Eileen Tilson joined John Prine’s legendary record label Oh Boy Records in 2015. Independent from the beginning, Oh Boy is Nashville’s oldest artist-owned indie label founded in 1981 by singer John Prine, his manager Al Bunetta, and their friend Dan Einstein. In 2018 the label released Prine’s The Tree of Forgiveness, his first collection of original material in 13 years, and it went on to be his highest charting album of his 50 year career. Eileen is currently VP of Marketing for the label where she creates, oversees and drives the overall marketing strategy for the label’s catalog and roster of artists. She has more than 15 years of experience in the music business and utilizes digital technologies to meet her artist’s goals. Eileen has led digital campaigns for Kelsea Ballerini, Shooter Jennings, Brett Dennen, Vance Joy, Garth Brooks, Little Big Town, Zac Brown Band’s Southern Ground Music & Food Festival and more. An Atlanta native, Eileen was a partner at Tipping Point Entertainment Group and founder of the influential music blog, Atlanta Music Guide. She is an active member of A2IM, the Americana Music Association, the Recording Academy and a graduate of the GRAMMY Next Program.
When not at work she says: “Well I’m a mom of two young ones, so they take up a chunk of my time, but we love being outside, traveling, cooking, hiking, yoga….I took my first flying lesson on my birthday this year, and am hooked!”
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
Music has been my passion for as long as I can remember, however I had NO idea how you actually got into the industry. It seemed like Willy Wonka’s factory. I moved to Atlanta in 1996, and started listening to the legendary, 99x Radio Station and was inspired by its Program Director and Morning Show co-host, Leslie Fram. Over the years I developed a strong relationship with her and her husband Lanny West (who was managing bands at the time) and between the two of them I was given the Ivy League music business education. They let me shadow and learn from them, which led to a series of being at the right place at the right time, which landed me to where I am now!
What is a day in the life like?
Working at an independent label with a small team means that you have to be able to wear many hats (some at the same time!). My day ranges from strategizing album release roll-outs and tour marketing, to overseeing our label’s e-commerce and everything in between. Oh Boy Records is a very philanthropic label as well so we are constantly involved in campaigns to help folks in a wide range of sectors.
In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
Working on John Prine’s last album, ‘The Tree of Forgiveness’ is the project I am the most proud of in my life. It was John’s highest charting record in his career, and led to a Grammy nomination. It was the last album he ever put out before he passed, and included some of the most incredible experiences of my life. They were golden years and I didn’t even realize it.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Honestly, thus far, John’s passing has been the most difficult. He was not only the President of our label but he was our North Star. It felt like we were really gaining some momentum before he left us.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
I would stay humble, hungry and gracious. Pursue your dreams with a laser vision, make as many connections as you can and stay humble through the whole process.
People might never remember what project you worked on, but they will remember what it was like working with you. Leave a good first impression. Internships can be a key part of your career because the music community is all about who you know.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Well, I think by sheer happenstance I am! Between my parents collection and working at a label, I’ve amassed quite a decent collection!
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
I’m excited to see that artists are becoming more empowered to own their own music, and make the rules of the music business. I am seeing many more artist-owned labels, no rules for what makes a “hit” song, and a wide range of creativity. I think there are more tools for artists out there to control the kind of art that they want to make, and that’s exciting to watch.
Who has been influential to you and your growth as a professional in this industry?
Leslie Fram (SVP of Music and Talent at CMT) by far has had one of the biggest influences on me. She is so well accomplished, yet always makes time to guide me, answer the questions that may seem silly and is ALWAYS my biggest cheerleader. She is one of the greatest gifts in my life.
Anything else you’d like to add; if not tell us what you’re listening to:
Hmm, I think Hurray for the Riff Raff are incredible and underrated. My co-workers make fun of me because I listen to The Loft on Sirius XM pretty much all day, but it’s a genre-less station that bounces between Al Green and Marvin Gaye, to Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, Jason Isbell and everything in between.
Oh Boy Records: @ohboyrecords