By Tim W. Jackson
Wesley Allen may not look or sound like a label executive but that fits the personality of laid back and freewheeling Eastwood Records based in Louisville.
Allen had always been interested in music. His father, James “Eastwood” Allen, taught him how to play guitar and bass and introduced him to the music of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and all the classics. The younger Allen played in local bands regularly around Louisville from roughly 1993-2009. “I had always wanted to be part of the scene in Louisville,” Allen says, “but couldn’t ever get anywhere. I noticed the same thing would happen to everyone here; nobody could break out.”
Allen said his father said that mentality in Louisville had existed since the 1960s. “He called it the Louisville curse,” Wes Allen said. Allen was working as a chef when he lost his dad to cancer in 2011. “That really brought things full circle for me,” Allen says, and he started to ponder how he could finally make an impact on the Louisville music scene.
Allen says he was at a local show back around 2014 and there were several bands playing, none of which were signed to a label. “It just clicked that I should give up my dream, for now, of being in a band and help other people with their dreams via a record label.” Eastwood Records was born shortly thereafter.
“Louisville had really never had a label that does what I try to do or the scope of what I’m trying to do,” Allen says of his creating Eastwood Records a few years ago. “I wanted to take local acts and make them national bands in a short amount of time,” he adds. Eastwood’s initial motto was “Putting Louisville on Wax” because it had that goal of featuring local artists such as Duncan Barlow, Eric Bolander, and Peter Searcy.
At the same time, Allen was becoming more aware of a bourgeoning Americana scene and said he hated hearing local and regional acts say, “I guess I’ll go to Nashville” in order to have success. “I was thinking, ‘Let’s build it here.’” Allen says. Before long, though, Allen had signed mostly Americana acts and Eastwood was becoming known as an Americana label. The motto changed to “Putting Americana on Wax.”
The lineup today offers a lot of Americana along with some bluegrass, acts such as Tom Boone and the Back Porch Pickers, John Clay, Nick Dittmeier and the Sawdusters, Tin Whiskey Sisters, Vintage Martins, Whiskey Riders, and Sean Whiting, among others.
“Americana is huge right now,” Allen says, adding that building the label has been a slow process but after five years he feels like Eastwood is on solid ground.
In fact, Allen has just started a new label called Core Sample Records that can be a home to the non-Americana bands he wants to sign.
“While I didn’t start Eastwood as an Americana label, I’m happy that’s the direction it has taken,” Allen says. The Americana community is great, and I love being a part of it.”