alleges Cold River Records Executives Told Her to ‘Sex It Up’ to Further Her Career

Katie Armiger not leaving country music
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

The Boot has obtained country artist Katie Armiger‘s lawsuit filing against her former record label, Cold River Records, which, in addition to disputing the claims in the label’s original suit against her, claims that Cold River executives encouraged Armiger to “sex it up” in order to get ahead in her career.

On Wednesday (Jan. 27), Armiger released a statement regarding her countersuit of Cold River Records: “My label had expectations for how I should behave to get ahead, particularly how I should interact with influential men in the industry …,” Armiger says, in part. “I didn’t think I should have to do the things my label wanted me to do to ‘make it.'”

According to the lawsuit, the singer was asked to “purchase ‘hot,’ ‘game-changing’ clothes” and “hug, kiss and flirt with” radio programmers. The suit alleges that both Pete O’Heeron, president of Cold River Records and Armiger’s first cousin once removed, and Jim Dandy, Cold River’s vice president of promotions, made these requests.

“O’Heeron repeatedly told Ms. Armiger that she needed to make Radio Program Directors ‘wish you would take them home with you,'” the filing alleges. “O’Heeron told Ms. Armiger that if “they [Radio Program Directors] don’t wanna take you home, they’re not gonna play your music. Period.’

“O’Heeron told Ms. Armiger that she needed to ‘play a role’ with Radio Program Directors. He described what he meant by saying, ‘It’s like an actress or an actor saying I’m not going to go into that brothel on screen because I don’t want people to think that I go into a whorehouse,'” the allegations continue. “O’Heeron allowed and enabled his employees to comment on Ms. Armiger’s sexuality and appearance, and to ask her to hug, kiss, flirt with and sit in the laps of Radio Program Directors, despite Ms. Armiger repeatedly stating that she was uncomfortable with such comments and suggestions.”

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that “Ms. Armiger was uncomfortable with O’Heeron’s and Dandy’s suggestions regarding how she should dress and behave with Radio Program Directors. Ms. Armiger felt humiliated by the things O’Heeron and Dandy asked her to do. Ms. Armiger told O’Heeron that she wanted to pursue her career with ‘integrity.’ Ms. Armiger told O’Heeron that she felt the work environment at Cold River was ‘toxic.’ O’Heeron and Dandy created a hostile work environment that interfered with Ms. Armiger’s ability to focus at work.”

In June of 2015, Armiger’s former record label released a statement saying that the singer had “decided to take a breather and decide her next career aspirations,” and was no longer a part of the Cold River roster. Shortly thereafter, Armiger said on social media that those were “not my words, and certainly not my intention,” and that she had been locked out of her social media accounts.

“I can’t talk about it too much,” Armiger told The Boot in November, “but things like this just happen in the music industry sometimes.”

Cold River Records’ suit of Armiger alleges that the artist is “refusing to perform the remainder of her contracts with the label,” per a statement from O’Heeron. In addition to the above claims in Armiger’s countersuit, her filing also alleges that O’Heeron has “interfered” with her career in the months since she and Cold River parted ways.

“O’Heeron and Cold River do not have any interest in the revenues generated by Ms. Armiger’s live performances. Nevertheless, O’Heeron recently contacted Ms. Armiger’s booking agent, Ken McMeans, and inappropriately threatened to sue him for tortious interference for booking live shows on behalf of Ms. Armiger,” the lawsuit states. “O’Heeron contacted Sirius XM Radio and told them to refrain from playing Ms. Armiger’s new Single. O’Heeron allowed Ms. Armiger’s YouTube videos, which had views in excess of one million, to be taken down. Upon information and belief, O’Heeron has contacted numerous music industry professionals and made false statements that have harmed Ms. Armiger.”

Additionally, the suit alleges, O’Heeron has “accessed Ms. Armiger’s social media and email accounts without authorization.” This claim relates directly to the incidents in the days following Armiger’s departure from the label and the announcement that she was leaving country music behind.

Among the other claims in Armiger’s countersuit are allegations that O’Heeron, acting as the singer’s manager and fiduciary, failed to pay Armiger money that she was owed. He also “either himself or through his counsel, Mr. Hayes, advised Ms. Armiger that her attorney [Rush Hicks] had reviewed [a contract] and found the Agreement acceptable.”

“O’Heeron and his counsel advised Ms. Armiger that she could ask them any questions, but that they were not leaving Mr. Hayes’ office until the Agreements were signed. Although Ms. Armiger did not understand the 2010 Recording Agreement, she relied on the representations of O’Heeron and his counsel and signed it,” the documents continue. “Several years later, Ms. Armiger contacted Mr. Hicks to help her understand her rights under the 2010 Agreement. At that time, Mr. Hicks advised Ms. Armiger that he had never seen the 2010 Agreement.”

When reached for comment, O’Heeron told The Boot that the statement that Cold River Records issued on Wednesday, following the announcement of Armiger’s lawsuit, is the record label’s, and his, official position on the matter. In part, that statement reads, “Cold River is saddened and disappointed to learn of Katie Armiger’s malicious and completely false statements against the label … It appears that Ms. Armiger is simply attempting to use these false claims to get out of her contracts and to gain publicity for her career, at Cold River’s expense. Her assertions are completely without merit and fabricated.”

O’Heeron adds to The Boot, “Lawsuits are long and drawn out and expensive, and we are certainly willing, now that our name has been defamed, we will take it all the way … [but] I’m always willing to listen to a settlement. I’d love to put this behind me.”

He also notes that “[t]he amount of industry support is overwhelming.”

Country Music’s Nastiest Lawsuits

NEXT: Why Are There So Few Women at Country Radio?

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