Tim Wheatley
Tim Wheatley has resurrected the record label started by his father Glenn. Image by HANDOUT/WHEATLEY RECORDS
  • arts, culture and entertainment

Wheatley Records stages a comeback with fresh signing

Liz Hobday December 9, 2023

A good manager, according to Tim Wheatley, is “someone who will weather the s***tstorm with you”. 

“It’s terrifying to think I’m that person now!” he told AAP.

A musician, model and actor in his own right, Tim is resurrecting the music label, Wheatley Records, founded by his father Glenn Wheatley in 1980.

It’s the stuff of music industry legend that Wheatley Snr mortgaged his house to finance John Farnham’s comeback album Whispering Jack, which went platinum 24 times and became the highest-selling album in Australia by an Australian artist.

So, no pressure then.

The Wheatley Records comeback was initially only a vehicle to promote the music for the Farnham biopic Finding the Voice, which premiered in May.

Before his death in 2022, Glenn Wheatley had been certain the documentary project would be a success and it was another punt that came off.

The film’s soundtrack of live tracks, rarities and songs that influenced Farnham’s music reached the top of the Australian album charts and won best soundtrack at the ARIAs in November.

But it was Tim and his mother Gaynor Martin who sorted through decades of music and video archives as they were grieving, to ensure the feature film could even be completed.

The family is still sifting through tapes and papers to work out what master recordings Wheatley Records might actually own.

“My father when he passed away, God bless him, he left us with basically treasure maps to everything,” Tim said.

“It’s things that have been jotted down on napkins and all sorts of crazy handshake deals.”

The Wheatley Records of the 1980s began as a way to release music by talented musicians who couldn’t get representation.

While much has changed since the heyday of the Little River Band and the Masters Apprentices, Tim realised he was still seeing great bands come and go without the recognition they deserved.

Dan Keyes
 Dan Keyes was the first signing for the revived Wheatley Records label. Image by HANDOUT/WHEATLEY RECORDS 

In February, he heard London by Dan Keyes and The New Rides, and the outfit would become the new Wheatley Records’ first signing.

The track began as a pop song, co-written with Tim Metcalfe and produced by James Millar, who have worked with the likes of Robbie Williams.

Recorded with a slightly slower tempo and the addition of lap steel player Jy-Perry Banks, it’s hoped the country tune will be a hit.

London is the tip of the iceberg for Dan Keyes, enthuses Tim – there’s another single in the works and an Australian tour planned for February.

Tim Wheatley may be starting to sound like a record label owner but his surname has not meant an easy ride.

Playing solo shows, audience members would yell requests for Farnham’s You’re The Voice – so he spent five years touring as Crooked Saint.

It was only in Los Angeles, where the household name in Australia got no recognition, that he began performing as Tim Wheatley.

As such, his surname has been a double-edged sword.

“For every door the name has opened for me, there’s a door that’s firmly shut,” he said.

Tim Wheatley
 Rob Farnham, the son of John Farnham and Tim Wheatley, appeared at the ARIAS’s last month. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS 

And the million dollar question remains how musicians and record labels can profit in the era of streaming and social media.

“Spotify in particular is quite literally paying peanuts and making billions, it doesn’t really make much sense,” he said.

Wheatley Records has the stated ambition of taking Australian music to the world, and vice versa, and while Tim wants to grow the label, he doesn’t want it to get too big.

“At the risk of sounding too much like a record label executive … I think we’ve got so much untapped talent here.”