Jeff Charlson sees Bike Rack Brewing Co. as an incubator -- like the business model for start-ups. Only, instead of startup companies, the brewery co-founder says Bike Rack is incubating Northwest Arkansas musicians.
"From the beginning, we decided we would be more than just a brewery, we would be an experience-based place. Part of that experience early on was we need to have live music -- we don't want the cover band that sits in the corner," Charlson shares. Thus, the Brew Room Sessions were born, elevating musicians from background noise to, literally, center stage. "It focuses people's attention, and you actually go out of the normal, and you sit in a room, and it's a lot like going to a theater," he says. "And it just provides the ability to have an artist get to play and get listened to."
As support of the music scene and commitment to promoting local everything grew, Charlson realized Bike Rack was in a position not only to be an ally to the music scene, but also to give artists tangible assistance. When he heard over and over that what musicians need is a place to play regularly, Bike Rack opened its locations to live music. When he heard they needed the ability to create really high-quality content and often couldn't afford it, Charlson and Bike Rack partnered with Neil Greenhaw at Haxton Road Studios to create an album featuring one song each for nine Arkansas artists.
"And the thing that is unique, too, is they have the rights to their song," Charlson explains. "The thought process with it is, can we create an environment here that's a little bit Austin-esque, maybe Nashville-esque, where [people can see] Northwest Arkansas has got this tribe of great artists. And all it takes is one song from one of them to go big, and it can be a big success."
"This obviously doesn't happen often," says Jamie Lou Connolly, founder of Russellville's Jamie Lou and The Hullabaloo, one of the nine bands included on the first album. "We get full publishing for our song, we get the recording paid for at a really nice studio and a vinyl out of it. But what I'm getting out of it is obviously a free song, but also just a scene to be a part of -- a community. And I think that's the endgame of it."
"I think what I've seen trend-wise, when I go to any different area, I'm looking for what's the local restaurant? What's the local food? What is this area known for? I want to understand and grasp what makes an area," Charlson muses. "We're really close to that trend being a craft brewery. People come to our area and they're like, 'What do you got? What have you made? What's different?' And in music, what we were trying to do is ... expose the artists of Arkansas to a broader audience. [People] coming in here, it's like [saying], 'Have you listened to our artist?'"
On Nov. 9, Bike Rack Records celebrates the release of the first vinyl created through this new collaboration with a big party at Record in Bentonville. Charlson's hope is that in 10 years, they will be celebrating the release of their 10th album -- plus a sprinkling of EPs and maybe one or two artists who have made it. Brother Moses, another one of the bands on the album, has already moved to New York City to take their work to the next level. Things are happening, Charlson affirms. And Arkansas has a pool of really talented artists Bike Rack is excited to help share with the world.
"For us, the end goal on this is I don't care if we ever make a dime," Charlson says. "What we did is we get a chance to champion our artists, and what it's given us is a relationship that's really deep with them. And there's like this burgeoning community of art and music growing up, and you're starting to see Northwest Arkansas build all this, and we're playing a part in it."
NAN What's Up on 11/04/2018
Bike Rack Records Release Party
WHEN — 7 p.m. Nov. 9
WHERE — The Record in Bentonville
COST — $25-$85; free food from Yeyo’s
INFO — bikerackbrewing.com
Artists featured on the first Bike Rack Record are:
The Silver Lining
Smokey & The Mirror
Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo
Print Headline: Volume One