Wake Eastman

-Western know how

-Together with his wife Jeanine, Wake Eastman serves up more than just cold beer and hot meals at Rosie's Bar in Boulder City

by Lee Abraham


Soft strains of a country crooner's twang spill out onto the empty sidewalk. The storefront tavern's front door is propped back, an open invitation to come on in, kick up your heels and set a spell. Perched on a stool, the guy wrapped around his guitar is wearing a well worn, white cowboy hat. He picks pretty well, but his vocals are stunning. Animated, articulate and crackling with emotion, it's hard to believe that someone this good is performing in a place this small. It's early Friday evening and there's a few people seated at the ten or so tables situated inside Rosie's Bar. A young couple strolling hand in hand under a starlit sky pause to poke their heads through the open doorway. They look at each other, smile, and decide to grab a table.

Wake Eastman nods a welcome, not missing a beat while pouring his heart out in song. He's performing a tune co-written with a friend from Nashville called -There's a Love Between Us-. It's the first song to earn Eastman a royalty check, proof positive that his tunesmithing efforts are beginning to pay off. The song is no fluke. Eastman is a man with a plan. Part of that plan is owning and operating this little neighborhood tavern in Boulder City. Together with his wife Jeanine, the Eastmans are servin' up more than just cold beer and hot meals at Rosie's Bar.

"Rosie's was an ideal situation to be able to write and perform your own stuff when you want, anytime you want to, with whomever you chose to play with," says Jeanine. "So it's been really helpful on the creative side as well as from the performing aspect too."

Performing on the weekends, Eastman is often joined by friends that make the drive down to Boulder City just to sit in. When he's not playing, the stage is open to anyone. Sometimes folks just wander in and step up to the mic. "Since we've been open I've seen more people come out of the woodwork and play," says Eastman. "Retired players that have gone on to other things as well as people that normally just sing in the shower, you name it." One of the Rosie's regulars is Chuck Mead, a self-taught harmony singer that's fond of broad brim black hats and rodeo day shirts. "He just came up and started singing with Wake one night, " says Jeanine. "And the guy is just an awesome singer!"

Sometimes things get crazy down at Rosie's. Keith Urban of -The Ranch-, a hot C&W band on Capitol Records, wandered in while walking around BC one night. He liked what he saw and heard, then proceeded to sit in and blow the roof off the place. "We tore it up that night, no doubt," says Eastman grinning sheepishly as he shakes his head slowly. On any given night, anything can happen at Rosie's. Artists as diverse as the Whispers, a chart climbing R&B/Soul outfit to the Opera Beggars, with their unique brand of wise crackin' Vegas smart rock have played there. On occasion, Eastman gets to play country music ambassador to international tourists that often walk in while he's playing. It's a role he enjoys. "They love to listen to the old stuff, Johnny Cash and George Jones especially," says Eastman.

As much fun as he has playing, Rosie's is not so much Eastman's very own, personal stage, as it is his song incubator. "I love performing and singing. I really get into it," says Eastman. "But what I ultimately want is to be a good songwriter, a respected songwriter I guess."

Even as a college kid, in Spokane, Washington where Eastman studied photography at Eastern Washington University, songwriting was his passion. While playing solo in a small college bar there, he met Jeanine. "She heard me play and thought it was kind of neat and encouraged me to play more." For awhile Jeanine acted as manager and promoter for Eastman's solo shows as well as a band he put together for a short time.

"That was fun," remembers Eastman. "But I was more into writing by then. I had to go where the writers are and where you make connections to get into the business of it." For a country music songwriter, there's only one place to go. "There's thousands and thousands of songwriters in Nashville," laughs Eastman. "I mean everybody and their brother was a songwriter. The guy at the gas station was a songwriter. The cook servin' ya biscuits and gravy, he was a songwriter!"

With a pecking order more tightly regimented than any other music scene in the free world, Nashville is a tough town to catch a break. Most newcomers never get to first base. It takes talent, patience and a lot of luck to make a dent in -Music City USA-. Funny thing about luck, the harder you work the more of it you get. "That's the thing," says Eastman. "You've got to be around the people that are doing it and network with those people."

Country megastars ranging from George Strait and Garth Brooks to more mainstream artists such as Bonnie Raitt have all showcased newly written material in Nashville's Bluebird Café. Established hit makers and newbies alike sign up for the open mic. nights, and while everybody waits their turn, people get to know each other. "It's kind of neat because you can relate to all these people from all over the country, they're just waitin' to get a start in it and get a foot in the door," says Eastman. "Everybody's in the same boat you are. You've just got to go up there and play. If you choke, you choke, and if it comes of well, why, that's what you want. More or less it's just to learn. That's what it's all about. You grow, you meet people and you learn to get better."

Although he loved Nashville's music scene, Eastman and his family left after only eight months. "We were looking for someplace warm," recalls Eastman. "We came to Boulder City for Christmas in '95 with our boys, Jake and Cliff, and just decided to stay. We opened Rosie's within six months."

Although Rosie's and a full time day job keep Eastman busy, he still makes time to head back to Nashville at least once a year to play at the Bluebird and jump start his songwriting endeavors. -There's a Love Between Us-, was co-written Dak Alley, an established, successful Nashville songwriter that's written with country heavyweights Harland Howard and Wayland Holifield among others. With that credential notched on his lyric quill, another Eastman tune, -The Only One I'm Hurtin'- is also going to have a shot at airplay. The song was recently recorded by Kevin Wilson, a Nashville up and comer that appreciates Eastman's work ethic as much as his skillful balance of the traditional country style with edgier southern rock influences.

"You always go through ups and downs, but I try to write before work, during work and after work. If you wanna do it, you've got to push yourself to do it. I've come to realize that you have to work at it, just like anything else."

As much a craftsman as an artist, Eastman's nuts and bolts approach to the creative process requires a keen editing eye. As a prolific writer, he knows that every song isn't a winner and few if any are chart toppers. "You can tell if you've got a song with commercial potential, it just sort of hits you." Unlike many writers that require solitude to find inspiration, Eastman enjoys collaborating. Over the past few years, Rosie's has become the home away from home for the Las Vegas Songwriters Association. The group frequently sets up shop there for tune crafting sessions or just having fun and making music. For Eastman, it's exactly what he had in mind when they opened Rosie's. "We want more songwriters out here. That's what this place is all about. To get people here to play. We love music and the people that make it."

who- Wake Eastman

when- Friday and Saturdays 8:30pm

where- Rosie's Bar in Boulder City

how much- free

for more info - 293-2222

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