Even before moving to the Jackson metro area in 2005, Wesley knew he wanted to pursue a music career. To make the connections that he would need as a solo artist, he spent several years playing guitar for other acts, including alternative-rock artist and former TNA wrestler Goldy Locks, country act Santa Fe and cover band Full Moon Circus. Then, in 2011, he made the transition to frontman with the Chad Wesley Band.
After testing the market with his debut release, "The Liberation EP," Wesley began recording tracks for an eventual full-length in 2014, working with Ryan Montgomery of Terminal Recording Studios in Ridgeland and Paul Babineaux of TRS in Pearl.
When his band of five years broke up in early 2015, however, Wesley put the record on pause to rebuild. The search led him to drummer Adam Moore and bassist Mike Bernard. Even with top-notch backing musicians, it didn't feel like the right moment for the album yet, he says.
"I still needed some time because I wanted to change the direction of what I was doing," Wesley says. "I had just come off a one-off deal with the record label N.O.W. Entertainment out of Terminal Recording Studios, and I wasn't pleased with the feeling of being under another record label and kind of having my decisions made for me."
Between the work that he and manager VaNario Youngblood of Youngblood Entertainment in Atlanta put into promoting the band, Wesley says they felt like they were already doing most of what a record label would do for an artist.
Rather than partnering with another label, the two men decided to create their own, Karma Records, which is currently working with artists such as Jackson rock group The AM/FM and hip-hop collective Mississippi Cartel of Magee, Miss., in addition to the Chad Wesley Band.
"I always had a dream, ever since I was a kid, to not just be an artist and entertainer, but to own my own record label, as well, because I love to produce and love to write," Wesley says. "Last year, I decided to start implementing my idea of building my own version of record label, a label that more or less does what a record label should do—just offer the service, not try to own anyone, not try to bind anybody down."
When the label moved into its space in Ridgeland in June 2015, Wesley used the opportunity to partner with Babineaux to open two additional businesses as part of the Karma conglomerate, including live-audio service and recording studio Surreal Sound Company LLC in that first month and shirt-printing business ScreenCo Printing LLC later that October.
With the opening of Surreal, Wesley also made the difficult decision to scrap $18,000 worth of studio work that he had already done to record with his new band mates on their own terms. After about five weeks of nonstop work, he released "The Liberation LP" on Aug. 3. In order to meet that release date, he says he had to turn away from big-spectacle recordings and toward the raw, live Chad Wesley Band sound that listeners have grown to love.
"Because I grinded so hard and because I failed so many times along with my successes, people are actually believing in what I'm doing now," he says. "That, to me, is the reward. That, to me, is making it."
For more information, find Chad Wesley Band on Facebook.